In 2020, Set Goals Instead Of Resolutions


The arrival of Christmas means the end of one year, and the beginning of another. A new chapter. An opportunity to reset, reflect and try not to panic about the speed with which 2019 swept past!

You may be slightly confused about how “this time last year” was an entire year ago. Despite your dreams for 2019 and lots of conversations about New Year’s resolutions, the year ticked along without much change from the one before; by and large you are the same person.

We’re often a bit surprised at this, but why are we surprised? Is it really that surprising that when we resolve to make a change, but skip forming any kind of strategy as to how it might happen, we miss the mark? It’s like wanting to get a job but not submitting your resume, or expecting bread to come out of the bag hot and toasted. You’re expecting the effect without considering the cause. Or more specifically, the method.

“I should set another resolution!” seems to be the typical response. The “new year, new me” approach.

Resolution setters typically fall into two camps. Camp A genuinely believe their commitment to their resolution and talk about it actively, for January at least. Camp B precede their resolution with “I might do…”, and follow it up with “but I never keep them”. In other words, I have zero intention of making any active changes.

Unfortunately, even Camp A tend to come up short as it’s one thing to believe, but a very different thing to commit.

The five most common resolutions in the UK are:

1. Eat better 
Exercise more
3. Spend less money
4. Self-care (including get more sleep)
5. Read more

They sound like the stream of ideas which run through your mind when suffering from hangover anxiety. Ideas that are forgotten after a good night’s sleep. They also sound remarkably like some of my previous resolutions which lay unfulfilled.

Nothing really ever shifted until last year.

Last year, instead of resolutions, I made goals. Goals are much more fixed than resolutions and more clearly defined. For example, read more, is quite vague. How much more? Which kinds of books? Setting a goal to read sixteen books in 2020 is far easier to visualise.

Setting clear goals can be more intimidating than resolutions, as they come with the distinct possibility of failure. Being deliberately vague can be a wonderful comfort blanket sometimes as you can convince yourself you are making steps. It allows you to interpret whatever you have done as a success, even if you aren’t getting closer to what you want. When you’ve been more specific, that excuse no longer provides comfort.

But here’s the thing; without a fixed notion of what change looks like, change won’t be made, and if you believe that your life should tell an exciting story, then it needs plot developments. The kind of benchmarks that you can set with your goals.

As Titanic Director, James Cameron said: “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

OK, so your goals are set and change will be made? Great!

Well, not exactly… it’s one thing to set goals but they won’t be realised unless you’re tracking them regularly. I’ll give a personal example. Last year, one of my goals was to read two books a month. That felt doable to me. Ambitious but doable (I’m not a particularly fast reader). In June, I did a mini check in and realised I’d read five books. Five out of twenty-four. I was somewhat off target, averaging half of what I was aiming at. By the 31st of December, against a ticking clock, I managed twenty-three. Without that check in, I probably would have read ten.

That’s a very specific example and your goals may not feel that measurable, however I would encourage you to find a way to make them trackable. With tracking comes accountability and if you really are committed to something, accountability is critical.

Goals shouldn’t be a burden. They should simply be a way of structuring your intentions for the New Year and going after them! You deserve the achievement which comes from that.