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

This week my travels find me in Northern California, finishing up meetings and planning for the new year.

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?

When you’re setting goals, first make sure they’re your Wildly Important Goals. To discover what these are, you have to ask yourself: If everything else stayed the same, what would have the biggest impact on what you want to achieve? For example, let’s say you own a real estate company and your goal is to grow it from X to Y by when. You might ask yourself, what are the two or three things that will have the greatest impact on getting me from X to Y by when? Those answers are your Wildly Important Goals.

Here’s another goal-setting 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

So, what’s the message? 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. As Steve Jobs once said, “Quality is better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” Another favorite quote from Zig Ziglar, author, salesman and speaker: “A goal properly set is halfway achieved.”

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


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