Anyone who works out regularly dreads this time of year. On January 2nd, gyms around the world are going to be crowded 24/7 with people who made a New Year’s resolution to get a six-pack.

Fortunately, they’ll all be gone in two weeks.

It’s a statistical fact that over 90% of New Year’s resolutions are broken. Any practice that fails over 90% of the time should be abandoned, but people still pretend to stick to it.

There’s a better way to set goals and change your life, it just takes a little work. Let me explain.

New Year’s Resolutions Are Moonshots—They Never Work

The number one mistake people make with goal-setting is that they make their goal too big. I don’t mean that they aim too high—that’s not possible—but rather that they focus too much on the long-term version of their goal.

If you want to get a six-pack, that’s going to take months of diet and exercise. If your goal is to eat less than 2000 calories a day, you can win every day. If your only goal is to get a six-pack, then you’re going to fail every day for months until you see results.

New Year’s resolutions are easy targets for these unrealistic goals because the very idea of a New Year’s resolution is pointlessly dramatic.

If you were serious about getting in shape in November, why would you put it off till January? Does the change in the calendar give you superpowers?

New Year’s resolutions allow people to put off changes in their life, and when that happens, people have time to build their resolution up until it’s a behemoth, unactionable goal.

There’s a better way.

How To Set Goals That Actually Work

If you want to really change your life, you want to get systematic about the way you improve.

In my article about how successful CEOs set goals, I broke down three questions you need to ask yourself to create a system for improving:

  1. What is the most basic intent of my long-term goal? Break it down. If a company’s 24-month plan is to grow revenue by 25%, the most basic intent is to grow revenue.
  2. What action will best help me to achieve my intent today? Without putting limits or minimums on it, what action can that company take today to grow revenues?
  3. How can I build upon the actions I took yesterday to further my basic intent? You get the picture.

The key here is to set a daily goal that is effective, without being rigid. For example, most of my clients are interested in time management—specifically, getting more done. Many top performers never have “enough” time, and their schedules vary dramatically day-to-day.

Instead of saying “I will work to a specific schedule,” I suggest my clients decide on how many hours of “production” they want to get done each day. The hours may change, but the amount stays consistent.

Every day they are working towards their long-term goals, but they are giving themselves the flexibility to get it done in the “right” way.

Change Your Life Today—And Tomorrow, And The Next Day

Excellent goal-setting is about balancing vision and execution. Go ahead and look towards the future, but come back to the present and get maniacally focused on the step right in front of you.

If you have the initiative to improve today, improve tomorrow, and improve the day after, you won’t just improve your chances of hitting your grandest vision, you’ll make yourself more adaptable.

Even if your lofty goal changes, the progress you’ve already made will remain, and you’ll be able to direct that momentum in whatever new direction you wish.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Blades Is an advisor to CEOs, founders, and leaders in all industries. He is the author of Do What You Want: A Career Guide For Professionals Serious About Winning, and is a former VP at Goldman Sachs and The Carlyle Group.

You can find more of his writing at