Identity, Goals, and Systems: A Better Approach to 2023 Resolutions

Dan Goslen
6 min readJan 9, 2023

January 03, 2023

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

While wandering the streets during New Year’s Eve several years ago (pre-COVID), I came upon a tree. Our fellow NYE participants had covered the tree with small strips of paper using bits of twine or string to affix them to the branches. On each was a short phrase written in squiggly marker with phrases like “Get in shape,” “Get on a budget,” or “Stop drinking.” Each was a resolution for the coming year.

I wondered: how many people gave more than 30 seconds of thought to their so-called resolution? Did they ever write it down somewhere else? How will they remember it?

Our culture loves the idea of a resolution and making significant changes about ourselves in the New Year. But we know the data: most resolutions don’t work. Resolutions are often vague, unplanned, and without any accountability structure — ingredients required for successful behavior change. If we want to change our lives in the coming year, we need more than a resolution: we need actionable goals and a system to put them in place.

A popular book on behavior change is the now famous Atomic Habits by James Clear. A famous quote from the book is this:

You don’t rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems

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Dan Goslen

Jesus follower | Husband | Dad | Software engineer. Helping devs build better teams