The Real Debate: One Word vs. Resolutions


The Real Debate: One Word vs. Resolutions

What camp are you in?

Do you set new year’s resolutions each year or declare a word for the year?

I used to set resolutions, so I get the appeal. And obviously I wasn’t the only one, since tons of people set or have in the past set new year’s resolutions for themselves.

It’s even a point of conversation. I’ve heard people ask (and myself have been asked) what my resolution is for the year.

In the past, that has put me in a slightly uncomfortable situation where I feel compelled to put words to my feelings about resolutions without making the other person feel like I’m taking a “holier than thou” position by choosing a word for the year instead.

“Uh, I’m actually not setting a resolution. But I do have a word for my year and some goals that I’m working on right now for this season. My word for 2019 is ‘new.’ Did you set a resolution?”

So let me first say that while I have made my own decision about this debate, there are pros and cons to both sides, and it ultimately comes down to what works best for you! My goal is not to twist your arm or present biased information to win you to my side, but to help you understand both sides so you can make an informed decision about the best way forward for you.


Resolutions make for very compelling goals at the beginning of the year. Because so many other people (or what seems like everyone) is setting resolutions, it seems like a good thing to do.

If you’re a jump-on-the-bandwagon kind of girl, this might work well for you.

The beginning of the year (or even the end of the year, when everyone’s gearing up for the beginning of the next year) is a time full of motivation to do better and be better, a time when the vast majority of people start setting resolutions and goals for the year, whether formally or informally.

If it helps you to know that you’re not alone, setting a resolution at this time might be a good fit.

If you have a goal that’s popular, it might help to set it along with friends so you can tackle it together.

If you have a big goal that will likely take the whole year — like being able to lift a certain amount of weight, run a certain distance, write a book, get out of debt, or something else longer-term and motivating for you, then it might be helpful to start the year with step one toward that goal.

You could capitalize on the “new year, new you” idea, find a program to start, join a class at the gym, participate in an online challenge, or do any other number of things designed to help you start your year off on the right foot.

One of the best parts of setting resolutions along with everyone else is that you have more support. You’re not alone in setting your goals, and you’re not alone in working to reach them alongside everyone else.


Resolutions are generally understood to be annual things, meaning that if we miss the traditional beginning of the year timeframe, we’re out of luck until the following January.

While resolutions can be helpful, the most helpful way to set goals for yourself is to follow a more seasonal pattern that allows you to set, revisit, revise, and adapt goals as you go through the year.

Setting goals or resolutions only once a year can lead to laziness because you have no real motivation to start working on anything new until the new year.

If you’re indecisive about your goals, or if you have a hard time sticking to your goals once you’ve made them, setting a resolution once a year might not be the best plan for you. You might change your mind about your goal, realizing it’s not for you, or lose steam in pursuing it, but you won’t be motivated to change it or set a new one until the next year begins, leaving you living without any kind of challenge or growth mentality. You’ll simply be coasting along until then, not getting any closer to being who you want to be.

If resolutions feel too strict or confining, more like your mom imposing rules on you in your childhood than goals you’ve set for yourself as an adult, then perhaps they’re not for you.

If you want to set multiple goals or shorter-term goals, then yearly resolutions probably aren’t the best fit. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have other options!


Declaring a word for the year encompasses more than a goal or resolution that we can succeed or fail in reaching. This gives us the freedom to incorporate the word into our lives in whatever way we can. It’s less pass/fail and more open for interpretation.

When you set a word for your year, you get more than just a single resolution. You get a framework to create goals within.

If you choose “adventure,” for instance (my word for 2018), you can set goals that help you live adventurously, goals for different areas of your life.

Choosing a word for your year also gives you a different kind of metric to measure your “success.”

If you’re less concerned about losing a specific number of pounds and more concerned with living a healthier lifestyle, or if you’re more interested in adopting a posture of thankfulness than in posting a photo with #attitudeofgratitude on Instagram every day for the year, then this might be a good fit for you.

Choosing a word also gives you more freedom to focus on things that are more difficult to quantify and measure but more important in the long run, like peace, patience, kindness, and grace. It focuses on internal qualities instead of external results, which can be incredibly helpful if you’re looking to move past the standard resolutions surrounding debt, weight, and fitness.

Instead of feeling pressured to create SMART goals that require you to have a specific numeric way to measure your growth, you can use your word and a more holistic view to gauge your success.

This way of measuring progress is less stressful because it puts less pressure on the specific actions and more focus on the heart behind them and on your mindset. Of course, the extent to which this applies will depend on the word you choose, but that’s entirely up to you!


Because the application of one word is far more fluid than a resolution, it provides less direction for taking action. The follow through requires more motivation to see through since the plan is less clear.

One word adopters do have more of a challenge in implementing their change because of the nature of choosing a word instead of a clear-cut resolution. While it can be helpful to have more breathing room and freedom to interpret a word than a strict resolution, it’s more challenging to follow through on something that can be more grey than black and white.

There’s also a chance that you might lose sight of your word because you don’t have a daily plan for living it out, unless you go to the lengths of creating a daily plan to weave your word into the various areas of your life (which is entirely possible!). But it can be easy to forget your word if you don’t regularly return to it, unlike a daily workout habit or commitment to read before bed each night.

If you find that you need the clarity of a resolution to propel you to make the changes that you need to make, then perhaps setting one word for the year isn’t for you.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step plan to follow for the entire year, setting a word might not be the right path for you to take.

So, tell me, friend, are you setting resolutions or choosing a word for this year? Let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on as you pursue whatever you choose!

Later, lovely!Jessie (2).png