• Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW

Goals that Stick

With the start of a new year, many people set resolutions about how they want to improve themselves or some aspect of their lives. With the pandemic this may feel even more critical, as setting personal change goals allows us to focus on what we can control since so much is not in our control right now.

So, what is a resolution? And why do they usually fail?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a resolution is ‘a firm decision to do or not to do something’. One of the reasons resolutions fail is that they’re fixed and not flexible enough. When we set the intention to change something, we’re are bound to have slips, setbacks, and failures.

Goals, therefore, need to be flexible and allow room for recovery and reset.



Another reason ‘resolutions’ fail is that they may be focused on an outcome that society tells us we need to change, such as our bodies, our schedules, our spending, and our eating.

If you want to create change, you need to anchor your goals in your personal values.


A value is ‘your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being’ (Harris, 2010). For example, you might value adventure, creativity and freedom. These might guide you to set goals oriented towards travel or a new career. Or, perhaps, you value authenticity, compassion, and self-development. Goals reflective of these values might focus on journaling, self-reflection and creating a regular mindfulness practice.


Russ Harris’ book, “The Confidence Gap”, offers a list of values and a valuable worksheet that I’ve used myself and with my clients that allows you to connect your goals (short-term, mid-range and long-term) to your values. It is presented as four quadrants to create balance in your life:

- Love (relationships with others),

- Work (including school, volunteering, home management, and paid job),

- Play (hobbies, sports, and having fun), and

- Health (emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellness).


If you’re interested in completing this exercise as a way to create change now or any point in the year, you can download it for free at www.thehappinesstrap.com


If you’d like help creating or setting goals, talk with a trusted friend or schedule an appointment with a therapist or counsellor.


Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you create change.

Some of the struggles or failures you encounter along the way might guide you in improving your goals to make them stronger, more adaptable and reflective of your values.


Reference: Harris, Russ. (2010). The Confidence Gap.

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