Goals over Resolutions: Five key behaviors to help you build a plan and win 2016


‘Tis the season of resolutions. One need only turn on a television to be inundated with ads for nicotine gum and weight loss programs as the undisciplined vow to reverse course, make a fresh start and finally take action.  Again.

More American will make resolutions than watch the Super Bowl in 2016– and yet 92% of them will fail.

So that’s why you don’t bother.  You are healthy, happy, and motivated, and as such, resolutions have nothing to offer you.  While that is mostly true, one key aspect of resolutions does: goal-setting.

Everyone has goals, and while they are more nuanced than resolutions, without a few key characteristics, they can be just as likely to end in failure.

The takeaways

  • New Year’s Resolutions are ineffective and typically fail before February
  • Goal-setting can be an effective alternative
  • Five key considerations in setting and pursuing your goals can ensure success


  1. Physically write down your goals and revisit them regularly

    While it may seem incredibly basic, research says putting pen to paper or keyboard to touchscreen and documenting your goal in writing really does make a difference. Be as specific as possible, and set a plan for revisiting your goal regularly to chart progress– weekly is good, daily is better.

  2. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes

    A key miss in goal-setting is an intense focus on the goal itself, rather than the journey to get there. Visualization has been studied extensively by behavioral scientists who found a strong correlation to success for athletes who use it. Surprisingly this correlation only existed for those focused on the process rather than the result.  By visualizing the behaviors that lead to goals (training runs, skipping dessert, waking early for fitness) test subjects were prepared to tackle the day to day, rather than stuck picturing a distant future state.

  3. Find an adversary

    Can you imagine Rocky Balboa without Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang? Competition elevates our performance, our training and our mindfulness.  Who is your Drago and how will you defeat them?  Be it vocal critic, a training partner or a grueling course that stymied you in the past, defining someone, or something will focus your efforts, keeping you dialed in.  Visualizing this opponent before and during training can help.

  4. Plan your fail

    Resolutions typically get off-track because of a snowball from one bad day.  Goals can be the same, so whether your goal is to run 30 miles every week this year, hit the bike three mornings a week or others if you set stringent goals with no plan for the day after a slip, they are easy to scrap.  Missing a workout is a setback, a full week can be the beginning of failure.  Consider now what happens when you face adversity.

  5. Engage an accountability coach

    Sharing your progress with a trusted advisor empowered to hold you accountable is the best way to maximize results. Empower them to support, cheerlead and even occasionally admonish you and it will keep you dialed in.  For some this is a specific person, a hired coach or mentor.  Others use social media.  The key is regular check-ins planned ahead of time.  Only with those, can you build a support system to celebrate a win – or halt a backslide.

Remember that while 2016 is full of promise, what happens in January is less important than where you land in December.  Make setting, documenting and monitoring your goals an everyday thing rather than a once a year pronouncement.  Get a plan and focus on the behaviors that will help you succeed.

Do that and the results will take care of themselves.