Setting Annual Goals versus New Year’s Resolutions

Why Resolutions Don’t Work, and Why Setting Annual Goals, If Done Right, Have a Great Chance of Working

I was out and about earlier this week and ran into an acquaintance. We had a short chat about sports, the weather, and life. She asked me if I had any New Year’s resolutions. Whenever I get this question, I have to ask myself, “Should I really be brutally honest with this person?” I usually decide to be polite and say something like, “I want to eat less processed food and less sugar.” The correct way to say this, of course, is “I resolve to eat less processed food and less sugar,” but that sound pompous and ridiculous, so I just say it the first way. In reality, I really don’t have New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think they work, and at least for me they have never worked. The statistics show that only 8% of people that actually make New Year’s resolutions keep them. And I bet if you dug into this further, you’d find-out that those 8% actually set a goal or some goals around that resolution. Now, I do have goals that encompass eating less processed food and less sugar, but that is different than a resolution.

Most people that ask you about New Year’s resolutions usually aren’t interested in your goals or your plan for your life, so it is always best to answer with some simple resolution that sounds good, and might even be aligned with your real goals. It is like discussing the weather and local sport. It is small talk. It is a good lubricant for relationships, so learn how to do it. It is worthwhile. Otherwise you look stupid, shy, or like an jerk.

Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

As I mentioned above, I don’t make resolutions because they don’t work, and because I actually have a plan for my life. A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something”. I actually have pretty good resolve. I would consider myself to be pretty self-disciplined, but not to the point of being autocratic, inflexible, and no fun. I think you must have self-discipline, a willingness to make sacrifices, and a good work ethic to achieve anything worthwhile. As coach Vince Lombardi said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

What are Goals, Really?

A goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or a desired result”. Goals are results oriented. A big part of setting goals it to set them in such a way that you actually think you can achieve them. It is also critically important to have an emotional attachment to the achievement of the goal. How will it make you feel? State that as part of the goal process. As Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

How do You Set Goals?

I think it is really important to have SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Achievable
  • Results Oriented
  • Time Bound

In my experience, in order for a goal to work, you have to want the result of the goal more than you want the good feeling from not doing the things required to meet the goal. This can be anything from watching TV, eating a piece of cake, drinking a six pack of beer, smoking a cigarette, sleeping-in, skipping going to the gym, etc.

How Do You Get Yourself to Believe?

If you haven’t attached a strong set of emotions of how you will feel when you achieve the goal, it is really difficult to meet the goal. It is going to be hard anyway, and nearly impossible without being able to visualize those feelings. I think it is good to put your main goal on a 3X5 notecard and keep it where you see it everyday. Keep it on the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, or with you. Meditate on it and the feelings you will have once you achieve it. I think it is best to state your goals as if they have already happened. Say, “I will,” versus, “I want.” I like to have five big goals that are five years out. It helps to set the direction and context for me.   Having big goals that are five years away gives you time to work on them and let your mind really believe they are possible.

I think it is also important to have a plan with intermediate milestones that allow you to see your progress and results along the journey. For me, this helps to keep me motivated. Another thing that works well for me is to have an accountability partner, and sometimes even a coach. Worthy goals are hard. That is why most people are not successful.

Example: One of My Big Personal Goals for 2017

My fiancée, Amanda, and I are getting married on August 12, 2017, so I have a fitness goal related to that:

I will look and feel great on my wedding day. I will look good in my tux, and in a swimsuit on my honeymoon. I will fit comfortably is freshly washed size 36” waist pants. I will have tons of energy for my bride, and feel better about the health of my heart. I will weigh 215 lbs. on my wedding day and have a body fat percentage of 14%. Living a happy, long, active, and fit lifestyle is important to me. When I achieve this, I will feel a great sense of accomplishment, and proud of how I look.

I have an exercise plan, a diet plan, a food log, a set of charts to measure progress, and a vision for the future. That said, I still plan to drink a glass of champagne at midnight tonight.

I also have some pretty big goals for QuestFusion in 2017. Setting annual goals is an important part of my business and personal life.  I also have specific actionable plans with milestones, and I know how I will feel when I achieve the desired results. I have a coach and an accountability partner and some other people in my inner circle who support me. We support each other. I can tell you that I’m really excited for 2017, and there are a lot of cool and fun things in store. I hope 2017 is your best year ever. I know it is going to be awesome for me, for QuestFusion, and for our clients! Happy New Year everyone!

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This is Patrick Henry, the CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters.

This article originally appeared in QuestFusion.

Patrick Henry
Written by

Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, former CEO of Entropic Communications, entrepreneur, executive, father, and freelance blogger living the luxury and active lifestyle in San Diego.

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