#11 Thoughts on Leadership: Goals for the New Year

By Gino Blefari

“When it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.” – The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

It’s an age-old tradition: The clock strikes midnight. It’s Jan. 1 and we mentally run through our list of resolutions for the new year, ready to conquer all of them. And by New Year’s Eve of the following year, we celebrate our accomplishments, satisfied with the fact that we’ve achieved every single goal we set out to attain, right? Well, maybe.

Goals are important and you know I’m the first person to advocate for their creation and adherence. However, if set incorrectly, goals can be just that, simple words written down on a page, devoid of any meaning or purpose. So, how do you set goals you can actually accomplish?

Here’s one trick: Set fewer goals and you’ll see better results. In truth, nobody has the ability to multitask. Studies show that human beings are genetically wired to do only one thing at a time with excellence. For goal-setting, this translates into the careful selection of no more than two to three goals you’ll accomplish in the new year. Observe the following chart from The 4 Disciplines of Execution:

Number of Goals 2-3 4-10 11-20
Goals Achieved with Excellence 2-3 1-2 0

As you can see, the more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve them. The concept isn’t brand new, it’s been used for years by successful business leaders around the world, but it is often overlooked. Here are 10 examples of preeminent leaders who understand the concept of realistic goal-setting:

  1. “Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” – Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple
  2. “Success is never getting to the bottom of your to-do list.” – Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!
  3. “Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” – Mother Teresa
  4. “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden, basketball player and coach
  5. “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” – Oprah Winfrey, O Magazine
  6. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” – Earl Nightingale, motivational speaker and author
  7. “I don’t believe in perfection. I don’t think there is such a thing. But the energy of wanting things to be great is a perfectionist energy.” – Reese Witherspoon, actress
  8. “True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller
  9. “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar, author salesman and speaker
  10. “Human beings only use ten percent of their brains. Ten percent! Can you imagine how much we could accomplish if we used the other sixty percent?” – Ellen Degeneres, talk show host and actress

It’s always good to keep goal-setting in perspective. Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year,


GINO BLEFARI is incoming CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

3 responses to #11 Thoughts on Leadership: Goals for the New Year

  1. One of my favorite books is, ” Finding your own North Star”.
    In it, she discusses goals.
    I have found this process to be unbelievably useful!
    On a piece of paper or a white board draw a line horizontally.
    On the right is your goal on the left is where you are now. Now make a list between the two of all the steps you need to accomplish in order to reach that goal.

    If you get stuck, you likely need some information, include finding that information on the list.
    Celebrate each task accomplished!
    It’s an amazing process.
    And, it works!
    Happy New Year


  2. Great message and congratulations on another level of your goal setting and achievement Gino. You have been an inspiration for me for many years … looking forward to many more years of leadership from you!


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