New Year’s Resolutions? Try Systems for Success

On the first day of the year, I wore a onesie all day.  Well, I took it off for a Hangout with a new client.  (Sorry, Paul!)  It kept me warm, but perhaps I was also insulating myself from the winter that’s coming as everyone sets their aspirational minds looking forward for 2015.

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You see, I’m not the biggest fan of setting New Year’s Resolutions, and there are two simple reasons.  The first is that we’re letting our calendar control us.  If you want to do something, you don’t need to wait for the end of one year.  You can start that shit whenever the hell you want.  The second is what happens to a lot of us when we’re writing out our resolutions.

We write them down, or we throw them out there, but we don’t actually see them through until we reach them.  If you reflect, I’m sure you can think of times when you’ve done this.  I know I have.


Alas, many of us are creating our lists of goals for the new year, myself included.  Writing down goals can be great to set intentions for our future success, and I’m all for dreaming big.  I want everyone to find their best version of happiness.  I also want us to do it without the stress of failure, and often that means looking at goal setting in a different way.

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Today I’d like to share with you why I’m a proponent of creating systems, rather than focusing on goals.  I’d also be remiss to forgo a semantics disclaimer first.  If you’d like, you can simply look at the creation of systems as if it’s setting smaller goals.  We accomplish these on a daily or weekly basis, rather than every 6 months or at the end of the year.

If calling everything “Goals” and then scaling them appropriately works for you, then you’re set.  However, if you haven’t figured out the appropriate way to scale, or if the word “Goals” is a trigger for you to reread “The Antidote,” we’re going to talk about systems.

Now, I’d venture that for most of us, thinking about “Goals” can be a barrier to success.  We become so future-focused that we fail to live in the now.  When we do set goals, we can live in the now or the far future, but we miss the steps in between.

The steps in between is where the magic happens.

Dreaming of Z is great, and being aware of A is wonderful, but we need to plan steps B to Y.  That means that when we set our “Big Picture” goal, we need to break it down into smaller, more easily accessible ones.  Let’s get to one of my favorite examples possible:

Setting a deadlift PR.

Perhaps you’re interested in adding 50lbs to your deadlift during a ten week program.  As an intermediate lifter this is totally reasonable, and we should agree that “reasonable” doesn’t mean you’re going to walk into the bar one day, slap on an extra 50lbs, and pick it up.

Instead, you’d want a more sensible approach.  Let’s assume you’re going to follow an incremental progression over time.  50lbs in 10 weeks is 5lbs per week.  Planning to make a 5lb increase in weight per week helps you focus on two ‘B’s.  You’re making it bite sized, and you’re creating a budget.

Smaller, bite-sized increments allow you to make consistent progress.  An additional 5lbs per week is more mentally manageable than 50lbs in a single wee.  Additionally, by breaking down your bigger “goal” into smaller ones, you’re creating a progress budget.  You’re aware of the difference made more frequently than if you waited until week 9 out of ten.

Some would love to call this setting smaller goals, and if that works for them, it’s totally cool.  If you ask me, I prefer to call it building a system.  This may because the incremental system feels more intuitive, or that I’ve learned to analyze everything.

However you want to look at this, I want you to create smaller goals and a system to manage them.  If you do it right, your success will be pain free:



What is a semantics conversation one is a complete mindset switch for another, so please consider how you can be prepare your own success.  Then work backwards from your larger goal to create smaller ones, or create a system that let’s you attain the desired results on a regular basis.  Either way, you’re setting yourself up for long-term success!

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