The One Mistake You Want to Avoid With New Years Goals

Many people make the mistake of choosing outcome-based goals instead of habit-focused goals. The difference is you don’t control the outcome.

For example, one million YouTuber subscribers is an outcome-goal. You can’t fully control it. You can create the best videos, but maybe because you’re brand new to the platform, the algorithm being funky, you getting banned off YouTube, or some other thing outside of your control, you can’t achieve it. What you can do is set behavioral goals, such as “I will make one quality video per week and make sure it’s more engaging than the one that can before.” That’s something you can fully control since you design and produce the video yourself. You have full creative control.

Outcome goals can cause issues because you could be doing all the right or wrong things, and the outcome may not correlate to your efforts.

This concept applies to all types of goals. You can’t control if there’s a recession that happens that affects your career or job, so having some income goal on its own isn’t realistic. You’re better off setting behavioral goals you can control that will get you closer to that outcome. For example, you can say you have a goal of wanting to spend one more hour of your time strategizing and implementing marketing plans to market your business or career per week. That’s something you can control and can lead to more income opportunities.

One last example is any social goals you have. Having a goal of charming every person you meet or making the people you meet happy and interested in you is too outside of your control. There’s so many factors that you can’t influence, such as all the ways the world can affect their mood, like if they just got fired, if their dog died, if they found out they got cancer, if they’re hangry (hungry and angry), and so forth. Instead, you can set a goal to smile two times as much as you usually do to appear more warm and less cold and intimidating. The control of your mouth is entirely yours!

As a bonus tip, use SMART goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. These avoid other mistakes made. If a goal isn’t reasonably achievable, that isn’t always a bad thing, since you sometimes surprise yourself. However, some people are way too ambitious and they end up burning themselves out or taking on so much that they don’t even get started or don’t stick with it when they don’t get close. It’s up to you though since some people aim very high, and they’re able to stay somewhat consistent and they’re happy with those results.

Having something specific and measurable lets you see if you’re making progress or hitting those habits. If it’s too vague, it’s easy to make excuses or say you’re doing something that isn’t actually happening or effective.

Setting a time-bound deadline also keeps you from procrastinating or endlessly putting it off.

There are a couple enhancements I’d make to a SMART goal. First, add some form of deliberate practice to the SMART goal so that you’re improving or enhancing or doing more than you used to. You need to change your behavior or life somehow to see a change from the status quo. If you’ve been making a video per week for years and it’s not working, you need to work on making better videos. Similarly, if you run twenty minutes a day and have plateaued with your speed, you need to examine ways of improving how you run during that time and practice to improve your speed. Turn your SMART goals into SMART habits that focus on improve, analysis, and action rather than just setting a finish line point.

And finally, I would suggest going beyond writing your SMART goals and actually form a game plan towards navigating obstacles you already know will come up. If you know that lack of time and energy is going to stop you from achieving your SMART goal, don’t just ignore it. Find a plan so that you still get it completed. Maybe it’s waking up early so you make your YouTube video at the start of the day rather than the end. Or maybe it’s finding ways of making it fun.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.


  1. Hey Will, you make a very good point about why process based goals are important since you have control over your own behaviors.

    I tend to use both, since process goals just seem like the obvious next step once you choose an outcome goal and then ask yourself, “How do I achieve that?”

    But I gotta admit, I get WAY more excited over outcome goals vs process goals.

    Do you ever feel like that?
    Or do you feel more motivated/excited about process goals?

    1. Chris, great points. There is usually an implied outcome goal with a process goal. I tend to use both as well. I found that depending on the outcome goal, one can get excited but that excitement can fade quickly once they realize the work needed. A great body from nutrition and exercise is one example. That said, I can see people getting and maintaining that excitement for finishing a marathon or visiting Costa Rica / traveling the world.

      It’s true that some process goals and habits don’t excite me as much. I do have goals of creating content every other day, which can be more of a regular activity than something that super charges me. The processes that excite me, like filming the video, I do naturally and don’t need as much of a process for it.

      Most of the time, the outcome is the PLEASURE/Pay Off, so it’s naturally more exciting and enjoyable. The Process is the PAINFUL / unpleasant / Pay-In, which is naturally not as enjoyable. What many succesful people say is that you have to find some way of enjoying the journey/climb/work more than the destination because the man who loves the walk more than the finish line walks farther or actually get theres. This is the whole follow your passion route, which is great in theory, harder and takes longer to find/establish in practice.

      So, to stop rambling, I think this tendency is natural. That said, we need to find ways of channeling a sustainable motivation so we don’t quick our NY resolutions in a short period of time and fail.

      1. Well said, Will, and not rambly at all lol. I appreciate your insights, dude.

        And I’m glad you keep pushing yourself to keep blogging and vlogging and learning and (of course) improving. None of these are easy, but they’re all worth it.

        Have a great week

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