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This year, use your New Year’s resolution to create a new habit

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

This year, use your New Year’s resolution to create a new habit

Scott Miker

New Year’s resolutions are an extremely popular way to work on self-improvement.  Yet if you do a Google search for “New Year’s resolution failure rate” you will see that the odds seem to be against you when you set a resolution.

There are many reasons why this is the case and many studies that point to 88%, 90% or even 92% failure rates.  There are countless articles, videos and books that try to explain why you will likely fail.  

But this article is going to look at it a little different.  There is value in setting goals around the first of the year.  You don’t need to abandoned the practice, instead you can use it to spark real growth.

First, shift the resolution from an Outcome Goal to a Process Goal.  Most people set their resolution based on what they want to achieve, not what they need to do to change.  They say they want to quit smoking, lose 15 lbs, write a book, or learn to play the guitar.  

Many goal-setting gurus will say that you just need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related.  The problem is that this doesn’t look at what it will take to reach the goal.  It doesn’t properly address the how part of self-improvement.  How will you get there?  What, specifically will you do?

Process goals are different.  Process goals look at the actual part of your lives that will have to change in order to reach your goal.  What can you implement to move towards a smoke-free life?  What exercise will you do to lose 15 lbs?  What is the new routine that you will establish to write the book?  How are you going to learn the fundamentals of playing the guitar?

To me this is the crucial aspect of goal-setting that too often gets dropped.  People want to focus on the end result and then assume they will do the things necessary to achieve that goal.  There are several reasons why they will likely stumble.

But, in order to succeed, change your mindset to building a habit.  Ultimately that is what process goals are about.  They are about defining the small behavior changes that need to be present in order to build a new way of doing things.  That new way, then, leads to the change that meets your resolution.  

The first step is to break down your goal into an incredibly small and easy step.  One way to do this and turn it into a new habit is to set the minimum.  This means that you take a small piece of the new habit that you want to create, and set a minimum that you will do everyday.  As you complete this easy task every day it starts to become automatic by transforming into a new habit.    

Instead of saying you need to run 4 miles a day, you can break it down to say you will run around the block every day.  This will create a new habit and then you can build on that foundation.  It will be easy to build up to the 4 mile goal if you start small and rely on habits instead of simply hoping for willpower.  

This year don’t abandoned New Year’s resolutions just because they are typically unfulfilled.  Instead try to use this as a way to create a new positive habit in your life that will extend benefit far beyond the new year!