January 3, 2019

New Year, New Perspectives on Resolutions and Goals

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. Data suggests that typically only 20 percent of us are actually successful with them...and remarkably that 80% falloff rate occurs by the second week of February. So with a fresh year in front of us all, how do you start anew with something you feel like you can truly achieve?


Technically speaking, a resolution is just a decision to do or not to do something. Kind of vague, right?  A goal, on the other hand, is the object of a one’s ambition or effort. Rather than a decision, it’s focused on a result. Perhaps these are just semantics, but it’s an important distinction.


Goals play an important function at work; they keep an individual and/or team aligned and working together to achieve a common goal. They tend to be more quantitative in nature, whereby you can measure your progress and break them down into manageable steps.  Aside from just accomplishment of whatever it is that you set out to do, the mere act of actually setting a concrete goal has been found to boost performance by motivating people and focusing their prioritization and effort.  


Resolutions tend toward the personal side, like “I’m going to get healthy this year” or “I’m going to save more money.” Often, they can be a little more intangible and less structured than an actual goal. It might sound odd to consider the role the more qualitative resolution can play at work, but it has its place in addition to goal setting.  

A few examples:

Goal: Hire 50 people by the end of the quarter.

Resolution: Ensure the quality of each of our hires balances skill, attitude, aptitude and culture fit.

Goal: Promote 40% of our employees from within the company.

Resolution: Focus on making sure every employee understands what it takes to be considered for continued career growth and development.

Great, so how do you make them both stick?


I write every week, with an entry of approximately one thousand words per post.  The average book is around 50,000 words. Given that, I wrote the equivalent of one book last year.  I don’t really think about it that way though. I view writing a book as an enormous undertaking is both overwhelming and a little daunting. However, rather than focus on the daunting goal of “I will write a book in 2019,” which is incredibly results oriented and something I’m not even sure I want to try and tackle, I think about the behaviors that would support that action. In my world, I carve out time to write at the beginning of every week, and I post every Thursday. It’s simple, it’s measurable, and it has become a habit. Should I chose to dial that up and write every day, I know the behavioral formula I need to follow to accomplish more.

If your team’s goal is to hire 50 people by end of the quarter, you can structure weekly and monthly milestones to track against. You can parse out the work to team members to ensure everyone has an achievable workload to do their part in reaching the milestone. Ultimately, you break that huge goal into measurable, bite-size pieces and accomplish those bits until you achieve the overall goal. However, if your resolution is to focus on quality hiring through a combination of great skills, a great attitude, strong aptitude to learn and grow and ensuring that each person isn’t just a fit, but adds to your culture, you need to build behavior and habits that will support this focus. The more these behaviors become part of your daily hiring routine, the more likely it will just become part of your ethos. Essentially, goals focus on short-term results. Building the behavioral habits to aid in achieving a new process (your resolutions) focuses on long-term change. And while the goals might be amazing achievements, the process changes are the ones that will have payoffs to you and your team for the long haul.

Setting big goals can be intimidating and overwhelming, and yet they are an important factor for achievement at work.  Balancing them with resolutions, however, can lessen the stress. Creating new approaches to edit your behavior can greatly complement what you are trying to achieve. It’s just about living in the moment and making incremental progress. By creating behaviors that lead to habits that support your goals, you are far more likely to achieve them.  And you might just find yourself more motivated in the process.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator