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Beyond Resolutions – How to Be Effective With Goal Setting 

By Katie Grumbir, Registered Dietitian and Wellness Advisor at WellWay

A quick Google search will tell you that nearly half of New Year’s resolution goals that people set are related to health or weight loss.  This should come as no surprise, given that nearly 1 in 3 adults is overweight. Your search may also reveal that only about 9% of New Year’s resolutions end in success. Let’s dive into why New Year’s Resolutions are often abandoned and how you can effectively set goals that will impact your health well beyond the New Year.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Often Fizzle Out
1. The focus is placed on actions before outcomes

Why this is a problem: If we don’t think of the outcomes we want to achieve before we start to take action, it’s hard to identify the “why” behind our goals.

2. There is no emotion tied to them

Why this is a problem: Goals without emotion lack roots. We may have an idea of what we should achieve, but if what we want to achieve lacks emotion and personal importance, we are much less likely to stick with it.

3. Expectations are set too high

Why this is a problem: When we start to take action on our goals, it’s common to want to see outcomes immediately. When we set our expectations too high, it can lead to disappointment and ultimately failure to achieve our goals.

4. Too many things are changed at once

Why this is a problem: Research shows that people are more likely to achieve their goals when they set 1-3 realistic goals versus 3+ goals. So often, people are ready to “go all in” in January, because we are coming off a busy holiday season and we’re feeling crummy from overindulging or being overstressed. We set the bar too high and goals are less realistic. There’s nothing wrong about wanting to reset in the New Year, as long as it’s done the right way.

5. Action goals are not SMART

Why this is a problem: When the action goals you make to help you achieve your outcome goals are not Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time bound, it’s harder to stay accountable to them.

Next, let’s dive into how you can effectively set goals to help you be successful in the New Year.

There are five key aspects of goal setting that will ensure you start out the New Year the right way. Use this worksheet to help you outline your goals.

Step One: Define your outcome goals

Step Two: Define your why and/or your values

Step Three: Outline your action plan with 1-3 action steps

Step Four: Establish how you will stay accountable

Step Five: Reflection, Measurement and Replanning

Step One: Define your outcome goals.

As a health and wellness coach, one of the biggest errors I hear clients, family, or friends make when defining their goals is that they define their goals in terms of what they are going to DO rather than what they want to accomplish. I get why that may be confusing! It would seemingly make sense to say “I want to eat healthier” or “I  want to manage my stress better” or even “I want to take my multivitamin every day”. It’s not to say those are bad goals, but you first have to define what outcome you’re trying to accomplish to make sure that your action plan (Step Three) includes goals that will help you achieve the outcomes you desire.

For example, outcome goals may look something like this:

  • Lose more body fat
  • Increase energy throughout the day

Write down your short term and long term outcome goals on the worksheet.

Step Two: Define your why and your values.

As mentioned above, a goal without roots will be easily tossed to the wayside. After you’ve identified what outcomes you want to achieve in the upcoming year, think long and hard about why you want to achieve these outcomes. If your why has emotion attached to it, you’re going to be more likely to stick with your goals.

  • Who else is impacted by your goals?  
  • How will your life change if you accomplish what you want to achieve?


Let’s continue with our example: the outcome goals are to lose body fat and have more energy throughout the day. The why in this example could be that having better energy means that they are a better parent, which is a core value, and by losing body fat, they will have more confidence, which will also help them to be a better parent, feel better in social situations, and have the energy to spend quality time with their significant other.

Once you have identified what’s important, think back to your outcome goals. Are they still relevant? It’s okay if they change!

Step Three:  Outline your action plan with 1-3 action steps.

This is where SMART goal setting comes in. What actionable goals do you need to start working on to achieve your outcome goals? As a reminder, your goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time bound.

Write down 1-3 action goals on the worksheet.  

Here are some action goal examples that would align with our outcome goals of reducing body fat percentage and increasing energy:

• Get 10,000 steps 5 days per week

• Strength train 3 times per week

• Go to bed by 10:00 p.m. 5 nights per week

Step Four:  Establish how you will stay accountable

Once you have established clear outcomes and goals, develop a plan to help you stick with them. New goals are hard to remember because they are not a habit yet.

Try these tips to help remember and stay accountable to your goals:

  • Put your goals in a place they will be visible.
  • Schedule your goals in your calendar when appropriate.
  • Set reminders on your phone.
  • Identify your support system – who will you share your goals with?
  • Which WellWay services can support you with your goals?

Step Five: Reflection, Measurement and Replanning

After you go through the first four steps, you will have an idea of what you need to do because you have planned the action steps that will help you achieve your desired outcomes. In order to monitor the effectiveness of your behavior changes, you will need to measure along the way. You may need to adjust your goals and replan based on your results. The frequency that you reflect on your goals may vary based on your goal. Take time at the end of each week or each month to measure the effectiveness of your goals.

Measuring our example goal of reducing body fat may be through monthly reassessments at WellWay to monitor changes in body composition, or by the way clothes are fitting. For measuring energy, you may journal daily or weekly by simply reflecting back on your energy levels throughout the day or week and asking yourself “is my energy improving?”

Through reflection, also ask yourself the following questions:

Was I successful with my goal?  If not, consider these questions:

  • Is the goal helping you achieve your outcome goal?
  • Was your goal too challenging?
  • Was your goal important to you?
  • Has something changed in your life that makes the goal no longer attainable?

Once you have identified why you were unable to achieve your goal, re-plan. What new goal can you set that will be more attainable?

If you were successful, replan with new goals to help you continue to make progress towards your outcome goal. Take these things into consideration when setting new goals:

  • Only set new goals once your previous goals are achieved and are now a habit.
  • Make current goals more challenging by increasing the frequency, volume or duration.
  • Reflect on your new goals – do they align with your outcome goals?

In summary, when New Year’s Resolutions are done the right way, you increase your likelihood of making impactful, long lasting lifestyle changes.

  1. Start with identifying your Outcome Goals. How does your life look different this time next year if you have achieved your outcome goals?
  2. Next, identify why those goals are important to you.
  3. Outline your plan by setting 1-3 SMART goals that will guide you towards achieving the outcomes you desire.
  4. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your goals with loved ones and making them visible. Set reminders and put them on your calendar until they become a habit.
  5. Make sure you measure your goals and reflect on them often. If they are not leading towards outcomes, replan and set new goals.