Do Goal-Setting, Not Resolutions

Jan 08, 2020

Photo by Artur Matosyan on Unsplash

New year's resolutions get a bad wrap. That’s probably because the vast majority of people decide to take on something new in their life - a workout regiment, a diet, a new skill or hobby, to get organized,  [ list well-intentioned endeavour here] - and ultimately fall off the bandwagon within months, weeks, or even days.

There are many, many reasons people fail to keep their resolutions. In this article, I’m going to highlight a few that I’d like you to take into consideration, along with some resources that may point you in the right direction of setting up your year for success.

  1. Lack of structures
  2. Lack of accountability
  3. Setting to “get something” rather than “be someone”
  4. AIM SMART with your goals


  1. Lack of structures

What this means is that the individual has not planned their life in a way that sets themselves up for success. Examples of this include not setting enough time in their calendar to take on the new endeavour, or not thinking through all the steps necessary to accomplish the goal.

Like any big project in life, it is important to take the time to plan it out. Take the goal of improving our fitness. Not only do we have to buy the gym pass and gear needed, we also want to put the time in our calendars and take the appropriate actions to fulfill on what we’re out to accomplish. That can include making healthy shakes in the morning to supplement our workouts, getting enough sleep so that we’re not too exhausted to go at our planned time, having the right regiment that will keep us engaged while at the gym, or leaving our running shoes next to the door so we can’t forget them on the way out.

Understanding the in’s and out’s of habit formation and being mindful of how to cater your habits for your desired lifestyle is key to avoiding this pitfall. Check out this helpful video summary about habit formation if you want to learn more:

Lack of accountability

Accountability is one of the structures that I find is most often missed and I included this is a separate point to underscore its importance.

This can look like telling a friend, announcing it on Facebook, or better yet hiring a professional to work with you on your goal. The key is to find an option that will work for you - one that will keep you accountable to succeed and, very importantly, have you feeling comfortable with the possibility of failure.

But what does failure have to do with it?

Because most of us would rather not deal with the possibility of failure, we avoid taking action in the first place.

Unfortunately,the fact is in order to accomplish a task, especially one that we really want and that we’ve never accomplished before, we’ve got to be willing to risk failure.

And when we create that commitment in language (writing it down, telling someone else, etc.), we will do our best to achieve the promise of that goal because we are on the hook to make it happen.

Here is a great quote from Werner Erhard to sum up this point:

“Accountability is the opportunity to carve out the future rather than to sit back and have it happen to you.

A promise has real power. A promise made from the stand that who you are is your word, engages you as a participant [of life]. You cease to be a spectator, and your words become actions and actually impact the world.

        2.Setting to “get something” rather than “be someone”


My whole life, I have operated with the following context:

Do—> Get —> Be

I do a bunch of things,in order to get something, and through that process I’ll be a certain way.


  •  I’ll do a bunch of work, in order to make a bunch of money, and then I’ll be happy.
  • I’ll do enough nice things in my relationship, so that they’ll marry me, and then I’ll be satisfied.
  • I’ll start a meditation practice, in order to get focus and concentration, and then I’ll feel productive.
  • I’ll buy something nice for myself, in order to celebrate myself and then I’ll feel acknowledged and worthy. 

 You get the picture, right?

One ends up more like a human doing rather than a human being.

However, there is a new model that one can operate in:

Be —> Do —> Get

I’m going to be a certain way, and I’m going to do things and get things while being that way. I’m going to be joyful, and no matter what I do, I’ll be joyful. And no matter what I get, I’ll be joyful.

This is incredibly important to note in the context of goal setting.

I’ve been setting goals all my life in the first (Do-Get-Be model). I set a goal for something I want to achieve, and it becomes about doing a bunch of tasks in order to get something. This seems pretty normal, right? It is all about achieving the goal.

The problem is that I fell into the same trap time and again: I would get what I wanted, and naturally would become dissatisfied soon after I got the thing.

Instead, setting goals in the new model focuses on who you have to become in order to achieve your goal.

Now the goal is less about getting something and more about cultivating a new way of being - a way of thinking, feeling and acting that takes you to your highest potential, the best version of yourself.

Here is an excellent episode by Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School podcast that explains this really well.

        3. Aim smart with your goals

One final and important part about goal setting is to set them in a way that will have you more likely to complete them. To do this, you want to not only create SMART goals, but you also want to take AIM as well. Here is how it works:

A - Acceptable - This is the minimum you are willing to accept for your goal. For example, if you are committed to working out in the new year, you might say that the minimum acceptable amount of workouts at the gym would be 1x per week.

I - Ideal - This is the most ideal, best case scenario that you’d like for your goal. In the workout example, you might say that your ideal amount of workouts at the gym is 4x per week. This would be your dream scenario.

M - Middle - This is the middle of your Ideal and Acceptable goals. In our example, you might say your middle is 2x times per week. This now provides a 3rd option for how you want to achieve your goal.

The next part is setting up SMART goals. You’ve probably heard of this but I encourage you to read through this section as this version might be different than what you’re familiar with.

S - Specific - This is the very first step you will take to accomplishing your goal. This is kind of like a mini-goal. In relation to our workout example, this might be to join a gym or buy new workout clothes.

M - Measurable - In this step, you will qualify and/or quantify the first step identified above. This will help you determine whether you have hit the mini-goal. Make this as specific as possible - so for the workout example it might be something like “I will buy a monthly membership to the gym at [this address]. See how real it gets here?! You want to make it measurable enough so you can envision yourself performing the action. 

A - Attainable - Is the first step physically possible to achieve? Do you have the resources and abilities to accomplish this first action item? The answer should be a simple yes or no. If yes, then proceed. If no, rewind and take another look at what might be a more attainable mini-goal.

R - Reasonable - How reasonable is it to accomplish this mini-goal at this time in your life? Do you have enough time, money, energy given all of your other commitments and responsibilities? The key in this step is to take a high-level view of the situation. If you see it as unreasonable, it might be worth revisiting your mini-goal since it occurs for you as something that you are unlikely to achieve.

T - Time-oriented - This is a crucial question never to be missed: By when? By when will you complete the mini-goal? How about the larger objective? For example, you may aim to buy your membership to the gym on Monday, or research sneakers on Saturday afternoon. 

When goal setting, the ultimate rule of thumb is to be as vivid and exact as possible so that you can picture yourself completing your goals and put in structures to fulfill on them. 

So, what are you waiting for? Take on your biggest most ambitious goals, become the best version of you and enjoy the spoils that come along with it!


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