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New year’s resolutions that compound

According to Pareto's law, most of us will give up on 80% of our goals by mid-March.

Alex Dovhyi
Alex Dovhyi
4 min read

New Year is a time for people to set goals, desires, and wants for the upcoming year. Yet, according to Pareto's law, most of us will give up on 80% of our goals by mid-March.

People fail to achieve their objectives because they do not experience instant results. They start to think that they can't do it or that the goal was ridiculous, to begin with.

That feeling

In every self-help book I was reading, there's been a chapter about the importance of setting goals. However, after analyzing the past years, I realized that I only achieved around 20% of all the goals that I set for myself.

We all know that feeling when we are inspired by someone and start setting goals for the year.

Do you also have a long list of goals, desires, and wants for your life? Do you want to learn more? Earn more? Improve your skills? Get the most out of your relationships? Live better?

But, from what I remember, setting up goals was the only good feeling about goals. The rest is hard work that requires patience, discipline, and self-confidence.

I remember setting the new year's goals and then struggling to achieve them. I was planning plans, trying different methods for goal setting, and changing the tools for writing down my goals. I thought that was a problem.

Stop setting goals

I stopped setting goals a few years ago because I found them useless. I didn't know what to do next, so I just floated through life without any ambitions or goals.

It was the case until another book fell into my hands. In his strangely underappreciated book, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy presents a reasonable argument for persistence as a critical ingredient in success.

Earning more, learning new things, improving skills and relationships are good. Moving forward and achieving steady improvement is what life is all about. However, there is one critical aspect to all this hard work, hustling, seeking, and achieving more.

You can't accomplish everything at once

True success occurs when we give our attention to one task at a time. First, I discovered this idea when looking for my dream clients. I knew that I needed to find a client that would provide me with projects, a good paycheck, and freedom to work where and when I wanted to focus on building great things.

As I looked back, I started noticing that I couldn't find time to identify the client that I was looking for: always busy with small projects, trying to earn as much as possible with the small jobs.

I was always working on multiple projects every day, so I didn't find time to identify who I was looking for as a dream client, so I've been sending proposals to everyone.

When I completed my projects and no new work was in the pipeline, I've realized that I needed to focus on one thing that is the most important to me now.

I didn't do any work for a few months. For the first few weeks, I felt guilty for not taking projects and making money, but then I forced myself to focus on actually identifying my dream client and start searching for them.

Gary Keller, one of the authors of the fantastic book The One Thing about this similar subject, said it best:

"Where I'd had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too."

When you're working on multiple things simultaneously, your attention is spread across all of them. There's a big chance that you will not achieve the best possible results in this case.

I was trying to focus on multiple things simultaneously: finding dream clients, working on projects, building my body, reading, etc., thinking that this was the only way to succeed.

Most of us believe that success happens all at once. Real-life is different. Keller and Papasan put it well:

"Success is sequential, not simultaneous."

Things add up. You learn one skill. Then another. You finish one project. Then another. Over time, your accomplishments add up to form an impressive feat.

Finally, it comes down to a dedication to little, intelligent decisions performed regularly. Over time, these decisions compound into effective habits and routines, the true drivers of discipline, confidence, and ultimately, success.

How to set New Year's resolutions that compound

I think this visual by Aidan explains it pretty well.

We all used to set goals that were outside of our control:

  • Grow to 10,000 followers
  • Make $100,00 this year
  • Write a book
  • Loose weight

But the problem with this type of goal is that you don't have control over the final result.

Instead, focus on what it takes to achieve the final goal. Think of what do you need to do to grow to 10,000 followers. Probably, it is publishing valuable content consistently. This way, the goal transforms to make and publish valuable content every day.

The same goes for other goals:

  • Make $100,00 this year → Reach out to 3 potential clients every day
  • Write a book → Write 1 page every day
  • Loose weight → Cut 200 kcal every day

Now, it's your turn. Think of the goals you want to achieve, and then write down a half dozen small daily actions that can lead to the desired outcome. Then, execute on them.

Those are small changes that will have a significant impact over time. I guarantee that you won't see the results immediately, but be patient and keep moving. This is an actual power of the Compound Effect.

Alex Dovhyi Twitter

Product designer exploring design’s interplay with product, business, and technology, and answering your questions about freelancing, career, and personal growth.