David Strittmatter

New Year’s resolutions – how you can achieve all of them

Don’t make resolutions without an action plan. The secret to success is right in your hands. – J. Allen Shaw


  • Most resolutions aren’t concrete enough and not backed up with next actions
  • To stop a habit we have to change it
  • Process goals are all about the process, what we will actually have to do, step-by-step to achieve a goal

Practical advice:

  • Contemplate resolutions by first brainstorming areas of life that are most important to you
  • Write down your resolutions and make them as concrete as possible
  • Backup your resolutions with next actions and process goals

Dear friend,

What do you think about New Year’s resolutions?

On average, more than 50% of all resolutions fail. About 1/3 of resolutions don’t even make it past January. So, why do we even bother?

Goals such as New Year’s resolutions are neither necessary nor sufficient for an awesome life. Yet, they’re a highly effective tool if used properly.

I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions for 4 years now. Setting goals is the way I navigate through life, make my dreams come true, and live a happy and fulfilled life.

In today’s blog article, I want to give you some inspiration, show you how I came up with my New Year’s goals, write about crucial mistakes in goal setting, and illustrate a technique that will make you achieve your goals.

How I set my New Year’s resolutions

The way I craft my New Year’s goals changes from year to year. Some things I stop doing as they don’t work so well, some things I picked up somewhere and want to implement.

This year, before I made any resolution, I had first contemplated the categories for which I want to make the New Year’s resolutions. It facilitates the process to come up with goals that are important to me. I brainstormed different areas of my life that mean the most to me, such as family, career, sports, or knowledge.

Second, I grouped them together (see picture below) to create 3-5 main categories. In my case, there are (A) Financial and societal impact, (B) Inner social circle, (C) Physiological fitness, (D) Mental fitness.

Third, I thought about my passion, my aspirations, and possible goals in these 4 categories:

Finally, I wrote down the very next action for each of these resolutions. For instance, for the EDM festival, I’ll look up different dates and elaborate a long list of festivals. To ensure my 7.5 hours of effective sleep, I’ll reflect on my sleep quality and analyze the data gathered via my Oura ring to identify factors worsening or improving my sleep.

The most crucial mistake in goal setting

Most resolutions fail due to 3 reasons:

  1. They aren’t concrete enough
  2. They aren’t backed up with the next actions
  3. The resolution is to stop a habit even though habits cannot be stopped but only be changed

First, our goals and thus New Year’s resolutions have to be as concrete as possible: How does it look like if we made it? A few examples:

  • “Exercise more” vs. “Do sports for 60 minutes 4x a week”
  • “Lose weight” vs. “Lose 10kg until June and maintain the weight until next year”
  • “Stop smoking” vs. “Gradually stop smoking so that from March I don’t smoke tobacco anymore”

Second, we need to back up every goal with its next action. A few examples:

  • Do sports for 60 minutes 4x a week: Go for a run on January 1st, list possible obstacles preventing me from doing sports and find ways to circumvent them, read articles on how to make running a habit
  • Lose 10kg until June and maintain the weight until next year: Identity common mistakes in dieting, ask friends for advice who were successful in losing weight to identify challenges that aren’t oblivious to you, get support from family and friends before starting, set a date to get started with the new diet

Third, if you want to stop a habit, such as smoking or eating sweets, you have to change it otherwise you’ll most likely fail.

Habits consist of 3 parts: A cue (trigger), the behavior itself, and a reward. If you want to stop smoking (the behavior itself), you cannot simply “not smoke” anymore because all the cues are still there. For instance, if your “smoking cues” are social events (e.g. drinking alcohol with friends) or stressful situations (e.g. taking a break at work), you will always want to have a cigarette once you encounter these situations. Your smoking habit is already formed and your body will desperately want a cigarette in these situations to receive the “reward” associated with the habit. So, you have to change your habit and replace the behavior of “smoking” with something else. For instance, you could still take a break if you encounter a stressful situation and drink a cup of coffee instead of smoking a cigarette.

Harness process goals

A technique that greatly helps me to achieve my goals is to derive process goals from my outcome goals.

Outcome goals are the goals we usually set for ourselves: Get an A in maths, lose 10kg weight, bench 130kg, achieve 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, etc.

Process goals are all about the process – the how: What you will actually have to do, step-by-step to achieve a goal?

Setting a process goal means you have to identify what you actually have to do and how you do it. Your focus is on the actions, not the outcome, but as a side effect, you will also achieve the desired outcome.

The key advantage of process goals is that they are – by definition – controllable, outcome-independent tasks. We have full control over whether we will achieve them or not.

Continuing with the example ambition of weight loss, you might set a process goal of walking 15.000 steps every day. That’s easily measurable and doable, and you are totally in charge of whether or not you reach this process goal.

Contrarily, losing 10kg also depends on various factors over which you don’t have full control, such as metabolism, working hours, social events, quality of food, etc.

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