New Year’s Goals? Take a Situational Approach: 3 Steps for Getting Started

closeup of a notebook with the text 2016 resolutions written inNearly all of us have made a New Year’s resolution and then not followed through. Why is it that most New Year’s resolutions don’t work? In his latest column for Chief Learning Officer magazine, leadership expert Ken Blanchard points to two common causes: accomplishing the goal is tougher than we thought, and we rarely get help from the people around us. In fact, as Blanchard shares, “People often smile and say ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ and then walk away to let us tackle the resolution on our own.” 

Blanchard recommends that goal setters increase their chances of success with New Year’s resolutions by applying three of the principles of Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) to the process—goal setting, diagnosis, and matching. Using his own experience in setting goals for managing his physical health, Blanchard shares how we can all apply a situational approach to our planning.

Goal Setting

All good performance starts with clear goals. Blanchard recommends the SMART approach along with a compelling reason that motivates you to achieve the goal. “I had set the goal to become fit many times,” Blanchard explains. “But this time, I found a compelling reason to get healthy: my new dog, Joy. I was just turning 70 when I got her. Knowing dogs can live 15 years or more, I decided I needed to stay healthy through my mid-80s, so not only would I be around for my family, but also for Joy. Most people worry about outliving their dog; I worried about my dog outliving me!”

When it came to making sure his goals were SMART—specific, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable, it was very helpful for Ken to have the direction of his trainer and Fit at Last coauthor, Tim Kearin. By taking Ken’s measurements and monitoring his progress bit by bit, Tim saw to it that Ken’s goals were achievable.


Once goals are set, the next step is to diagnose your development level on each of the tasks related to your goal. Blanchard explains that development level is a function of competence (your skills and experience) and commitment (your motivation and confidence).

“It was important for me—and it will be important for you—to realize that you’ll need different leadership styles, or help, depending on your development level on each task.

“For example, suppose your New Year’s resolution is to become physically fit: strong, lean, aerobically conditioned, and flexible/balanced. Let’s say you’re excited about learning to lift weights. That makes you an enthusiastic beginner in strength training—you have no competence but high commitment. When it comes to weight control, you may be a disillusioned learner—you not only lack competence but you’ve also lost your commitment. In the area of aerobics you could be a capable but cautious performer—you know how to use a treadmill but your commitment fluctuates with your mood. And if you’ve taken yoga for years, in the area of flexibility and balance you would be a self-reliant achiever—both competent and committed.”


The third step Blanchard explores is matching. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, matching means finding someone who can provide you with the directive behavior or supportive behavior you need, given your development level on various tasks.

Drawing on his previous example, Blanchard explains, “When you’re an enthusiastic beginner in weight training, you need direction—someone to tell you what, when, where, and how to lift weights. As a disillusioned learner about diet and nutrition, you would need both direction and support—someone to listen to you and also praise you as you change the way you eat. As a capable but cautious performer in aerobics, you don’t need much direction but you do need support—an accountability partner—to get on the treadmill or jogging path. Your passion for yoga makes you a self-reliant achiever in the area of flexibility and balance, so just keep hitting the yoga mat!”

Enlisting a partner who will give you the proper amounts of direction and support, and help keep you accountable, can reap great benefits. And finding someone who has a similar goal to yours is ideal—you can keep each other on track!

Don’t Go It Alone

Few people can accomplish a major life change by themselves. Ken Blanchard finally succeeded when he accepted more direction and support to achieve his fitness goals.

How about you? How much direction and support do you need to succeed? Don’t go it alone—find someone who can help you push through the giddy enthusiastic beginner, paralyzing disillusioned learner, and apprehensive capable but cautious performer stages so that you can reap the rewards of becoming an autonomous self-reliant achiever!

You can read Ken Blanchard’s column, Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work, in the January issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine.

3 thoughts on “New Year’s Goals? Take a Situational Approach: 3 Steps for Getting Started

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