How to Set Action Goals

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Did you set a New Year’s resolution for yourself? We all know too well how our resolutions usually end up. We become feel too busy or start getting unmotivated. I know it doesn’t help that the status quo for resolutions is that everyone often gives them up after a certain time, too.

About a year ago, when I first started the Productivity Paradox podcast, my first episode was actually on this very topic. I wanted to make sure that we think about goal setting with the right mindset and information, and not just make a resolution because it’s what everyone else is doing.

There’s a few tips I want to go over that will help you take your resolution to a different level. One where you feel empowered, motivated, and clear on your goal – and not just for a month or two out of the year, but for the whole year and beyond.

“The more excited you feel about your goals and the more passionate you feel about them because they’re tied to your priorities, the more likely you are to be successful.”

Goals Should be Personal

Goals are meant to be customized to you and I think that’s one of the things that people forget about. They think that everyone has the same list of 10 goals and if you really take your time and you figure out what goals are important to you, you’re going to feel a lot more excited about them, so you’re going to feel passionate and you’re going to really want to focus on them. The more excited you feel about your goals and the more passionate you feel about them because they’re tied to your priorities, the more likely you are to be successful.


Goal Setting VS. New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are generally said around the table out loud and goals are more likely to happen when you write them down. If you know anything about me, you knew I would insist they be written, right? After all, I make paper planning products, organizational notepads and planners and things like that, so you knew that I would really think that they needed to be written down.

If you don’t want to believe me, you can maybe believe the people at Harvard, because Harvard did this study where graduate students were asked if they wrote down their goals. Out of those graduate students, 13 had goals in mind, but they were not going to write them down, 3% had goals written on paper, and 84% had no goals set whatsoever. So, 10 years pass and the researchers went back to those graduate students and asked them how they were doing. Now, the people who had set abstract goals, who set them in their head, they were making two times the amount of money as the ones with no goals. They were doing pretty good. However, the ones who wrote their goals down were making on average 10 times more than the other 94% combined. That’s crazy, right?


Write It Down

You can see goal setting when it’s written down can obviously make a huge difference. Why is it that writing it down is so important? First of all, it forces you to clarify what it is you want to accomplish. When you say goals out loud, it doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to put your words out there, but when you’re putting pen to paper, you really think about the words you’re writing and it makes a big difference because that will really help you hone in on exactly what it is you’re wanting to accomplish.

It also makes a difference because it enables you to see your progress. Progress can feel a little bit abstract, so when you write something down it makes it into a physical item, something that you can post or you can look at or you can see and it’s easier to keep track of.

When you don’t have a goal and you don’t have a map and you don’t know where you’re going, it’s so much more difficult to become the person that you really want to be and that’s really what goal setting is about. It’s about becoming the best you that you can be, the person that you really want to be and focusing on the priorities that are important to you. Customizing and personalizing your goals is the key here. I cannot stress that enough.


Goal Setting Is More Than Personal

Keep in mind that goal setting is not just about personal goals, like losing weight, running a half marathon, and things like that. Those are all good, but there are other types of goals too. There are business goals.

I talk about this in episode 015, Compartmentalize Your Life, which you may find helpful. I shared how we can gage the importance and urgency of various tasks and how to implement strategies so that you feel less stressed and more focused on one category at a time. 

Recently, Staples put on a national small business survey and they interviewed 300 small businesses, 80% of those that surveyed said that they do not keep track of their business goals, 77% of them have yet to achieve the vision for their company. Goal setting works whether you are a business owner or you work for a company or you’re the CEO of your house.

So we have personal goals, like going to run a half marathon in six months, and there are work goals, like working toward a promotion by the end of the year.

There are also family goals… and a lot of people have in mind that a family is a husband and a wife and 2.5 kids and a dog, and that’s not necessarily true. A family is any time there is someone that you are partnered with. It could just be a family of two of you. It could be your partner. It could be your business partner. It could be your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance, etc. But a family is anyone that you’re working really closely with.

Your family goal could be something like focusing on finances and saving money to go on a trip together next summer. Keep that in mind when we are talking about goal setting because each area should really kind of get its own focus.


In episodes 001-003, I’m breaking down the why, the what, and the how of making sure that you set and achieve your goals.

Don’t worry if you haven’t achieved goals in the past because we are leaving that behind. We’re moving away from those New Year’s resolutions and we’ll set manageable goals for you, as I walk you though each step. For those episodes, I have exercises and activities to help you figure out what goals are important to you. Because what it’s all about is helping you feel successful and happy about achieving your goals. That is really what it’s all about.

By establishing a long-term plan, you’re going to be able to visualize and review your goals daily and you’ll be able to make course corrections when you need to. There will be times where you need to because goals should be flexible. This is going to allow you to bring your future goals into focus today. It’s going to allow you to start working towards your big goals in life. I think everything we talk about when we talk about productivity, goal setting, and prioritizing, really needs to be customized to you because everyone is different.

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  • Connie Condra

    The only New Year’s resolution I have ever kept is the one I made last year. It is the same one I am making this year: to thank for their service any active US military personnel or veteran that I meet either in person or on the net. I will probably expand that to include law-enforcement officers and firefighters.

    January 3, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton