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Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

December 19, 2023

There is research that supports that 9% of people who make New Year’s resolutions follow through on them. Of the individuals who make New Year’s resolutions in some form or another, 23% quit by the first week, and 43% stop by the end of January.

But why is this? We all have the best intentions and new energy at the beginning of each year. We spend the holidays getting recharged and generally feel the positivity surrounding a new year that seems to brim with new opportunities.

I often spend the time at the end of the year reflecting on the past year and start to envision what the new year will bring. In my own way, I set goals for the next 12 months and have evolved my thinking on how to do this more effectively, particularly when I consider the statistics listed above. I’ve included some thoughts below that might help you determine the best ways for you to set goals as we look ahead to the new year.

How to Set Goals in 2024

The most common resolution — by a substantial margin — is weight loss / getting fit. I can certainly understand that — and I am going to use a personal example to illustrate this point. A few years ago, I weighed 412 lbs. That’s not my typical weight and caused quite a few issues — too many to enumerate here. I was told that if I didn’t change something soon, the impact on my future would be severe. So, I decided to actively do something about it. And I set a goal to lose weight.

I didn’t set a number at first. I tried to change some things incrementally or “test” theories I had to make smaller, more manageable jumps toward a less concrete goal. I went on a CPAP, and lost 30 lbs. I stopped drinking pop and lost another 20. I started changing my diet and got a stationary bike. More weight. I started swimming. First 500 yards, now I usually swim close to 2,000. One day I got on the treadmill (with no forethought) just to see if I could run. I ran 2.5 miles — without stopping — and do that almost daily now as well. At some point, about four months into some of these changes — they happened over the course of years — I started tracking my progress and the trends in my weight, amount of exercise, calories, etc. I started setting more concrete goals.

But here’s the thing. These goals weren’t scary. They were something that I could push myself a little and reach in shorter amounts of time, knowing that I would set another and another, based mostly on the progress I was making and the trends that the data demonstrated were realistic and sustainable.

As of today, I have lost 197 lbs. To put that in context, if I would have said to myself when I started that I need to lose almost 200lbs, it would have seemed completely unrealistic. That represented half of my body weight at that point — or equal to a mid-sized adult male. Stated that way, it is completely demotivating, and I probably would have given up at the end of the first month — the progress would have been too slow and it’s too large a goal to conceptualize at once.

When you set goals, whether they are personal or professional, make sure they are things that motivate you. Things you look forward to. Things that are small enough to be realized in increments but have an overall purpose in mind. That purpose can evolve — and likely will — but if you give it the space (and lack of rigidity and constraint) that affords it the chance to reveal itself as something you may not have contemplated was possible, you will be more successful. These smaller steps make it easier to focus at a more micro (rather than macro) level — that’s critically important. They allowed me to try and test and see what combinations worked, rather than throwing the whole effort out because I couldn’t make all the pieces work exactly right and all at once.

I won’t call it a resolution exactly, but I am happy I’m one of the 9% who stuck with it. We all can be, if we keep our focus on the things that motivate us to be successful. We can’t become overwhelmed by things created in a haze of end-of year aspiration rather than the clarity borne out of discipline, focus and a genuine affection for the plan you continue to tinker with as you work toward an ever-developing goal.

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Joe Benesh

Joe Benesh is the President and CEO of The Ingenuity Company, located in Des Moines. The Ingenuity Company specializes in Strategic Planning, Diagramming, Organizational Design Thinking, and Leadership/Change Facilitation. He also teaches strategic planning at the University of Iowa in the MBA Program.