Stick to Your Personal New Year Resolutions With These Goal-Setting Frameworks

Stick to Your Personal New Year Resolutions With These Goal-Setting Frameworks
27 December, 2023 • ... • 1833 views
Daria Zhuravleva
by Daria Zhuravleva

Have you ever set an ambitious goal during New Year’s Eve only to forget about it in February? For example, you publicly posted a promise to take up sports by the end of the next year — only to keep staying home with Netflix and junk food three months in. Is there a way to get out of the vicious cycle?

Team Selzy suggests that planning frameworks created for businesses can do the job. Let’s find out if SMART and other frameworks can work for personal goals, what’s wrong with New Year resolutions, and how to actually get stuff done.

Man saying “It’s a new year, I want to be different”
Source: Giphy

Why New Year resolutions fail

Despite thousands of memes around failed New Year resolutions, setting yearly goals remains a social media ritual with an interesting cultural significance. This analysis of Twitter posts explored a variety of attitudes towards New Year resolutions, from genuine to sarcastic, from promising to be a better person to accepting oneself more.

Wikihow knife guy meme: the guy with the knife is “the social pressure to make resolutions for 2024”, the defending guy is “me, still trying to keep resolutions i made in 2018”

So, the concept is very loaded with different meanings. However, according to a recent study, only 6.5% of US adults were committed to their January goals by June this year. Why so?

Daria Zhuravleva
Daria Zhuravleva

Selzy blog author

I think people fail New Year resolutions for two reasons. Firstly, they often treat this practice like manifesting, making a wishlist for the universe. For example, “I want a husband” is a wish but not a goal — getting into a relationship doesn’t 100% depend on your efforts. I see no problem with manifesting though, unless people mistake it for actual planning.

Another reason is that people ignore the context of their lives while making New Year resolutions. Starting something new almost always means giving up something old. For example, if you want to take up a new online course, you’ll have fewer free evenings for yourself to relax during the week. There is a price to every goal and people don’t take it into account.

Elena Batova
Elena Batova

Knowledge Base Lead

For 2020, I put experimenting with different lipstick shades on my list, but you can probably guess that one didn’t particularly work out. 🙂 My point is that life can be very chaotic, and a lot can happen in a year.

Here’s another interesting aspect of failed New Year resolutions. A paper about goal disengagement proposes that failing a New Year resolution isn’t always bad. Adaptive disengagement, or giving something up because it’s unattainable, not a priority or a desire of yours anymore, is actually more productive than banging on a closed door just because you committed to the bit.

Resolution status at the end of 2018, descending order: actively pursuing, achieved and maintaining, paused, achieved and done, disengaged, not started
Or maybe your New Year resolution turned out to be a two/three/five-year resolution. Source: Moshontz, H. and Hoyle R. Goal Disengagement in Everyday Life: Longitudinal Observation of New Year’s Resolutions

Even more interesting, disengagement doesn’t necessarily mean quitting. According to the same paper, only 7% of US adults in two longitudinal New Year resolutions studies from 2016 and 2018 explicitly gave up their goals. Others basically put them in the backlog, meaning they were still committed but not pursuing the goal actively right now.

So, failing your resolutions is not always bad. However, if you want to keep them in 2024, consider these risk factors:

  • Wrong goals that can be too ambitious or just not what you want because of ✨social media stunts✨ — or not even a goal that has a clear path to success.
  • Long-term planning difficulties — you can’t really plan a pandemic, yet another global crisis, or even personal perturbations.
  • The lack of commitment and self-regulation, which is self-explanatory.
  • The instability of your own priorities — you this and the next New Year’s Eve may end up being two completely different people.

10 goal-setting frameworks that may help you stick to the plan

Goal-setting frameworks used for business won’t help you avoid global crises. However, they can help you assess how attainable your resolution is, map out the road to success, come up with a backup plan, or just look at your goals from a different point of view.

Business planning comes in many shapes and colors — let’s explore some of the goal-setting frameworks and how they can be applied to your personal goals.

A white woman saying “I’m just a fan of goal setting, okay?”
Source: Giphy

SMART goals

How does it work? This is Selzy’s personal favorite — for example, we mentioned it in the ultimate email marketing checklist. Here’s a quick reminder:

  • Specific — the goal and the expected result should be formulated in a crystal clear way.
  • Measurable — preferably, the goal should be quantitative.
  • Achievable — the goal should be realistic, so stuff like “be the best company on the market” is off the table.
  • Relevant — the goal should coincide with your team’s current priorities. For example, if the goal deals with increasing brand loyalty, spending money on customer acquisition is a distraction.
  • Time-bound — the goal should have a strict deadline.

Best for:

  • Basically everyone

Possible problems:

  • The framework lacks flexibility both for business and personal goals.
  • Not all personal goals can be translated into numbers.
  • SMART only describes the destination not the road to it.
A senior couple drinking wine on the couch, the woman says to her partner “Mr. Smartarse”
Source: Giphy
Andrew Dyuzhov
Andrew Dyuzhov

Head of Performance

I use SMART and OKR both for work and personal life — these are my best friends. For example, here’s how I applied SMART to my music production goals last year:

  • Specific: To compose and release two tracks.
  • Measurable: 2 tracks that, in my opinion, have a suitable style for the label.
  • Achievable: Considering the available time and equipment, writing and releasing two tracks is an attainable goal.
  • Relevant: The goal of composing and releasing music aligns with my aspiration to grow in the field of music production.
  • Time-bound: Achieve the goal by the end of 2022.

Objectives and Key Results

How does it work? Objectives and Key Results, or OKR is a business goal-setting framework popular in the IT field. It consists of:

  • Objectives — a qualitative characteristic of what exactly you need to improve. For example, a business objective can be “Create the best email marketing software”.
  • Key Results — quantitative smaller goals that will lead to your objective. If we use the objective above, these results can be something like “Hire a qualified product designer”, “Analyze all the competitors on the market”, “Come up with and develop three unique features for our ESP”, and so on.

There’s also an OKR+A modification of this framework that includes Actions. Actions are small tasks and their assignees. For example, a product team lead may be responsible for running a brainstorming session for new product features.

Best for:

  • Ambitious people who think big
  • Goals that imply teamwork

Possible problems:

  • An overly long list of key results may seem too overwhelming.
  • The original version of the framework doesn’t include detailed planning, so you can’t really use key results as a to-do list.
  • In the context of personal goals, it’s easy to attribute wrong key results to the objective.
Kim Kardashian saying “Okurrrr?”
More like “OKRRRRRR”. Source: Giphy

Kevin’s New Year “objective” is to be a smarter person. He made a list of key results, like:

  • Watch the key French New Wave films
  • Read at least 3 books per month including at least 1 book about philosophy 
  • Take up a creative writing course

He wanted a much longer list but he decided to start small — let’s wish him luck! We don’t know if all of that makes him smarter but at least he’ll have a lot more conversation starters than before.

Backward goals

How does it work? Basically, you come up with the end goal and plan the road to it backward, approaching your current state. For example, you want to get 1,000 new customers by the end of 2024. It implies that, by the middle of the year, you need to implement a new marketing channel and get two new partnerships, and so on until the present day. 

Best for:

  • Those who easily set goals but have trouble moving towards them
  • People who can’t figure out the first step
  • Career-related goals
  • People who need a “why” behind their deadlines

Possible problems:

  • The backward planning method only works for the goals with a more “algorithmic” way to achieve them.
  • The self-imposed deadlines may not always work due to external factors — be careful with brainstorming steps involving other people and their decisions.
Tom Green saying “I can walk backwards as fast as you can. I’m the backwards man.”
Source: Giphy

Nina wants to publish her first novel by the end of 2024. This means that, by October 2024, she needs the manuscript accepted by at least one publisher. It means that she needs the manuscript sent to at least 20 publishers by August 2024. It means that by July 2024, she needs to prepare the final version of the manuscript, so by May 2024, she needs to start self-editing the finished draft. Turns out, she only has 4 months to write the first version of the novel! Maybe Nina needs to assess the feasibility of her planning.

BSQ goals

How does it work? The BSQ framework unites three principles:

  • Think Big: define an ambitious goal. For example, implement email marketing in your business and make it profitable.
  • Act Small: come up with a series of small milestones that will move you closer to the goal. For example, choose a paid ESP, hire an email marketing specialist, set up Google Analytics, and so on.
  • Move Quickly: write down the tight deadlines for each milestone.

Best for:

  • People who need little dopamine hits along the way to the big goal
  • Goals involving a project that should be started and completed by a certain date

Possible problems:

  • It’s not the best choice for lifestyle-related goals like “Eat healthier” or the goals like “Find a partner” that are not so easy to plan.
  • The framework offers no guidelines for setting up the goal itself, which leaves room for setting up poorly feasible goals.
The Goldbergs character saying “Think big!”
Source: Giphy

Alice wants to move to a bigger city next year — this is her Big Thought. She made a list of Small Actions to achieve this goal like saving a certain amount of money, finding a temporary place to stay, getting rid of the clothes, books, and other things she wouldn’t need at her new home anymore, and so on. She also set strict deadlines for each milestone. The first one is finding a freelance gig so she can save the needed sum of money faster. She started looking for it today.

WOOP goals

How does it work? WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan:

  • Wish — what you want to do, for example, establish an editorial for a corporate SEO blog. However, this is not the goal in itself: you “wish” it because you want the desired Outcome.
  • Outcome — the results of the achieved goal, for example, increased website traffic and sales.
  • Obstacle — what can hinder your success, for example, low budgets and unreliable freelance authors.
  • Plan — a step-by-step instruction on what to do to overcome an obstacle. In the corporate blog case, it can be hiring more freelancers to ensure a more stable stream of articles.

Best for:

  • Anxious people who need a plan B for a plan B
  • Secondary goals — in our example, an established editorial is not really a goal in itself

Possible problems:

  • You can’t foresee all the possible obstacles.
  • Careful what you wish for — you can’t predict the “outcomes”.
Jasmine Masters says “And I oop”
TFW you set a WOOP goal but faced an obstacle. Source: Giphy

Angeline wants to take up dancing or sports classes next year. She decided to use the WOOP framework to stick to her resolution:

  • Wish: Start attending classes at least once or twice a week.
  • Outcome: Healthy weight loss, more friends, increased overall well-being.
  • Obstacle: Angeline has a full-time job and several side hustles so she might not have time or energy to leave the house.
  • Plan: Ditch the cheap side hustles and/or find one that brings enough money, save some of the hustle income to live off it next year, create a stricter work schedule to clean up the evenings, find classes on weekends…

The golden circle

How does it work? The golden circle framework for goals is a no-brainer. Basically, you need to answer three questions:

  • Why do I want this? For example, you want to increase your ROI to support your team with a salary increase.
  • How can I achieve this? For example, by increasing the efficiency of your marketing efforts.
  • What can I do to make my “How” come true? For example, you can start by gathering data from various channels and stop investing in the less effective ones.

Best for:

  • Purpose-driven people
  • People who need to distinguish between “socially acceptable” and their own goals and ambitions in life

Possible problems:

  • If you fail at answering the “How?” question correctly, you’re essentially doomed to move in the wrong direction.
  • May come off as too vague for some people because it sets the goal but doesn’t map out the road to it.
Agent Cooper saying “A golden circle”
So, why do you want to get to the Black Lodge? Source: Giphy

Chloe wants to improve her finances next year. However, she needed more specific wording for that and a purpose that would connect her resolution to her values and interests. So, Chloe used the golden circle framework.

  • Why? So she can buy a car and start traveling more.
  • How? Start putting a fixed amount of money in the savings account each month.
  • What? Find a part-time job and stop spending money on food delivery services each week.

Locke & Latham

How does it work? Long story short, the business goal-setting theory by Locke & Latham is basically SMART with a twist. Here are the main features of a goal approved by these two guys:

  • Clear-cut. It’s essentially the “Specific” in SMART, so no to stuff like “Make money” and yes to stuff like “Earn extra $10,000 by the end of Q4 2024”.
  • Challenging. Reasonably demanding goals keep employees motivated. If the goals are too easy, people get bored. If the goals are too hard to achieve, people rage quit.
  • Engaging. Every task should have a purpose that should be explained to employees. For example, if you’re a copywriter writing SEO articles for the blog, you should stick to the specific requirements for document formatting in Google Docs so that further markup will be easier.
  • Feedback. To achieve the goal, each employee should be provided with regular feedback, especially positive to keep the morale points up.
  • Small steps. A goal should be broken down into small, digestible steps — and employees should understand how each small task contributes to the goal.

Best for: 

  • Resolutions related to pet projects and anything requiring teamwork
  • People with a strong social motivation

Possible problems:

  • It’s very team-focused, so it might not be the best choice for personal goals.
  • It relies on an external figure as your “boss” — you can’t really give feedback to yourself.
A woman in sports clothes saying “One small step for climbing, one big step for women”
And that’s how you achieve the goal — with small steps. Source: Giphy

Annie has a band that’s been rehearsing in her dad’s garage for the past six months. She really wants to bring her project to the stage and release an album in 2024. Her bandmate said it was not feasible, so the collective decided to stick to the following goal: release a 4-track EP by the summer of 2024 and give at least three live shows before next December. Together, the band wrote down a detailed plan for refining and recording the materials and came up with ways to give feedback and encourage each other.

One-word goals

How does it work? This one is very broad and simple — you choose a word, make a mind map of associations around it, and think of what you can do to succeed. For example, you’re a manager and your word in question is “productivity”. You may start thinking about what hinders both personal and team productivity and find out that the root of evil is too many Zoom meetings. Then, you think of how you can optimize the processes so you have fewer and shorter but more meaningful calls. 

Best for: 

  • More general New Year resolutions like “Improve my life”
  • People who crave flexibility in planning because of global crises
  • People who don’t know what they want

Possible problems:

  • No real success criteria
  • May come off as too vague for some people
  • Not really self-sufficient — you may need to use other frameworks for specification
A Beat Shazam game show GIF where a woman says “It could literally come down to one word”
Source: Giphy

Linda wants to improve her health next year — so, her one-word goal is “health”. Health can be improved with many things, from going to regular checkups to lifestyle changes. Linda made a list of what can be done to achieve the one-word goal and she’d be happy if she did at least one thing — for example, started eating less processed sugar and walking more. To begin the “new life” right away Linda decided to not buy her usual pack of cookies today and take a longer route on her way home. You need to start somewhere, right?

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

How does it work? This one is the most vague on our list — and maybe it’s not that applicable to yearly planning. The thing is, you should come up with a very ambitious and value-based goal that is more like a mission that should inspire and drive your team to success. It’s easier to explain through examples: take Microsoft’s “A computer on every desk, in every home”. 

Best for:

  • Purpose-driven people
  • People who start every morning with a cup of ambition

Possible problems:

  • This one is more about values than actual planning and achieving.
  • It’s not that different from the “classic” New Year resolutions.
  • It may come off as too overwhelming when it comes to personal goals — it’s very easy to fail and start bashing yourself for it.
A woman saying “The audacity” and clearly looking annoyed
Source: Giphy
Daria Zhuravleva
Daria Zhuravleva

Selzy blog author

On a personal level, the BHAG mindset can be straight-up harmful, in my opinion. Take wellness and pop psychology bloggers on Instagram with the “Be the best version of yourself” mindset. I’ve been in that trap before, I basically forced a very perfectionist attitude on myself, which became an extra stress factor in my already stressful life. So, yeah, not all frameworks are equally useful.

Will these frameworks work though?

Implementing planning frameworks like SMART seems like a no-brainer — at least it can solve the problem with unattainable New Year resolutions that we mentioned earlier. However, not all our team members supported the idea.

Elena Batova
Elena Batova

Knowledge Base Lead

Most business frameworks and productivity methods assume a consistent energy level, relatively good health, neurotypicality, and physical capability, placing a considerable number of people at a disadvantage from the start. That’s why I believe very few can successfully implement these frameworks in their personal lives when there is no team backing them up on their bad days.

Evgeny Kotelevskiy
Evgeny Kotelevskiy

Head of SMM

These frameworks work nicely for business when you have lots of people involved, so you can unite everybody around the same goals. It’s more complicated on a personal level, as you are the only person to manage everything, which is why it may be hard.

So, personal applications of SMART and other frameworks have two main drawbacks: they were created for teams and they may come off as detached from the complex reality of being a human. They also may not win the battle with the chaos of life, just as regular New Year resolutions:

Daria Zhuravleva
Daria Zhuravleva

Selzy blog author

I don’t like long-term planning as a concept (read the news to see why), so I don’t think business frameworks can fix New Year resolutions. However, I’m not against SMART goals and stuff to improve short-term planning — although I’d explore other planning methods. SMART is reasonable but it’s not 100% perfect, especially in personal applications.

However, despite these drawbacks, our thought experiment sort of makes sense — here’s why:

Andrew Dyuzhov
Andrew Dyuzhov

Head of Performance

I think that business goal-setting frameworks are called so not because they are suitable only for companies’ goals, but rather because they’re mostly used in that context. A framework is just a set of logical rules, and it’s you who decides where to apply them.

How to keep your New Year resolutions: Advice from Selzy team members

After all, no matter how you choose to plan your next year, it all comes down to your determination and discipline. If using business frameworks is not up your alley, what can you do? Here are some ideas from the Selzy team members.

Undertale GIF with the caption “Determination intensifies”
Source: Pinterest
Andrew Dyuzhov
Andrew Dyuzhov

Head of Performance

  • Don’t lie to yourself.
  • If you screwed up, then accept the fact that you screwed up and think about what you can do to avoid it next time.
  • If you didn’t screw up, then don’t forget to praise yourself and back up the result.
  • If you want to form or quit a habit, don’t overestimate yourself and do everything smoothly and gradually. Changing habits is already stressful for the body and mind, and setting an overly ambitious goal increases this stress even more.
Evgeny Kotelevskiy
Evgeny Kotelevskiy

Head of SMM

  • Don’t wait for too long — start working on your goals now.
  • Remember, motivation is overestimated, what is important is discipline and systems in achieving your goals. Discipline is much more important than talent, so be resilient in what you do, never give up, and you will achieve everything you want to.
Elena Batova
Elena Batova

Knowledge Base Lead

When making these resolutions, think about what your life should look like for you to be able to fulfill them. Where do you need to live, how much sleep to have, what kind of support from friends, family, and community to have access to, what your day should look like, etc? And if the gap is too big at the moment but you still want to make it in a year, start by brainstorming what you can do today, in a week, in a month, etc. to create the right conditions for your plans to become reality.

Daria Zhuravleva
Daria Zhuravleva

Selzy blog author

  • Stick to the goals that don’t require other people and their decisions — people are chaotic, and, as we all learned in 2020, quarantine is not something from The Black Plague times.
  • Set the goals that you want for yourself, instead of those you’re allegedly supposed to want.
  • Set up quarterly micro-goals instead of one Big Thing to do for the entire year, or at least apply the frameworks that include small milestones to praise yourself for.
27 December, 2023
Article by
Daria Zhuravleva
I'm a writer with 3 years of experience, knowledge and interest in all things IT and marketing, and a passion for the English language. As a staff author at Selzy, I see my mission as an educator who makes your life easier by explaining complex topics in a digestible and somewhat entertaining way. Hobbies include birdwatching, all things music and art, writing freeform poetry, and hiding in the woods.
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