By this time of year, 90% of people who set new year’s resolutions on Jan 1st have completely forgotten about them. Why?

Last year we had everyone in the office come up with their 2-year, 1-year, and quarterly goals. But when we did the year end review, it turns out very few of the goals had been met. Why?

Typically, we heard things like:

  • “Life got in the way”
  • “My project got super-stressful”
  • “My goals changed”
  • “I just didn’t have time”
  • “I just lost motivation”

Here’s the thing: maybe you set the wrong goals!

The secret to achieving Big Hairy Audacious Goals is that you have to really care about them. If you can’t say this, you’re not going to make it:

This is way out of my comfort zone…

But I care so deeply about it that I am going to find a way

To quote Jim Collins and Jerry Porras from Built To Last:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.

Setting the right goals is the first step to meeting them. There are 2 quick tricks I know to set good goals for myself.

1. Get rid of goals you don’t care about

In other words, focus! By saying No, you free up time and energy that can be better used elsewhere. It’s super empowering.

If you’re not achieving your goals, take a moment to think about whether you really cared about them in the first place. Get rid of things you signed up for just to boost your ego, or under peer pressure, or to pad your credentials.

2. Tap into a greater mission

Let’s say you’ve got good goals, but they don’t intrinsically drive you. For instance, “I want to lose 10 pounds” may not motivate you enough to wake up 30 minutes earlier and work out everyday.

How about rethinking the goal as “I want to be healthy so that I live a long active life with my spouse and kids”. All of a sudden you’ve got motivation! At the very least it’ll get you to start changing your habits in the right direction.

The key is to tie your goal to a bigger mission that you do care about. A good reference on this is Avdi Grimm’s “The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer”

In summary: here’s when I know my goal has a high probability of success: I’ll see this done, even if I have to do this all alone and no one pays me to do it.