It’s the second week of the new year.

Did you make a resolution to make a change in your life? 

How’s it going?

If you are like most people (including myself), sticking to a resolution is tough.

I was recently asked, “Is it better to set a intention or make a resolution in the New Year?”

Below are my thoughts. 

Please keep in mind that the principles I discuss apply equally to all new beginnings, regardless of when we start. 

Of the two, intention is preferable to setting resolutions because an intention is a mindset that prepares us to act. It’s an essential first-step. Resolutions are generally just vague wishes that have little ability to keep us going.

But neither is effective, alone, for achieving our goals. We must first articulate clear, realistic goals, and describe exactly what success looks like.

Clear goals are key for an intention to turn into action.

This involves visualizing what your future state looks like. I describe the visualization process here.

My process has been used by 100s of people and organizations to create meaningful, sustainable change. I encourage you to read, reflect, and use these visualization principles. Feel free to tweak them to fit your particular goal and personality.

After you’ve visualized success and set a realistic goal, create a workable plan, with a timeline.

For instance, say you want to live healthier in 2018. To do so, you would like to lose 10 pounds. Your friends tell you to run but you’ve never run before. Running is not realistic for you.

Instead, plan to walk a specific number of steps (if you have a watch that tracks such things) or distance per week. This is much more realistic. This also might involve taking the stairs at work rather than the elevator. Which ever you choose, determine how many steps you need to get in per week to achieve your movement goal.

Notice, I’m not suggesting that you focus on your ultimate goal of losing weight but rather the process you need to achieve your goal. You can weigh yourself at intervals, but remember that your goal is improved health through weight loss and this is achieved through daily movement. Doing so (while also eating healthy) will help you shed the pounds.

I call this your action goal – an intermediate achievement (e.g., daily steps) that will help you achieve your target goal (weight loss, and, ultimately, a healthy lifestyle).

We only achieve our goals when we have realistic, workable plans with a clear timeline and measurable action goals along the way.

Before beginning your quest, assemble a small team, or even just one person, to join you on your journey and hold you accountable.

Achieving meaningful goals is difficult. Having a partner or team alongside you will help you keep going when your motivation wanes, the going gets tough, or you experience a setback, which is inevitable.

Setting an intention is essential. But even more important is articulating a specific goal, visualizing and defining what success looks like, creating a workable plan and sticking to it, and, importantly, bringing others along with you on the journey.

I would love to hear what your action and target goals are for 2018 and what you are going to do to achieve them.

Share your thoughts in the comments section and your community here will cheer you on to success.

Here’s to a successful new year and a new you!

A previous version of this post appeared at Huff Po.


  • Dr. Frank Niles

    business psychologist, executive coach, leadership consultant

    Frank Niles is a renowned business psychologist who is fanatically focused on helping people and organizations succeed. He's regularly featured or quoted in the media, having appeared in Inc., Fast Company, CNN, NBC, NPR, and many more media outlets. He speaks worldwide and coaches leaders globally. In his spare time, he climbs mountains.