Setting yourself up for success

  • Get a plan: losing 20lbs or quitting smoking might be achievable goals, but a strategy improves the odds of success

    Get a plan: losing 20lbs or quitting smoking might be achievable goals, but a strategy improves the odds of success

As much as it might be popular to make new year’s resolutions, I have to confess that I have never actually made any.

In truth, I have never understood why anyone would wait until the journey is already well under way to begin to think about starting to make a plan.

Similarly, the idea of making an unrealistic list of things that I want to accomplish right away always seemed to be little more than setting myself up for failure.

The notion of losing 20lbs, quitting smoking, or learning to sing might all be worthy and achievable goals given a realistic time frame, but starting the year with the expectation that these things can be accomplished by the end of the month is at best putting undue pressure on yourself and at worst, counterproductive.

If you are being completely honest, how many times have you failed to meet a goal or stick to a resolution that you set for yourself and wound up feeling so defeated that you caught yourself thinking there was no point in trying?

“But that’s just human nature,” you protest.

Sure it is, but let’s try thinking about this from a different angle. If you’ve done such a great job at teaching yourself how to fail at something that you have given up even trying, doesn’t it stand to reason that you can also intentionally teach yourself how to succeed?

“But there is no way to guarantee success,” you scoff.

Perhaps not. But wouldn’t it be nice to understand how to come up with a plan that greatly improves the odds of at least coming in striking range of a goal instead of missing the target altogether?

The tricky thing about human nature when it comes to goal setting is that we live in a time when perfection is prized above. It is to the point that we may judge our own best efforts to be insufficient even though they are “our” best efforts.

Similarly, when faced with a large or complicated task, rather than find a way to be satisfied with a series of small steps forward, we lose patience and try to “eat the elephant” all in one sitting only to become frustrated when this proves to be impossible. We then use this as further rationalisation for not trying in the first place.

How would a flimsy new year’s resolution ever stand a chance against such obstacles?

Wouldn’t it be easier to simply spend a few minutes at the end of every week throughout the year by taking stock of your circumstances and then considering what you wanted to accomplish next, followed by a few further minutes considering what you would actually need to do to position yourself to take these small steps?

Then, instead of having unattainable goals, you would simply have an unending “to do” list and the opportunity to experience success each time that you completed a step.

Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at, 538-8937 or

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Published Jan 7, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 7, 2020 at 7:15 am)

Setting yourself up for success

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