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Christina
27 Jan 2020 | 7 min read

5 Ways to Crush Those New Year Goals

With the start of another new year, it seems as though everyone is jumping on board the goal-setting train. And why not? The fresh slate of a new year is the perfect time to reset and refocus on goals. 

Here’s the problem. Over 92% of New Year Resolutions fail. That’s right. You have almost the same chance of getting into the F.B.I. as a special agent as you do finishing that New Year’s goal. Even more depressing? About 80% of those resolutions fail by February

That statistic alone is enough to keep many of us from even trying to achieve our resolutions. But don’t give up hope just yet. There is a reason that 8% of finishers see their goals through. 

Here are a few ways to beat the odds and end your year with a mountain of crushed goals. 

#1 KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH

The top resolutions for 2020? Exercising more, saving money, eating more healthily, and the ever-popular losing weight. What’s wrong with most of these goals? They are not specific. 

If you aim to lose weight this year, it’s not enough to plan on dropping 20 lbs by Christmas. Research shows that one of the top reasons New Year Resolutions fail is that they are not specific (and challenging) enough. Instead of hoping to lose 20 lbs by the end of the year, a strategic version of that goal would be to lose 1 pound per week by cutting out sweets and bread and walking for 30 minutes 4 times a week. Specific and challenging, while still being achievable. 

If you are vague in your goal setting, you are going to be vague in your achievements. You must set clear, specific, and achievable objectives. But before you can do that, you need to know what you want and why you want it. Studies have found that those goals that have a significant purpose are the ones that succeed. As Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook discuss in their Harvard Business Review article, from Purpose to Impact, “…the process of articulating your purpose and finding the courage to live it—what we call purpose to impact—is the single most important developmental task you can undertake as a leader.”

If you are not sure how to set meaningful goals, check out this article on 11 Questions to Help You Set Meaningful Goals for the Next Decade.

#2 JUMP IN

Want to know the enemy of done? 

Later. 

Procrastination accounts for a significant amount of failed resolutions, and it’s no wonder. Procrastination is rooted in self-doubt. If the objective seems overwhelming, chances are you will put it off by focusing on other nonimportant activities. 

The best way to overcome procrastination? 

Start now.  

Begin by taking one small step toward your goal even if it seems insignificant. The act of starting is often one of the biggest obstacles to knocking out your goals. 

According to DePaul University psychology professor and author of Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting it Done, Joseph R. Ferrari, keeping a to-do list with realistic deadlines and then tackling the most urgent on the list is key to beating procrastination. He also suggests picking the items you are dreading next since those are the ones you are most likely to put off. 

#3 TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF

When I made a goal of reading 100 books in a year, I set rules in place to protect myself from failing. I permitted myself to read audiobooks and children’s books if I felt like it. I allowed myself to stick to authors and genres that interested me instead of forcing myself to read something dull simply because it was popular. 

Setting goals without limits is setting yourself up for failure (and a whole lot of unnecessary pressure and guilt). We all begin resolutions with preset ideas. If you don’t establish boundaries beforehand, you are more likely to feel like you are cheating if you veer from the strictest version of your plan. 

Rules work. What may seem more constrictive at first, is going to give you the freedom to get the job done and get it done the way you want to. Preset rules give you the freedom to say “no” to unrealistic expectations and “yes” to the right things. They also keep you on track with your goal without all that nagging guilt associated with vague strategies. 

#4 PROTECT YOUR GOAL

The surest way to crush a dream is to tell everyone on Facebook your plans. Aunt Sally’s best friend Marge’s second-cousin who never met you? Yep, he has a ton of opinions about that new diet you’re starting, and how it didn’t work for his daughter’s swim instructor. 

There are plenty of dream crushers out there. All you need to do is share a small piece of that vision, and they are ready to pounce with examples and suggestions and reasons why you won’t make it. 

Instead, surround yourself with a handful of dream boosters. 

Studies have found that friends can bolster your self-control, encourage you to work harder, improve your work performance, and even make you healthier. You don’t have to have hundreds of friends supporting you to succeed. Find a few close friends who want to celebrate your success and work together toward those goals. 

#5 STAY FOCUSED AND KEEP IT SMALL

Our society drives us to be the best. We tell our kids that they can be the president, prima ballerina, or gold-winning olympian. We tell ourselves never to settle for small dreams. We push for big, showy, and celebrated goals to achieve. 

But why? Is that the standard of a life well lived? Is that the definition of success? 

Maybe small goals don’t feel very important, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. This year, my personal goal is to write out 1,000 things that I am grateful for in my life. I’m barely a few weeks in, and I only write three gratitudes a day, but I’ve already learned a lot from the exercise. It’s shifted my perspective. And to be honest, a lot of the things that are truly important in my life are pretty insignificant by the world’s standards. But that doesn’t make me any less thankful for them. 

Perhaps small goals seem a little anti-climatic. 

My Dad and his next-door neighbor had a weird tradition. On trash days, if one of them hadn’t pulled his trash can and recycling bin away from the curb by the afternoon, the other would bring it up the driveway to the garage. They would go back and forth, saving each other a few steps from the curb to the driveway. It was an unspoken thing they did for each other. 

I’m not sure how it got started. I think it originally happened during a hurricane prep day when my Dad was locking down the house. He noticed their trash can and brought it up to their garage door. From there, it spiraled into a cooperative effort and honestly a bit of a one-up-manship type of competition. 

I asked my Dad about it once, and he just said it was an easy way to help each other out and just be nice. 

About a year ago, our neighbor’s wife told us her husband had a heart attack a few months prior and passed away suddenly at the kitchen table. She was having a tough time with his passing and didn’t want to talk about it. We offered to be there for her if she ever needed anything.

My Dad kept the tradition of pulling up the bins if they were left out. 

A few weeks ago, my Dad found his trash can and recycling bin placed neatly in front of the garage. There was no sign of anyone around. No note. Nothing. But it was a message. It simply said, “Thank You.”

Small goals. 

A small goal doesn’t mean a low impact. Plan goals that add value to the priorities in your life. Stay focused, and consistent. You never know how far the outcome of your actions will spread. 


Kick start your year with an intentional strategy to focus on your volunteer team! The Volunteer U LAUNCH kit will help you build a deliberate approach to IDENTIFY, RECRUIT, TRAIN, ENCOURAGE, and RESOURCE your dream volunteer team. Get your LAUNCH kit today and take the guesswork out of volunteer management.  

Here at Volunteer U, we’re passionate about helping volunteer teams thrive. Your organization is doing important work. You deserve to have an incredible crew behind you to get the job done. Christina has a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with a focus in Global Consulting. Email the author christina@volunteeru.org.