Random Thoughts About Resolutions and Goals


The business model for most fitness clubs is built around the failure of most people to stick to their resolutions.  If you head to a gym in January, it’s hard to get a machine.  By the middle of February, most gyms are ghost towns.  If everyone who joined kept going, the gym would have to buy more equipment or expand their facilities, which would kill their bottom line. 


So, they are betting on failure. 


This isn’t restricted to fitness goals.  It might be resolving to be kinder, to be a better boss, to be a more attentive partner, to be more disciplined, to read more, to sleep more, to drink less…Resolutions often fail.  Here are a few thoughts about why this might be the case and what you can do about it:


1) Lack of a “why”:  People sometimes set goals based on what they “should” do.  “I guess I should lose some weight.”  “I’d probably do better if I were more disciplined.”  It doesn’t exactly stir the soul, does it?   Have a clear and compelling reason for your big goals.  How will it make your life better?  What will it cost you if you don’t do it?  Who will you become by following this through and what other amazing things will flow because of that growth?


2) Making where you are wrong:  This is one of the problems with goal setting generally.  When we say “I want to be there”, part of our brain is saying “I don’t like where I am.”  We are criticizing where we are, who we are and what we have.  That’s a negative place from which to start.  It can lead to feelings of resentment, which is not an emotion that drives action.  Instead, start from a place of gratitude.  What if you said (and believed) “I love everything I have; I am so grateful for it and this year, I’m excited to add to it in this way”?


3) Goals vs Promises: When I’ve presented this distinction to clients, it has a very sphincter tightening affect.  You see, our society has come to accept that goals are big aspirations that are lovely to aim for and acceptable to miss.  But we still don’t like to break promises.  Also, goals are sometimes outside our control.  I may set a goal of increasing revenue by 25%.  But I can’t control if interest rates suddenly spike or a terrorist attack occurs or if there is a sudden change in legislation that affects my industry.  However, I can control my activities.  I can promise to engage in multiple marketing activities, I can promise to call 10 customers/week and so on.  Those promised activities become the means by which goals are achieved. 


4) Magic Thinking:  When people resist point three, they sometimes engage in magic thinking.  A number of years ago, a book and a film called “The Secret” came out which somewhat over-simplified what’s known as “The Law of Attraction.”  This has spread the notion that just by setting a goal and really, really, really thinking about it, it will somehow magically appear without any effort.  And, with respect, that’s nonsense.  Just writing a goal down doesn’t make it happen, taking action does.


5) Failure to Plan: Setting the goal or the resolution is just the start.  Build a plan as to how you’ll get there.  That means making the promises, as in point three, but then identifying when they will be done and, if you have the ability to delegate, who will do them.  You schedule milestones and check in dates to see if the plan needs to be modified. 


6) Failure to Work the Plan: Once you have the plan, don’t just stick it on a shelf.  The whole exercise will have been a waste of time.  You’d have been better off just watching Downton Abbey.  So, take out your plan every week and make sure you are working it, evaluating your progress and modifying your plan as needed.


Have a wonderful, prosperous, happy 2015.  As for me, I resolve not to do cocaine this year.  (I like to make resolutions I know I will keep.)