Mormon Channel Blog

How to Make Better New Year's Resolutions

December 29, 2014

Why You've Been Setting Goals Wrong

We’ve all set goals at the new year. We’ve all attempted to keep them. We’ve all failed.

That might be a sign that you’re doing it wrong.

It’s a ritual for a lot of us. Just as you’re packing away the Christmas decorations and drinking the last of the eggnog, you anticipate the new year and picture the possibilities. You dream of all the goals you could accomplish.

• Lose 30 pounds.

• Run a marathon.

• Start a business and make a million dollars.

Setting goals? That’s easy. Achieving goals? That’s another story.

Fast-forward a few weeks. You haven’t lost any weight. One of these days, when you finally have some free time, you’re going to start running. And you still can’t figure out what that new business is going to be. You’re too busy making PB&Js, paying the bills, and spot treating laundry.

Elder M. Russell Ballard learned a lesson almost 20 years ago when he had a health scare. He was going in for surgery and doctors had talked about the possibility of cancer. It was a sobering moment as he reflected on his life and priorities. He shared some of that experience and the lessons he learned in his conference address “Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance.”

And after that introspective moment, he didn’t do what we might do. He didn’t overhaul his life and set major long-term goals. He discovered that sometimes small is better.

The key, he shared, is to “set short-term goals that you can reach. Set goals that are well balanced—not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low.”

It’s the opposite of what so many of us do. We set ambitious goals to become something we’re not. We’re kind of like Alma, who shared his lofty goal to be like an angel who could “speak with the trump of God, … to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!” (Alma 29:1).

But Alma, for all his exuberance, realized that he might have gone a little overboard with that goal and followed up with the realization that he should be content with the things the Lord had allotted to him: “Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” (Alma 29:6).

So dial things back a bit. Make sure the goals that you set can be reached. Make sure they are well balanced and don't get too discouraged.

After all, the scriptures never mention marathons, millionaires, or miracle weight loss. Work consistently on the goals you've set, gradually improving and inching closer to where you truly want to be.