Setting Goals for The New Year (New Year Resolutions)

As we draw the curtain finally on 2013, I am certain there are varying feelings concerning the last few hours of the year; analysis and reflections of how well we did, if we did, and how badly we did, if we feel that is how it turned out for us. There are major milestones that marked the year, by which the year would be defined to us; did we get married, move into a new house, get a major breakthrough in business or promotion at work?  Did we buy a car, travel abroad or win an election. The markers may not have been so positive, but yet as memorable; did we get a divorce, loose a job, house or a relationship? Did we go through a major health challenge?   Irrespective of what the year markers are, whichever way 2013 played out for you, it is now being arranged on neat assortment of shelves in your mind, where some would be visited often, while some would be left to gather dust. They are all being moved into the room with the florescent sign on it that says “History”.
As the season’s celebrations begin to wane and the chicken and salad we have stuffed ourselves with, until we are immobile, begins to lighten like a drunk suffering from a hangover, we realise we have a more imminent challenge looming, and its tagged 2014. What happens with most of us is we get into a panic mode, highlighted by all the failures and shortcomings of 2013. We begin to draw up a list made up of all the dreams we presently have, combined with all the dreams we failed to achieve in 2013 and dressed with all the fantasies we ever had, and we put a fancy caption on it called “new year’s resolution”.  After we draw up the list, we really do get fired up, and most of the time, we stay that way to some point in January, by which time our panic must have eased and we casually go back to our normal routine. We do this every year, and every new year, we swear “this year it would be different”.

Let me suggest something, if you would let me,  because I have realised that there are three categories of people when it comes to new year’s resolution, or as we call it these days, “my year goals, my plan for the year, map of the year …”

1. Those that don’t set goals: these are about 15% of our population, they blow throw the holidays, and blow through the New Year. They see it as a festive period and nothing else. They make no plans, expect no changes and have no regrets.

2. Those that set goals but don’t get to execute up to 10-15% of the goals: a hefty 75% of us find ourselves in this category, we make great and lofty goals but lack the resolve or necessary requirement to see it through.

3. Those that set goals and get to execute them: a mere 10% can boast of this, they set goals and get to accomplish those goals on the course of the year.

If I may be so bold, I will attempt to give point out why I think our goals don’t work, irrespective of how serious we look when we make them

1. We make them in emotional panic: like every emotional issue, the power of resolve is temporal. We panic at the thought of a new year and rush into a flurry of plans to make sure the New Year is better than the last, this lasts until the year is no longer new, and we lose our sense of urgency.

2. We cram in so much: our goal list for the year looks more like “all I think is wrong with my life” or more like “all I wish I could do this year” sometimes the shear length of the list wears us out. (Feed the cat every morning, say good morning to john, go to the office early…)

3. We are not practical: because we make these goals in a flurry of emotions we forget that the same mitigating factors are still around this year. If you were too lazy to go to gym last year, chances are you would be too lazy this year. Because we write down stuff does not make what prevented us from achieving them before from showing up again.

4. We don’t write them down: as surprising as this may sound, it is true. Most of us don’t even bother to literally put pen to paper, we make a mental list and unconsciously keep adding to it as we feel more stuff. Any goal not written is not really a goal.

As we step into this year, make up your mind, no, resolve to have it different. Here are a few suggestions on how to achieve your new year goals;

1. Don’t panic: it’s a new year I know, last year didn’t go so well, I know, but if this year would work, you have to take a deep breath and relax. Don’t let the excitement of the New Year be your motivation for making life changing goals, let the desire to improve and be better do that.

2. KISS (Keep It Short and Simple): that was my friend’s motto. Your worst enemy is to cram your goal list. Start with a very short list as the year goes and you achieve, you can add to it. Gary Blair even advices on what he calls “the rule of one” he advices to have just one goal, achieve it then have another. Well, I personally think a list more than ten is a danger list. Five major and five minor goals are just enough.

3. Make your goals SMART: the good ol’ SMART criteria still works any day.

S – Specific: make sure your goal is not ambiguous; be clear on what you want.

M – Measurable: make sure you have a clear cut means of measuring success, just that you feel it is not good enough. You must have parameters to measure; if you want to lose 10kg then climb the scale every morning to watch every step of it, plan your gym visits and diet as the case may be.

A – Attainable: attempt goals you believe you can achieve. To achieve a goal, you must have the mental and physical abilities to achieve them.

R – Realistic: be real, reading 50 books by Valentine’s Day is steep especially for an office worker that works 7am-8pm from Mon – Sat.  Be realistic; don’t set goals that would end up discouraging you than encouraging you.

T – Timely: if you don’t put a time frame on your goal, you would not have the necessary push to achieve them. Give a time as a matter of principle, even if you don’t achieve it at the time, you can say at least I have come this far.

4. Review your list every quarter:  Set a reminder on your gadget, review your list every quarter, eliminate the ones you have achieved, add the new ones you could not add at the beginning of the year, and note how far you have gone on the rest, also jumpstart on the ones you have abandoned. It is of utmost importance to put your list somewhere prominent, not public, but where you can see it every day.  

5. Breakdown your list: Breakdown your SMART list into subgroups and action plans (actions you need to take to achieve your goal, like eat half of  the potion I use to, go to gym three times a week, by 7-8am…), write out your key Performance Indicators (KPIs);  things you should start seeing or experiencing as you progress ; I can now climb the stairs without feeling faint, I can now read 20 pages of a book in a day, I have written a business plan, etc.

6. Study and gather information: just don’t jump into achieving a goal, even if it’s one you had tried before, research on it, what do experts say on the subject, what experiences did others have when they tried to achieve it.   

There are so much more we can deal with, but let’s practice KISS (Keep It Short and Simple). I’ll do a write-up or two every month to help us with achieving and keeping our goals in 2014, but I’ll devote a good part of our discussions in January to helping us plan for and have a great year. I know 2014 will be exceptionally wonderful for you; I just hope you know it too.

"Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/"

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.


  1. Yes I do. Thank you sir.

  2. This is aweosome ......I do keep from dropping comments but I can't help but let u know how straight and to the point this was .kudos !