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Goal Setting in the New Year

Posted in:  Highspot News

The new year is a natural time to create personal and professional goals, regardless of whether you call them New Year’s resolutions or simply goals. But did you know that according to Inc., the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80%, and most people lose their resolve by mid-February? Here are some tips for setting yourself up for success.


As Simon Sinek so famously says, start with why. When it comes to goals, some whys are more effective than others. Is your goal motivated by a want or a should? Wants and shoulds motivate us differently – wants can make our heart sing, whereas shoulds can shut us down. Spend time getting clear on what’s important about this goal so you can motivate yourself when you feel unmotivated.


Here’s an example of something we’ve likely seen or done: You set a new goal of going to the gym every day after not going at all for months – or longer. The risk of this type of goal is that you can either meet the goal or fail. Meaning, there’s no wiggle room and no option to overachieve. If you miss a day for whatever reason, you’ve failed, and that can be demotivating. 

Instead, start with a goal you know you can accomplish – let’s say going to the gym in the morning once a week, because some progress is better than nothing, especially while you’re building a new habit. Then, as you’ve strengthened the habit, you can always increase the frequency, and then instead of failing, you’re overachieving, which will motivate you and give you a sense of accomplishment.


There are a number of ways to create structure for yourself and here are a few that I think can be powerful. First, identify three things you’re saying yes to and three things you’re saying no to, to make your goal a reality. Let’s say you set a goal of learning a new skill. Your three yeses could be: find a mentor, block 30 minutes a week for learning, and look for ways to apply the skill. Your three nos could be: no to negative self talk as you learn, no to using the time you set aside to do something else, and no to expecting yourself to be great right away. Using the gym example, a yes could be getting your gym bag ready the night before and a no could be not going to bed past a certain time. 

In addition to identifying three yeses and 3 nos, have an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who helps hold you accountable for the goals you’ve set for yourself. They need to be someone you trust, and who will be kind but firm. If you’re trying to learn a new skill and they’re hesitant to give you constructive feedback when you ask for it, that’s not going to work. Sharing your goals and structure with a well-chosen person is a powerful way to stick to your goals.


Sometimes life happens in ways we don’t anticipate and our goals don’t happen, or take longer. Although it can be disappointing, use this as an opportunity to take stock. Does the goal truly resonate with you and are you motivated to achieve it? Do you have sufficient structures in place? What’s working and what’s not working about your approach? Sometimes you just need to press reset and start again, and that’s okay.


Many years ago I had a coach say something to me that has really stuck. We were talking about something I had accomplished and she wanted me to acknowledge it, but I didn’t feel like I’d earned it, since I wasn’t at my destination. She said “You have more mountains to climb, but you just climbed a mountain.” This has been helpful over the years because often there’s no finish line – or sometimes we keep moving the finish line – and being able to acknowledge progress is not only motivating, but it’s a great way to take stock of what worked and what you’d do differently next time.

Regardless of what your goals are and when you start, I wish you much success as you work to achieve them this year.