How to stop breaking your New Year resolutions and reach your big career goals

Jan 20, 2022

Struggling to stick to your New Year resolutions?

Every January we look forward to a fresh start and set new goals for the year ahead. But studies show over 80% of resolutions fail by February.

There are a number of reasons. Lack of accountability or clarity around what you want. Setting unrealistic, vague or unachievable goals.

Perhaps you’re also exhausted from the uncertainty of the past two years. As the unpredictability continues, you may be reluctant to commit to any career goals.

Yet goals are important because they give you something to strive for. As humans, we want to keep growing and developing.

Still, I don’t buy into the ‘new year, new you’ hype. It’s unreasonable to put ourselves under pressure one time per year. I believe in having a clear vision, setting goals from there and creating a step-by-step plan to reach them — any time of year.

Instead, I recommend you do an end of year review to assess what worked and what didn’t in the previous year. This helps you determine where you’ll continue to focus your time and energy and what changes you’ll make in the year ahead. It also allows you to identify any skills you need to develop to reach your next level of career success.

I’ve written many articles on productivity and planning strategies. So this week, I’m doing a different take on goal-setting by looking at some simple shifts you can make to achieve your goals.

Read on to learn the real reasons you fail to stick to your career goals. You’ll discover how to stop breaking your career resolutions and reach your big professional goals!

#1 — WHAT’S YOUR WHY?

Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief which drives you. The reason you get out of bed every morning and go to work. The WHY behind what you do.

Setting a career goal — getting promoted, finding a new job, changing careers or starting a business — is not sufficient. To reach it, you also need a compelling reason to back it up.

Neuroscience supports this. The neo-cortex is the part of the brain responsible for your rational thoughts, not behaviour. Knowing what you want — a specific career goal or result, is not enough.

Your purpose appeals to the limbic brain, which controls your emotions, decision-making and behaviour. Purpose drives your actions and results. Therefore, having a clear ‘why’ behind what you want will help you stay motivated to reach your goals.

Ask yourself: Why is this goal important? How do you want to feel? Connecting to your emotions and the intention behind your career goals will keep you on track, even during challenging times.

#2 — FOCUS ON WHO YOU WANT TO BECOME

If you’re finding it a challenge to reach your career goals, it could be due to a development gap. You simply haven’t yet identified the skills you need to bridge these gaps and accomplish what you want. This can leave you overwhelmed, frustrated or ready to give up on your goals.

Say you want to step into leadership, a role which requires you to step away from ‘doing’ the technical work. By developing your delegating skills, you’ll free up more time to focus on strategic work and leading your team. Therefore, learning how to delegate will help you achieve your goal of getting promoted into a leadership position.

Consider — who do you need to become to reach your goals? Identify the specific skill, habit, mindset or new knowledge essential to your success. What personal qualities/attributes do you need to develop to achieve what you desire?

#3 — SET AN INTENTION TO STAY ACCOUNTABLE

I’m a big fan of setting specific, measurable goals — but also believe in having a clear intention for the year ahead.

Accountability is key to keep you on track with your goals. In coaching, we talk about using different structures to hold ourselves accountable. Setting an intention is a great structure to remind you of what you want to achieve and stay accountable to it.

I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about choosing a ‘word of the year’. A guiding word to capture how you will achieve your goals or create positive changes. It may be something you want or what you need to develop to reach your next level of career success.

A client expressed the desire to become more consistent with the actions they take towards their work and wellness goals. To create consistency with their schedule, financial results and health this year. ‘Consistency’ became a clear reminder of their intentions for 2022 — one which they can filter all daily decisions through.

With this method, there’s less focus on achieving a specific outcome. The emphasis is on how you want to feel and who you need to become.

Set your intention or a word which sums it up. Through this lens, how do you want to spend your time? What tasks do you need to prioritise? What step will you take next?

#4 — KEEP IT SIMPLE

Another reason your career goals don’t stick is because you’ve set the bar too high. Or you’ve forgotten to break your big aspirations down into small, achievable steps.

The answer? Simplify. Ask yourself: What are the top 2-3 goals I want to achieve this year?

If it’s a challenge to choose, narrow them down by priorities, passion and profit. Remove anything which isn’t truly important or you don’t genuinely want to dedicate time and energy to this year. For your career or business, prioritise the activities which make you money.

Create a list of the key projects you plan to work on throughout the year. Then break your big goals or projects down into specific tasks. These are the exact steps you need to take to accomplish your goal or complete a project.

To keep it simple, focus on one or two main goals per quarter. Each evening, identify the top three activities to work on the following day to get closer to your goals. Also, get clear on the number one priority task you need to complete before moving on to anything else.

#5 — COMMIT YOUR TIME

‘Not having time’ is the biggest excuse holding us back from reaching our goals. How many times have you set a New Year resolution to work out every day — then struggle to find the time? So you promise you’ll start tomorrow or on Monday but find yourself in the same place 12 months later.

If you don’t commit to your goal or create the time and space to work on it, nothing changes. Block out time to work on your goals — 20 minutes a day or one hour each Saturday. Commit to it consistently.

Have a clear focus for this time. Plan out the activities you need to focus on to reach your goals. If you get stuck, ask yourself: What’s the next best step I can take right now?

#6 — LOOK FOR THE LEARNING

Are you taking time to assess your progress towards a goal and what you can learn from it? 

When you focus only on your results, you’ll find it hard to stay consistent — and may even give up altogether. You either hit your goal — or don’t. Then beat yourself up if you don’t or move straight on to the next goal when you do.

Get curious and evaluate what is and isn’t working as you go. If you met your goal, celebrate it and consider — what action steps did I take to accomplish this? Do more of this.

If you didn’t accomplish it, look for the learnings. What will you do differently next time? This is where the growth and transformation is!

It can be challenging to commit to your New Year career resolutions. These six steps have helped my clients and I stick to and fulfill our big career goals. I hope these tips support you too!

Want my help to clarify and reach your professional goals in 2022?

Click HERE to book a free initial 30 minute consult to get started!

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.