New Year Resolutions are Just Bad Goals

“2016 is my year to get fit”

Probably one of the most common phrases you’ve heard since “may you pass some more turkey” and “no one enjoys New Year’s Eve anyway” at the end of 2015. If you’re struggling with your New Year’s Resolutions (NYRs), or worse, are worried as to why they have already failed, let me make it clear that the fault isn’t necessarily your attitude, it could be the goal itself. Which in turns means that if you set better goals now, you’ll have a better chance of making them a reality.

Given the Guardian’s recent claims that 43% of Brits fail their NYRs within January, I think it’s a topic worth investigating.

What is a Bad Goal?

Badly defined, unrealistic, and in many cases, demoralising, bad goals make hitting your targets in 2016 near impossible. “Getting fit in 2016” is so vague it could mean anything. For someone who never goes to the gym, it could mean walking more often, two gym sessions a week, or cutting down on fatty foods. By contrast, for a triathlete it could mean getting “race fit” – a different proposition entirely. Equally, if you set yourself the goal of going to the gym four times a week but have never gone regularly in your life, that’s a lot to ask.

Set Better Goals

Forget for a minute that it is January. Good goals arise from clarity, purpose and drive. Set some time aside to genuinely have a good look at yourself, where you are in life, and what you want to achieve. Are you happy with health, but unsatisfied at work, or vice versa? Are you fed up with endlessly swiping right on dating apps or tedious first dates that just don’t seem to work out? Get to the route of your biggest challenges in life, and decide which ones you want to tackle.

Personally, I like to have no more than three key areas of my life to work on, often fewer. For instance, my two current focus areas are #1: Establish my startup, Pace Ventures, as a successful innovation consultany, and #2: Build my personal brand in the startup space. Each one of these categories can then be broken down into tangible goals; get a certain number of clients by August 2016, speak at a certain number of events, write one or two blogs a week, etc.


It’s an age old acronym, but that’s because it’s a good one. Personally, I like the image below, and when you unpack your goals, they become more meaningful and, thus, more motivational.


Evaluate & Reward. No one seems to talk about this, but it’s essential. Every little goal you hit, make sure you take a moment to take note. Remind yourself it feels good, then plough onwards. When you smash the big goals, go celebrate properly. Dinner, film, a new gadget, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you convince yourself that hitting goals feels great, and that you’re great at hitting them. This builds habit!

Using an example, my specific goal of writing one or two blogs a week will help me achieve my aim of enhancing my brand and securing new client for Pace Ventures. I know it is important to me, because my business is a huge part of my life, both in terms of creating real change in the world, and giving me the financial situation necessary for me to live to the fullest. The action is writing at least one or two blogs a week, requiring at least one writing session a week. It’s realistic because I know I can write decent(ish!) blogs, but ambitious in that I have never sustained it for very long. In this case, I want it to last all year, but it can also be reviewed monthly, and even weekly. My rewards will be incremental, weekly at first, then monthly, then at the end of the year! The evidence will be clear for you all to judge me by…

Make them Visible

Tell your friends. Post them on social media (as I have now just done). Put notes in your bathroom cupboard, on your toilet door and the ceiling above your bed. Constantly reminding yourself will both inspire you and hold you accountable.

Just whatever you do, don’t set New Year’s Resolutions then wonder why nothing changed when you’re asking for more turkey next Christmas.

Mark Corbett
Co-founder of Pace Ventures & The Vault London. Big on innovation, startups, yoga & trying new things. KCL & Enactus Alumnus. Gooner.