New Year goals – good idea or not?

It’s January and everyone in the personal development world is urging you to set goals.

I have to admit that every January, when I see the old chestnuts ‘SMART* goals’ and ‘New Year, New You’, my heart does sink a little.

Some years I’m not ready to make any meaningful goals on January the 1st – it’s dark, it’s cold and getting back to normality after Christmas and New Year is like getting up in the morning. I need a gentle start, and a goal setting exercise feels more like a cold shower!

And every year the new me looks just the same as the old me!

So if you’re feeling more “urgh” than “hell yes!” about setting yourself goals this January, here are some things to think about…

Plucking a number out of thin air

Are you so keen to set a goal that you’re not picking a useful goal? You don’t have to do a goal setting exercise just because it’s January. You can do it at any time.

Maybe you’re still reflecting, researching and thinking about where to go next. Unless you work through this process fully, you could find yourself setting goals that take you in the wrong direction or goals that you drop soon after you’ve set them.

Big fat waste of time.

Not listening to your market

So you’re going to double your sales in 2012? Do your customers get a say in that? Do they want to buy twice as much of your stuff?

Setting a goal that involves delivering what you think your customers need is going to be much harder work than delivering what they actually want.

It makes sense to ask what your clients want from you before you decide how you’re going to ramp up your sales.

No accountability

Even if your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, it will still stay a paper exercise if you don’t have any accountability.

Let’s say you want to double your income by December 2012. What should your income be by the end of June? How will you make sure that happens? What’s your plan and how will you stick to it?

Too complex

I’m a master at over-complicating things – maybe you are too? If you look at your goals for 2012 and wonder how on earth you’ll keep on top of what you should be doing, it’s time to simplify.

Can you be really ruthless about what you want to achieve this year? Really focus in on what’s important and drop those nice-to-have projects that chip away at your time and attention.

Be more flexible

You can change your goals at any time. Think of them as a compass that keep you going in the right direction, rather than a rigid path that you absolutely have to take.

Time to lighten up and stop putting yourself under so much pressure? After all, there’s no point in setting a goal that creates so much stress it outweighs the benefits of setting the goal in the first place!

No goals at all?

And if you can’t face setting goals at all, take a look at this post from Zen Habits…100 days with no goals

Happy New Year!


* ‘SMART’ stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely

(photo by Twid)

14 Replies to “New Year goals – good idea or not?”

  1. I rebel against any of the biggie New Years goals, like lose a stone or start walking to work every day, however little ones can be quite inspiring and ticking a few of those off the list might just make some of the bigger ones fall into place.

    It’s not high brow – but number one on my list this year is to moisturise every day!

    1. Thanks for your comments 🙂 Julie-Ann, rebelling against your goals is one I forgot to mention, but I definitely do that myself! As for the moisturising, I agree it’s better to pick something small and do it consistently, than to pick a big goal that you forget about after a couple of days.
      Simply Essesntial, I don’t set any new year’s resolutions either. I seem to work in cycles – sometimes I need to reflect, other times I need to plan and other times I take action. That doesn’t necessarily fit in with January 1st!

  2. I find smart goals and targets really daunting too because you start off by feeling like you’re an under achiever! I wrote a blog post about my new year’s resolutions and after some google research about the history of resolutions have decided to look at the changes I want to make as transitions – building on what I’m already good at and what I’ve already achieved; this way you don’t feel like you’re starting from nothing.
    Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Catherine! I hadn’t thought of the underachiever effect before, but I know exactly what you mean. Maybe that’s a reason why I’ve rebelled against my goals in the past? Hmmm….

  3. Wise words again! January for me is a quiet time as a retailer so lends itself well to thinking & planning. I like having targets and goals but agree they have to be linked in to your strategic plan and regularly reviewed / measured. Love the compass analogy. There is also a lot to be said, I think to listening to your intuition – what do you intuitively feel is the best thing you can be doing now / that you should aim for this year? Sometimes simple ‘killer questions’ like this cut through the flannel and draw instinctively on the pool of your previous year’s experiences. You can then follow this up with research & step by step plans.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the flannel. If you see what I mean?! 🙂 If you’re struggling to get back into working life after Christmas, I think that sometimes, a stack of goals, expectations and resolutions just add to the stuff you have to deal with. Ideally, goals should bring you clarity and direction, but sometimes they end up as yet more items on your to do list. It’s a great idea to make things really simple by using your intuition or a killer question.

  4. This is good advice Helen. I too end up failing in what I’ve expected of myself when I make resolutions.
    I was also inspired by the Zen Habits blog suggesting that the best goal is no goal and wrote about it here.
    But I also thought it was a scary idea and was not brave enough to do it! So I changed my resolutions into wishes and affirmations, and resolved to be less strict with myself.

    1. I think being too strict with ourselves is a major reason why we break resolutions and goals. It’s an interesting idea to change them into wishes and affirmations, that changes the emphasis completely. I hadn’t thought of that before!

  5. I hope that whilst not being totally SMART my goals are achievable… mostly this year is about moving out of my comfort zone and challenging myself a bit!

  6. Great post Helen. I really like the last section about being flexible. I think we, all too often, put ourselves under excruciating pressure trying to reach unrealistic goals. I’ve rebelled this year and not set myself any resolutions. December was such a busy month I need a break!!!

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