no more resolutions

No more New Year’s Resolutions. I’m setting Birthday Intentions instead.

no more resolutions

I’m a recovering New Year’s Resolutions junkie. I’d spend days (DAYS) making intensely detailed and unrealistically ambitious lists of goals. Here’s a snapshot of last year’s:

  1. Meditate for 30 minutes every morning
  2. Pay off $10,000 in loans
  3. Eat 3 cups of green leafy vegetables every day
  4. Drink tea every morning before 8:30
  5. Exercise at least 4 times a week
  6. Make at least $500 online each month
  7. Ride my bike 200 miles in one weekend

And the list went on and on…

Now, these are respectable and admirable goals. And I did some of them. But not all of them, and certainly not daily (3 cups of green veggies every day?! Not sure what I was thinking…).

This year, I was ready to do the same kind of planning. But when I sat down on January 1st to write out my laundry list of goals, it felt…off.

I had a plan for how much money I wanted to earn, how many days I would exercise, how many people I wanted to read my blog, and yes, how many green leafy vegetables I would eat. And when I started to write them down, I realized: this wasn’t working for me anymore.

The list felt like a bunch of meaningless numbers. Sure, if I ticked off all of my crazy ambitious goals, I’d be naturally healthier and wealthier. But I knew I wasn’t going to meet them all. More than that, I needed my goals to be driven by something bigger, something more meaningful. I needed purpose.

As Danielle LaPorte says, I needed goals with soul.

So when I thought about it – when I really took the time to think about what mattered to me in the new year – I realized that there was only one goal that I wanted on my list the next 365 days: to set intentions that would help brings me happiness.

No more New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve completely changed the way I plan for the year ahead. Instead of living by my goals, I’m going to start living by my intentions and my desire to find that super awesome pinnacle of happiness.

And I’m starting today, on my birthday :)

Happy Birthday words

Setting Birthday Intentions: Goodbye 26, hello 27!

A lot happened last year. A LOT. And a lot of it was thanks to some very focused goal setting. I was able to pay off almost $35,000 in student loans, quit my job and bike 200 miles from Seattle to Portland.

I’m really insanely proud of my accomplishments. It took a lot of planning, hard-work and courage to do those things. Looking back on being 26 feels like I ran one of those tough mudder races through pools of dirty water and electrical shocks. It was challenging. It was exhausting. I had set some crazy goals for myself and come hell or high water, I was going to reach them. And I knocked some big ones off the list.

But for what purpose? Why did biking 200 miles matter to me? Why did care so much about exercising every day or get in shape?

I knew that I needed to reverse the way I set goals. I knew that I had to start with the why (my intentions and desires in life) before I started with the what (my typical list of resolutions).

26 was an important year for me. But I want 27 to be different. I’m still the ambitious, goal-setter that loves to take the New Year to reflect and renew those self-improvement vows. I’m just changing my approach. This is about picking my theme for the year, and then watching my goals naturally fall into place.

And what better day to start than my birthday?

Turning 27: My Birthday Intentions

While last week marked the new year for the rest of the world, today is when my new year begins. My list of birthday intentions are going to be driving everything I do, including what I do with The Empowered Dollar. That’s part of the reason it felt so important to share them with you all: Creativity, Impact and Connection.


Creation is the name of the game this year. My intention is to ooze creativity in every part of my life. I want to feel creative and I want to create things around me. Since I work for myself, it means I get to create my own job and my own lifestyle. I want to keep working on creative projects and create new things. I also want to create more art.

That means: more doodles. More comics. More cartoons of me in superhero tights.

Empowered Dollar Comic Sign Up

Drawing is what I love to do, and I want to infuse it into everything. It also means that I’m also sending out a new newsletter full of drawings (because everything, including personal finance tips, is better in comic form). You can sign up for The Empowered Dollar Doodles below.


Impact is going to drive my time this year. Whether it’s impacting how people manage their money or impacting my health, I want to invest positive, quality time into making a difference. I want to test things and find out what works. And I want to share that with other people.

On The Empowered Dollar, it means I’m going to focus on writing insanely useful posts to make a difference for you. I’ll experiment, walk through the process of everything I do along the way and share key insights.

Here are the areas I want to focus on:

  1. Starting to invest: Confession time. I still have not started investing outside my retirement accounts. And I’ve been talking about this for a whole year…yikes. And a lot of you have asked for advice on starting to invest. So guess what? I’m going to go through the process step by step, and you can follow along. Maybe I can convince you to take the leap with me :)
  2. Paying off my student debt: So many of you found The Empowered Dollar because of my $35,000 student loan debt story. I want to keep sharing tips on tackling debt by sharing tips from my experience.
  3. Working for myself: Even if you’re not interested in starting your own business someday, you may want to start earning money on the side (or at least taking control of your career in a meaningful way). I’ll be sharing more tips on earning extra money and building the career of your dreams.
  4. Budgeting: Second confession: I’m still not very good at budgeting. I swing back and forth between rigid frugality and lavish overspending. But now that I work for myself and don’t have a guaranteed income, I need a budget that works. I’ll be testing out a new budgeting strategy this year to see what works and what doesn’t.


You know what makes my day? Hearing from my readers :)

I get such a warm and fuzzy feeling when I open up my email and see a message from a reader. Knowing that you find what I write useful or motivating makes this entire blog worthwhile.

Connection may be my biggest intention for the year. I want to connect with more people in person, connect more often with my friends and family, and connect with new and interesting people. And that means more connection and conversation on the blog, too.

So here’s your open invitation to reach out with any questions or comments you have. Email me, leave a comment on my posts, give me a shout on Twitter anytime. I will respond to you. I genuinely want to hear your questions and provide you with a thoughtful answer. Let me know if there is anything that you want to learn more about (that goes with the whole Impact thing).

Oh, and I’m also now offering one-on-one personal finance coaching if you want that support. Email me at stephanie at empowereddollar dot com if you’re interested.

Here’s what didn’t make my list of intentions:

Those are some big intentions. While they may seem really generic, they actually helped me cut out some goals I once had:

1. More fans on Facebook, more followers on Twitter, more Pins on Pinterest. Social media stats are everything in the blogger world, so it took awhile for me to get up the courage to say this … they don’t matter to me. Like I said, I want to focus on impact; that means creating great content, sending out my newsletter and sparking one-on-one conversations. It does not social media stats. Maybe a nice side effect of writing kick-ass posts will be more likes and followers. But I’m not going to sweat about it.

2. Making money on The Empowered Dollar. Nope, that’s not on the list either! Again, maybe it will be a nice side effect of writing posts that I love, but that’s not why I write… or draw :) Since I care more about impact and connection, I removed all of my Google Ads to make sure the content speaks loud and clear.

3. Posting for the sake of posting. Because if it’s not insanely useful and you don’t enjoy reading it, I’m not going to write it. That means when I do post, it’ll be focused, actionable and chocked full of funny doodles.

Those are my intentions for the year, but I want to hear about yours. Like I said under “Connection,” I want this to be a two-way dialogue. So tell me: What are you focused on this year? And how can I help you reach your goals, new years resolutions, or take a positive step toward being supremely happy?

I have a feeling that this is going to be an incredible 365 days. Here’s to an awesome new year for everyone!

PS My other intention is to eat tons of chocolate… at least today :)

[ois skin=”Updates and Doodles”]

15 thoughts on “No more New Year’s Resolutions. I’m setting Birthday Intentions instead.

  1. Nate St. Pierre

    Can I just say that I love numbers 1-3 of what did NOT make your list? Building intention into everything you do, starting with Why, etc . . . I think that’s a great way to do it, and something I’m doing myself this time around.

    For 2014, I have one word: FOCUS. One thing to focus on for the work side and the personal side. I know that if I do this, the results I want will come.

    Happy birthday, and let’s have a great year!

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Totally. Those 3 things I didn’t include were just as important. 2014 is going to be chocked full of intention! Here’s to an awesome year :)

  2. Martin

    Happy birthday! How does it feel to be old? I’m a young 26.

    I love connecting with readers. A reader recently needed help. So instead of going through email slowly, I gave her my number. We have been texting often and I hope that she’s getting value out of it.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Ha! I’m just waiting for you to grow up someday, Martin 😛
      That’s an awesome connection. I’m sure she’s finding it super helpful.

  3. Helen

    About investing, The Simple Dollar argues quite convincingly that paying off your debts is investing, because you have a steady tax free return of the interest. Granted the interest on student loans is lower usually than credit cards, which he is talking about, but there is a risk in any investment. Now that you have reduced your loans so much is the time to start exploring investing. Good luck and enjoy the journey, Helen

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Amen to that – I definitely want to keep taking advantage of tax breaks and building my net worth. Thanks, Helen!

  4. Erin @ My Alternate Life

    Dig it. Seriously, I am loving your intentions list as well as the things that didn’t make the list. So many bloggers post for the sake of posting (I’ve totally done it!) but readers really don’t care if you post 1 or 5 times a week, they just don’t want to waste their time with sucky content. It’s all about quality :)

  5. Corrine

    I love this post! I can really relate to your list of intentions. I recently came to the realization that for the past few years, I’ve made many decisions (career, relationships) out of fear. I had a moment of clarity and really figured out what I want to do with my life, and I’m now on the road to pursuing that dream. My intentions for 2014 are to take risks and pursue my passion in nutrition!

  6. Aimee

    Hi from the Philippines! :) I really appreciated this post because at the beginning of this year, I also told my husband that I wanted to “Live more intentionally”. Financially that means focusing on the big-ticket goals (growing a business, getting rid of consumer debt, getting fit again after baby, saving even just a little bit more!) rather than accumulating more and more stuff. Luckily, we live in a small space, so we are forced to do a tight edit on gadgets, clothes, and home-related purchases. Thanks for this thoughtful post. You write so nicely. Great comics too! :)

  7. Eva

    I’m about to turn 18 and I love the whole idea of being intentional about goals that you set at your birthday. It feels more intentional and more real. I’m going to give it a try – thanks for the great idea!

  8. Susan Sparkles

    I LOVE your blog! I had to tell you that as an aspiring beauty blogger, not posting for the sake of posting, not caring about social media fans, and not focusing on making money at my blog are three of the top things I don’t want my blog to be about either!

    I have just been hoping that the quality of my blog and my dedication to my topic will shine through like yours does. I think you are a great inspiration.

    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Aww thank you! So glad this resonated with you :) Stick to what you believe in, Susan – it’ll never lead you astray!


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