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New Year’s Goals Shouldn’t Be About the Goals

Every New Year, most people around the world like to take stock of their lives and consider new goals (or resolutions) for the upcoming year. But, there are a couple of problems with the way most people approach New Year’s Resolutions.

Common Problems

  1. Not writing your goals down (you are 42% more likely to accomplish them if you do)
  2. Forgetting to create balanced goals (for all aspects of your life)
  3. Failing to create daily action steps that lead you toward success
  4. Thinking that your GOALS themselves should be your focus

Actually, if you focus only on your GOALS, you’ll miss the point entirely.

If you want to have more, you first have to BECOME more. – Jim Rohn

YOU are what needs to be worked on, NOT your goal. – Darren Hardy

Cause & Effect

Actually, you can only achieve what you are personally READY to achieve. You can’t reach big goals if you aren’t a big person. Grow yourself to grow your goals.

Goals are the EFFECT – YOU are the CAUSE. Your real goal should be to become “the kind of person” who regularly or easily achieves the goals you are after.

My New Year’s Planning in a (Six-Step) Nutshell

After that intro, let you give you some insight into how I regularly create my own New Year’s Goals. I’ve been using this approach since 2014, and it’s made some major differences in my life. Much of what I will share is an abbreviation from Darren Hardy’s Living Your Best Year Ever. (Affiliate link: buy the book on – or including CDs)

It’s really important to me to get some time away (between 2-6 hours) around the New Year to read, get inspired, reflect on the previous year, and plan for the next year. Here’s my setup:

  1. The morning (my brain is fresh and ready, the sun is bright)
  2. My favorite coffee shop (I need to get out of the house, away from all distractions)
  3. My favorite (or a specialty) coffee (the aroma & taste help me relax & focus & give me joy)
  4. Headphones (noise-cancelling are nice – to allow me to concentrate deeply)
  5. Music I know well (if I listen to something new, my brain concentrates on the new rhythms and lyrics – but something familiar helps me get lost in my thoughts)
  6. Inspirational reading material (to inspire BIG thinking)
  7. A notebook & pen (to write EVERYTHING down)

Now that we’re set up, let’s begin.

Step #1: Start with WHY (What’s your WHY?)

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. – Nietzsche

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else. – Yogi Berra

Everyone ends up somewhere; few people end up somewhere on purpose. – Craig Groeschel

The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get. – Jim Rohn

As you consider your last year and next year, always consider your WHY.

  • WHY do you do what you do?
  • WHY do you want what you want?
  • WHY do you set the goals you set?

(You don’t have to answer this question now, but always remember to ask yourself “WHY”)

Step #2: Year in REVIEW

(Write these answers in your notebook)

Quick List

  1. Make a list of 10 great happenings from 2017…
  2. 5 lessons you learned…

In depth

  1. What was your smartest decision?
  2. What was your most loving service?
  3. What are you most happy with finishing?
  4. Who are 3 people who had the biggest impact on you?
  5. What was the biggest risk you took?
  6. What important relationship improved the most?
  7. What compliment do you wish someone had said to you?
  8. What ONE WORD best sums up your 2017?
  9. What are 3 things to STOP next year?
  10. 3 things to CONTINUE?
  11. 3 things to START?

Step #3: Gratitude

Gratitude is the attitude that changes everything.

  1. Make a list of the BEST things in your life right now (family, house, career, books, clothes, kids, etc).
  2. What’s great about yourself (personality, ability, etc)?

Actually, Gratitude for the past year and your present circumstances is a powerful and transformative thing that should not be ignored. Many high performers also recommend a daily practice of gratitude journaling or gratitude meditation.

Step #4: Design your year

  1. Give yourself a rating 1-10 for each of the following 8 areas:
    • Physical life / health
    • Financial satisfaction / health
    • Career / job
    • Lifestyle (or organization in life / house, etc)
    • Mental life / personal development / learning / growing
    • Spiritual life
    • Family
    • Social (friend) relationships
  2. Consider (and write down) at least ONE (or more) goal for each – and remember to consider WHY you want to achieve that goal
  3. Next, REDUCE that list to 3-5 MAJOR goals only
  4. Give yourself a DEADLINE for each of your MAJOR goals
  5. Now, write down 3 steps (daily / weekly actions) to take in order to help reach that goal
  6. Consider if there is anyone who can help you – or keep you accountable to those goals and write down that person’s name also
  7. Finally, just for fun, create ONE BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) – this is a goal SO BIG that you WON’T be able to accomplish it unless something BIG happens in your life
  8. Consider what actions you need to take, or the kind of person you need to become in order to achieve your BHAG (this could be a 10-20 year goal also – the goal is to take small steps regularly to become the kind of person who could achieve this BIG goal)

Step #5: The “Magic” Factor

(The “Magic” factor in achieving your goals is YOU)

If you want to have more, you first have to BECOME more. – Jim Rohn

YOU are what needs to be worked on, NOT your goal. – Darren Hardy

You can only achieve what you are personally READY to achieve. You can’t reach big goals if you aren’t a big person. Grow yourself to grow your goals.

Cause & Effect

Actually, the goals themselves are only the EFFECT. YOU are the CAUSE. Make YOURSELF bigger, better, stronger, smarter – become the kind of person who achieves the kinds of goals you seek, and the goals you seek will follow along as a result of who you become.

Final Exercise

  1. Write down a brief description of the kind of person who could easily achieve all the goals you’ve set for 2018. What actions would THAT person take? (This is who you want to become)
  2. Write down a brief description of WHO you want to BECOME in each of these areas of life:
    • Who do I want to be in my work?
    • Who do I want to be in my family?
    • Who do I want to be with my friends?
    • Who do I want to be in my community?
    • Who do I want to be in my church?
    • Who do I want to be in my health?
    • Who do I want to be to myself?

We do not attract what we WANT, we attract WHO WE ARE. – Darren Hardy

Step #6: Follow-up

Finally, we need to GET READY and START.

  1. Is there anything NEW you need in your life (or phone apps, etc) to help you take action steps toward your goals and the better you?
  2. Is there anything you need to GET RID OF (old clothes, books, etc) to clear your mind and put you on track to be a better you?
  3. Are there any MILESTONES you can see toward your goals that will indicate clearly you’re making the right kind of progress? Write them down if so.

Progressive assessment through the year

Two of the BEST things we can do in the New Year to stay on track are:

  1. Continual assessment and review
  2. Refocusing ourselves

Your assessment goal should be:

  1. Every week, give yourself a grade for how well you approached your goals that week. If something needs adjusted, it’s better to adjust it after only one week, than at the end of the year when you’ve failed.
  2. Every month, refocus on your goals. Re-read your plan and your personal statements about who you want to BECOME. This will refresh your mind and help you stay on track.
  3. Every 3 months, reassess your goals. Are things progressing well? If so, continue. If progress is too slow or has stopped, ask yourself if this is REALLY the goal you want, or if you should refocus your time and attention on something else. If things are going very quickly, ask yourself if you want to push even harder to accomplish the goal faster, or if you should slow down to give yourself some breathing / relaxing room.

So, this is my New Year’s goal setting process.

What do you do for your New Year’s goal setting process? Do any of these tips or quotes help you? Let me know in the Comments below.

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4 thoughts

  1. I agree with many of the points you are making here. It’s always to hear them phrased in different ways. I just happened to read (again) during the last few days The ONE Thing book ( on which’s ideas I try to phase my study goals.

    In there, they say that to achieve truly unique and amazing goals, one should avoid the continuous search for balance, so a bit in disagreement with common problem 2 you mention. The author rather advices for avoiding a completely balanced life, because then, one never really gets out of his comfort zone while doing average things. If you want to achieve amazing things, you’d better give it your all, get out of balance and use some counterbalancing whenever necessary.

    At least, that’s for certain areas of your life… relationships, family, etc, one should of course never sacrifice those for the career, etc. I haven’t read through the wheel of life link you provided, so maybe I’m talking besides the point he’s making.

    And looking at your past, it seems to me you are rather someone who gives it your all and then recalibrate whenever necessary. You have achieved pretty neat things this way, didn’t you?

    Anyhow, just felt like pitching in my grain of salt. I’ll make sure to use your techniques to set up my new goals. Just need to take some time, as you say. It seems pretty well structured.

    Good luck with your new goals!

    PS : Following our previous exchange, I passed KIIP3. I hope it will translate into TOPIK3 early this year.

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