People create New Year’s Resolutions out of tradition. It’s our promise to ourselves to engage in some aspect of self-improvement for the New Year. Really, we’re setting goals for ourselves.

The problem, though, is that most of what we’ve been led to believe about goal setting is actually wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s a goal related to our personal or business goals. We’ve been told things like choose a goal – or ever better write them down, and then figure out how to reach to our goal. On the other side of the spectrum, the self-help crowd tells us that the very act of writing our goals down and affirming then day in and day out is enough to almost magically “attract” our desired outcome.

Instead of simply saying you’re going to do something better next year and then try to figure out a way to do it, we must select our goals based on what we know, what we have learned, and the knowledge and experiences we can gain from others. In a nutshell, instead of writing down a goal and trying to figure out how to achieve it, you must start with a goal you know how to accomplish.

In a fantastic book called The Art of What Works, author William Duggan shares with us an insight from Jack Welch who suggested that all good ideas were simply things that worked before somewhere else. He said, “You search for what works, and that tells you what you can do. Then you go ahead and do it.”

From the same book, “Great scientists, great artists, great business leaders—they don’t “reach for the stars,” they grasp what works.”

Plan, of course.
Set goals, absolutely

But don’t let goals constrain you. Let’s say your goal is to increase profits by 20% next year. That might be a good goal, but it’s not a good goal if you simply cut employees, or cut spending on things like marketing and R&D. Sure, you might achieve your goal but at what expense?

Goals allow us to open our eyes and see a future state. But what if you simply resolved to apply your strengths and resources to any opportunity that presents itself?

So raise a glass tonight and resolve to doing what works. Then you’ll know how to achieve your goals.