The Anatomy of Failure. Before You Set Your New Year’s Resolutions

If you fall victim to these 3 goal-setting traps, it’s likely all your New Year’s planning will be for nothing.

John Morris
Jan 2, 2014 · 4 min read

I’m an expert at failure. In fact, I fail at most things I do. For example…

My #1 goal growing up was to win a state championship in football. My senior year we were close, but we lost 30-20 in the semi-finals to the eventual state champion.

My #1 dream growing up was to play football at Nebraska. My sophomore year of college I walked on to the team and made the first cut… but didn’t make the second and I never played there.

I have a failed marriage, a failed career, and a failed business you can add to that list, as well.

So, while you’re probably reading (or have read) others telling you how to be successful with your resolutions this new year… I’m going to tell you how you’ll fail (so you can avoid doing it).

Here’s a quick list of things most people do when setting the New Year’s resolutions (or any goal) and why they’re doomed to fail:

Set results-oriented goals.

The problem with results-oriented goals is most people simply set the goal and never really develop a solid plan for achieving that goal.

How are you going to lose 10 pounds? How will you make that extra 10K? And, even when you do create plans… often times, the plan is so unrealistic deep down you know it’ll never work (or you’ll never get yourself to actually do it).

In this way, your goal-setting becomes more of an exercise in day-dreaming and wishful thinking.

Instead, set habit-oriented goals. Yes! Think about the results you want… but think even harder about the habits you’ll need to develop to achieve those results… and base your goals around those habits.

So, if you want to lose 1o pounds… you might decide:

  1. You’re going to stop eating junk food
  2. You’re going to eat only whole foods
  3. You’re going to exercise for 30 minutes a day

If you successfully implement those habits, you’re probably going to lose that 10 pounds… if not more. And, even if you don’t you’ll still be a lot healthier (which is ultimately the point).

But, by focusing on habits instead of results you force yourself to think about the work you’ll need to do to achieve your goals… as opposed to, simply day-dreaming about “what if”…

Plan for perfection.

How many times have you sat staring at a list of your goals knowing there was no way you’d ever actually be able to stick to it all?

Most of us do this all the time… and wonder why those goals never get met.

Instead, integrate failure into your plan. Recognize and accept that you’re not going to be perfect… and figure how you can achieve your goals anyway.

Continuing our weight loss example…

Instead of trying to fool yourself into believing that you’ll never eat any junk food ever again… or that you’ll never miss a single day of exercise for the rest of your life… recognize that you probably will.

Create a “success” threshold for your habits.

So you might say that success when it comes to “not eating junk food” is not doing so 6 out of 7 days per week.

Or, success when it comes to “exercise 30 minutes per day” is doing so 5 out of 7 days a week.

Again, even if you only met the minimum thresholds here… it’d still be a hell of a lot LESS junk food and more exercise than you’re probably doing right now. (If not, you’ll want to re-evaluate your habit goals.)

And, chances are, you’ll get the results you’re after.

But, by integrating failure into your plan you create the flexibility needed to ensure one small slip-up won’t derail your entire focus and squander all your progress thus far.

Share your goals with others.

It’s almost as if everyone knows that person will never achieve those goals but by “having” a goal and sharing it they get credit for at least “trying”.

You don’t.

Not in reality. Because that 10 pounds will still be there! You still won’t have that 10K. In reality, just having a goal means nothing.

What matters is actually making some sort of change.

Instead… if you’re really serious about your goals… keep them mostly to yourself. Quietly pursue them. Share them only with people you know will support you and hold you accountable.

Then, when you’ve actually made the changes and achieved the results… share THAT with everyone you know.

You’ll get the same kind of social satisfaction but it’ll be for actually doing something… not for just wanting to.

And, you’ll make sure that you don’t settle for simply “having” a goal… but instead only get credit when you actually achieve your goals.

At the end of the day, real goal-setting is about developing habits that naturally lead you to the results you’re after…

Remember that as you sit down to work out your New Year’s resolutions this year. That way, you can make 2014 a year of actual achievement… not one of simply “wanting” to…

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    John Morris

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    I’m a web designer who helps other web designers with two things: 1) how to code and 2) how to market yourself so you can earn your living as a coder.