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Be inspired every day with Living North
New Year, New Goals?
February 2022
Reading time 5 Minutes

Have you broken your new year resolutions already? Living North columnist Dr Maurice Duffy shares his advice so you can finally achieve those goals

New Year’s Eve has become more than just a day in the calendar for many of us. We look at New Year’s Eve as not just a celebration of the passing year, but a chance for a fresh start – a reset opportunity – and that’s why so many of us make new year’s resolutions. We all have parts of our lives we want to change. We all have good intent, and our resolutions are always sincere. We all decide that ‘this is the year I am going to get fit/lose weight/find a new job/love my partner more’. Yet we often make these resolutions in the spirit of celebration, with no real thought as to how we will achieve them. You might think with just a little more motivation you can finally take control and crush your goals starting on 1st January.

Well, here is a health warning for you. Although we go into the new year with the best of intentions to make good on these goals, it doesn’t take long for many people to give up on their new year’s resolution(s), or to forget about them entirely. More than 80 percent of all resolutions don’t even make it to the end of January. 

So why do we keeping repeating the same resolutions each year, and why do we expect this new year to be different? The truth is that most resolutions aren’t just a matter of doing something once or twice. Transforming your life requires deep self-reflection, overcoming your limiting beliefs, and building new habits. The best new year’s resolutions are about setting goals and making a dedicated plan to achieve them.  

Here are a few ideas on how to identify the right resolution to improve your life, create a plan on how to reach it, and become part of the small group of people that successfully achieve their goals. 

Let’s start by understanding that a lot of resolutions fail because they’re not the right resolutions. And a resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons:

• It’s a resolution created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change. 

• It’s too vague.

• You don’t have a realistic plan for achieving your resolution.

Your goals should be, to coin a well-used acronym, SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. The most successful people set big intentions and put everything they need into achieving them. They are not just positive about a resolution on one day a year. They live daily the change they want to see. They dedicate themselves to the journey. 

Consistent top performers don’t rely on their talent alone. They work on their goals.  No new year’s resolutions are possible without a strategy for achieving them. Here’s a short outline on how to replace resolutions with objectives that work. This is a much better technique than just positive thinking. Yes, imagine the goal, but then look at what personal obstacles are in the way and plan how to get over them.

I call this technique GRIP: Goal, Result, Immunity, Plan.

• Goal: What do you want? 

Instead of merely resolving to change a behaviour, write down your goal. What is the goal you want to achieve? Be very specific. The goal must be achievable because change doesn’t come easily. It can take months to build a new habit, yet we give up on resolutions in just a few weeks. That’s because we aren’t really willing to change our lifestyles – and all the trendy resolutions in the world won’t work for you unless you’re in the mindset of creating sustainable change. Make the decision now that you’re going to change some aspect of your life, and then commit to making it happen.

• Result: Focus on outcomes.

Understand not just the short-term outcome you want, but the true purpose of your goal. When you understand why you want your goal, you will find a way to achieve it – even when things get challenging. Ask yourself what would the ideal outcome if you were to achieve the change you have identified? The goal must be measurable in outcome terms. A way to look at this differently is what will your life look like when you hit your goal?

• Immunity: Things that get in the way!

Remember You Are Larger Than Anything That Can Happen to You. Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. They don’t have more time in the day. They just use it more wisely by building enabling habits into their morning rituals and day. As you move forward on your journey, know that there will be challenging times. A morning ritual is to look at your day, see your end goal, and visualise yourself overcoming any obstacles. You know yourself what it is that will try to stop you. What has side-lined you before? Where will the resilience come from? Build this into your daily rituals.

• Plan: The journey there. 

‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.’- Henry David Thoreau

Write down what you need to do. The purpose is to identify and target your actions. Write down all the actions that you need to take to achieve your goal, overcome your immunities, and set yourself up for success. However, don’t stick it in a drawer somewhere. Make your Goal, Result, Immunity and Plan a living breathing document, that each morning you take out and recommit to. This is just the starting point, not the end game. Each day must be a drive to the goal you have set. Each day will bring obstacles to stop you and you need to build the resilience to overcome these obstacles. 

Alongside GRIP when I am working with elite performers, I always ask them two  specific questions and tell them they must ask themselves these two questions each and every day.

1. What is one thing you have done well in the last 24 hours? This does not have to be closing the biggest deal of your life. This is about you taking one step in the direction of your goal, be it big or small.

2. What is the one thing you want to improve tomorrow? Again, this does not have to be game-changing – just one small improvement, one small movement towards your goal.

Answering these two questions and reviewing your commitments to GRIP doesn’t need to take a lot of time. I suggest three to five minutes to start. By developing and living the GRIP plan and answering these two questions every day, you ritualise the practice of focusing on delivering your goal. This trains your mind to think in a new way – a way that leads to increased self-confidence and improved performance and discourages you from conducting a perfectionist evaluation that in turn will lead to frustration, burnout, and poor performance. 

When you are following your plan don’t forget to give yourself credit and strive for continual improvement. It will take commitment to overcome the tendency to beat yourself up for mistakes and focus on where you fall short. Achieving goals takes focus and resilience, and isn’t easy. It is not supposed to be easy. Yet, developing habits toward achieving goals will however result in greatness. Period.

‘You dream. You plan. You reach. There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, with belief, with confidence and trust in yourself and those around you, there are no limits.’ - Michael Phelps

I say there may be people that have more talent than you, but you can plan, prepare and work harder than anyone else, that is what the best do. 

Now, go and be the best version of yourself you can be.


Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland, consulting coach to the NHS, the Australian cricket team, Durham Cricket Club, international golfers, rugby and many sports people, and also coaches many senior FTSE 100 business leaders and politicians around the world. 

Find out more at or follow him on twitter @thebeaksquawks

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