Ahhh, the promise of a new year. I’m one of those people who enjoys thinking about my New Year’s resolutions, though believe me, I’m fully aware that lots of people think setting resolutions will just give them a headache and cause anguish when they aren’t able to achieve them.
I’m not one of those “New year, new me!” people; I just like to capitalize on the fact that a new year is starting, and it’s time to review what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months. Thinking about resolutions helps me figure out what I could do differently or better in the future, or goals that I didn’t achieve last year that I want to work on more this year.
Coming up with New Year’s resolutions — at least for me — is mostly a practice of reflection. I think about what I’ve done the past year, what I wish I had been able to achieve or do, and what I’m most proud of in terms of my accomplishments.
Maybe you had a goal last year to publish a certain number of articles, or guest post on a certain number of sites. Perhaps you achieved your goals, or maybe you met only half of them.
To give you an embarrassing personal example, I had a goal for 2017 to read 25 books for fun (not including manuscripts or books I had to read for client work). I read only five.
As someone with two degrees in English, I’m not proud of this fact at all — I easily read 25 books per year in college. But it’s not necessarily the number that bothers me. It’s more that I didn’t stick to my intention to read for my own personal enjoyment on a regular basis, and this frustration motivates me to try harder for this upcoming year.
Setting goals in terms of numbers just doesn’t seem to work for me, which is why I like to think of resolutions more like New Year’s intentions: What do I intend to do this upcoming year to reach a goal I have, whether it’s big or small?
In the industry of writing and marketing, I read a lot about people setting goals or New Year’s resolutions based on numbers. “I’m going to write 1,000 pages this year.” “I want my Instagram account to reach 20,000 [followers/likes] by the end of Quarter 1.” “I’m going to tweet five times per day and share 10 posts per week and everyone’s going to love me!” And sometimes I fall for yearning for these numbers, too.
However, over time, the numbers make my head spin, and I don’t think I’m alone. This point is also where people fall into the trap of setting unrealistic resolutions, and are thus disappointed that they can’t achieve them … because what the numbers don’t account for is why this goal exists in the first place.
These numbers are also referred to as “vanity metrics,” aka the numbers of people who like, share, or follow your social media accounts. They’re “feel good” metrics, or ego boosters, really … (hey, when I get 100 likes on an Instagram post, I feel pretty cool!) and they mean that people are noticing you.
But once you’re achieving a certain number of likes, the good feelings seem to drop off … until you make a new goal to achieve more likes. What ends up happening is that you wind up chasing the numbers, but losing the purpose/reason for why you’re chasing them in the first place.
While those good feelings are great in the short-term, they aren’t necessarily an indication of whether you’re really achieving the goals you want to achieve. It’s like making a New Year’s resolution to eat an apple a day and easily achieving that goal, but not really thinking about why you’re eating an apple a day.
So this year, it’s time to set some more solid resolutions as an entrepreneur, in the form of intentions.
Before we dive into what types of intentions entrepreneurs should be setting for the upcoming year, I’ll address the elephant in the room — the opinion that New Year’s resolutions are, frankly, BS.
Part of my theory is that it’s the way we think about them to begin with. There’s a feeling in the air that it’s a tradition, something that people should do when they’re getting a fresh start. It’s more exciting to have intense, life-changing goals that you potentially follow through on throughout the year — not to mention, you can impress your friends when it’s February and you’re still sticking to your resolutions (that is, if you’re still sticking to them).
Unfortunately, though, when you (more likely than not) give up on or don’t meet your lofty resolution to “read two books per week!” or “exercise for two hours per day even though I hate exercising!” — the guilt and bad feelings of failure set in.
If you’re anything like me when I don’t meet a goal that I set for myself, you’ll typically feel like you’re letting yourself down, and then just revert back to your previous habits and no longer pursue the goal.
This feeling of setting yourself up for failure is exactly why setting resolutions has a bad reputation.
Resolutions can actually be somewhat beneficial, though — if you reframe things to think of it as setting intentions for how you’re going to approach the new year. At the end of the year, you’ll start reviewing how business was in the previous year, and naturally, you’ll start thinking about ways to improve or maintain these numbers, whether they be social media or financial metrics.
Before diving into figuring out your intentions or resolutions for the new year, it’s a great idea to start with a period of reflection. If you want to think more specifically about your marketing goals, you could consider: What did you achieve this year? How did you achieve those goals? What are you most proud of? What could be improved for next year?
The trick to figuring out resolutions that you’ll actually meet, though, is to set goals based on something more than just the numbers.
Intentions are something you plan to do with purpose; they implicate more than just the numbers involved with achieving goals, and are more of who you are and your mission in life.
There’s a difference between setting intentions and setting resolutions. Intentions are more based in statements that you can come back to, rather than something that has a singular numerical goal. I mean, once you’ve achieved your New Year’s resolution of writing 1,000 pages by the time February’s rolled around, you’re sitting pretty for the rest of the year, right? No need to keep pursuing more writing, you’re golden!
Instead, an intention is something that serves as a guiding principle, and really, it’s something that is setting you up for a bigger goal. Sure, you want to write 1,000 pages by February, but why? Is your intention to get published? To become a big name in your niche?
Some entrepreneurs also set daily intentions to help them stay focused on the present rather than focusing on the future all the time. These intentions all lead up to helping achieve a bigger goal.
So this year, instead of simply setting resolutions based on numbers, consider setting intentions for the year that can help you achieve more than just a numbers goal.
It feels great when you get dozens of likes on a Facebook or Instagram post, or a cleverly worded tweet. But something that feels even better is knowing that your content is being read, consumed, and talked about.
So, instead of simply aiming to get more likes on your post, or more shares, aim to engage your readers with your content. If you see a conversation happening in the comments section, don’t be afraid to jump in and respond. It might sound intimidating at first (and yes, it’s a bit time-consuming), but you may end up seeing a bigger crowd gather and join in.
It’s kind of like when you’re in the park and you see someone doing a street performance … when one person lingers and watches, it’s more likely that others will stop and watch, too. People go where the people are!
Consider writing content that is in direct response to something you’ve seen people chattering about in the comments section of your own blog or on other websites in your industry. This kind of content shows that you’re staying relevant while also engaging your reader with topics that they want to talk about.
I don’t have to tell you about the generic content mill articles out there — you probably come across at least one, if not a dozen, in your newsfeed every day.
It might sound great to make a goal of publishing an article per day on your blog, but what is your intention for wanting to meet this metric? Is it to be seen as an authority? To be relevant at all times every day? (That second one sounds exhausting!)
Instead of giving yourself a numbers goal for how much content you’re going to produce, think about setting an intention to put more meaningful content into the world, even if that means publishing only twice a week, or even just once per week.
Now, I’m not going to jump on my soapbox and lecture about why meaningful content is so necessary right now (but believe me, I would love to). However, I will say this: Publishing articles that showcase your expertise, and have a heart rather than just SEO keywords, will help you achieve that goal of becoming an authority in your industry — not flooding the internet with empty, soulless articles that have your byline.
If you think about the intention behind why you’re coming up with this content goal, you’ll probably discover that the root of the matter has to do more with how people view you, and it may ultimately be counterintuitive to be seen as someone who just shoves half-baked ideas into the vast interwebs.
There are countless articles that can give you ideas on how to create habits that work for you. Take some time to think about the habits that you already have, and then consider why you have them … were they created out of necessity?
For any new habit you want to form, give it some thought as to how you best incorporate habits into your daily life. There’s no use in making a resolution to write X amount of pages per day if you struggle to make time for writing to begin with.
Being realistic with yourself, and the habits that would actually work well in your life, will prevent you from setting goals based on arbitrary numbers that will only serve to disappoint you when you struggle to meet them.
While the goals and intentions you set for your upcoming year will probably focus more on the performance of your business, don’t forget to set intentions based on your own well-being!
The cliché New Year’s resolution is to make exercise or weight-loss goals. But unfortunately, those are the ones that seem to cause the most distress when people aren’t able to maintain or achieve those (perhaps too ambitious) goals.
Instead, set an intention to make more time for yourself — whether that be exercise, reading, visiting with friends, or watching a movie, it’s up to you. For this intention, you could give yourself a goal to make time for yourself once per week (though, to be honest, you should be making time for yourself every day!).
Every entrepreneur deserves a little time off, even if it’s just a small chunk of time each week. Instead of lumping your time off into that one marvelous week of vacation time, taking a little time for yourself during the work week (or on the weekends) can help you stay motivated throughout the year and avoid burning out.
Hey, at the end of the year, it’s time to celebrate one thing no matter how many successes or losses you’ve had — it’s another year complete, and you’ve got a whole new year ahead of you to achieve any of those intentions or goals you didn’t achieve last year.
So, when you’re thinking about your goals, try to go beyond seeking vanity metrics goals — consider how you can shape intentions that will help you feel like your best self (as an entrepreneur and a person).
Julia Hess graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Master of Arts degree in English. She has worked as a college writing tutor and instructor, a contractor at a major tech company, and a freelance editor and writer. An avid podcast listener, Julia provides editorial feedback, consultation, and detailed show notes for CYC’s podcast, Writers Rough Drafts.