A fresh year is underway and that means setting some new goals. Lose some weight. Get healthy. Give up smoking. Spend more time with family and friends. Save more money.

Are you starting to yawn yet?

The problem is that the list isn't new - and neither are you.

- Originally published by News.com.au

This means, you're extremely likely to fail in your goals and given we're well into the first week of January, maybe you already have.


Research from the United States suggests only eight per cent of people achieve their New Year's resolutions. Yes. That's a 92 per cent failure rate.

Stay with me. This isn't a downer. Here comes something radical.

Maybe goals themselves are actually the problem and in fact, there are better ways to get ahead this year.

Graeme Turner is a goal-hating endurance coach and sports nutritionist.

For Graeme, goals "either define your limits or aren't realistic".

"It doesn't mean not measuring progress," he says, "it just means focusing on change and progress rather than a fixed result."

As an example, he cites a person wanting to shed a few kilos. (Oh yes, that's me!)
"Many people set a goal of losing two kilograms a week based on watching shows like The Biggest Loser.

"When they 'only' lose one kilogram a week, they give up and consider it failure. Or they meet the goal but don't actually make any sustainable changes so quickly revert to how they were previously," Graeme says.

On the other hand, Graeme achieves great success by refusing to set goals.
"I had a client who wanted to run a marathon in under four hours. At the time, he was taking four-and-a-half hours.

"Rather than train for that event specifically, we worked on his diet, technique, mindset and fitness. Twelve months later he ran the marathon in just under three hours.

"If we'd trained to his goal he would never have realised what he was truly capable of," Graeme says.

C'mon. Admit it. That's darn inspiring.

Reflecting on this case study, Graeme says: "Maybe goals are a way of selling yourself short."

In an article he wrote some time ago, he noted dynamic tech companies like Google "don't set corporate goals as it decreases their agility - the ability to respond to what the market is doing."

Dr Jeremy Adams is a registered psychologist and director of Eclectic Consulting in Hobart. He's not quite as scathing about goals as me or Graeme Turner. However, Jeremy does say "most people's use of goals is very poor so they don't work."

"The main problem is that what most people are calling goals are more hopes or wishes," he says, rather than "deeply held values".

"You've really got to believe that change is important. Anyone can want something but whether or not they're prepared to actually experience some discomfort in the service of it, that's another thing all together," Jeremy says.

Like many professionals working to change human behaviour, Jeremy is a fan of so-called "SMART goals" - an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-focused.

Put simply, you need a clear and realistic plan underpinning your goal in addition to your deeply held desire to change.

Jeremy advocates "planning appropriately, making it easy for ourselves and recognising that it's actually about the choices that we make rather than trying to change how we think or feel."

His best advice is to "ignore the idea that positive thinking will get you through it [and] that you'll be able to somehow talk yourself into it. That's a guaranteed way to let ourselves down.

"A lot of us just assume that our future selves will be substantially more motivated and effective and able to deal with stuff than our current selves, which is of course rubbish because it just ends up being us in the future," he says with a laugh.

How do we tackle this motivation deficit?

At times when we don't feel like sticking to our goal, Jeremy suggests we see it as a "choice point" and ask ourselves the question: "Do I go towards the person I want to be or do I go away from the person I want to be?"
This is where the idea of discomfort comes up. Again.

"Something that's important to you doesn't have to be enjoyable," Jeremy says with another chuckle, "just because it doesn't feel good doesn't mean it's not good."

At the same time, he urges each of us to be "be gentle with yourself" and leave room for error.

"Let's say you're smoker who would normally smoke 10 cigarettes a day, but manage to go three weeks without a cigarette.

"If you then went out the next day and smoked three or four cigarettes, well that would be three cigarettes instead of 210 - 207 cigarettes fewer - which is a huge achievement.

"That doesn't mean you are now a smoker again, it just means you are a person who had three cigarettes," he says.

Jeremy believes real change means being in it for the long haul.

"Most things that are worthwhile actually take some effort over a longer period of time. You won't get immediate results and it will require some sticking."

If perchance you've already stuffed up your New Year's Resolution, don't worry. Endurance coach Graeme Turner has the answer to this woe.

"I don't actually believe in New Year's resolutions," he says, "if you need to make a change and you have a strong reason to do so, then make it. Why wait for a particular time or anniversary as an impetus for change?"

The time is now, my friends.