Setting Goals Isn’t Enough: Intentions and Leading Indicators are Critical

Don’t let negative self-talk stop you in your tracks

Steve Glaveski


80per cent of new year’s resolutions fail by February.

There are numerous reasons why people give up before they’ve really got going, one of which is a lack of short-term results.

But goals worth pursuing usually take time to achieve.

It can take months for us to generate real results.

Therefore, it’s critical that we learn how to play the long game.

But how?

We are all susceptible to the optimism bias going into a goal, but our negativity bias can quickly kick in if we’re not seeing immediate results.

If I want to get in shape and I’m not seeing results after several weeks of slogging away in the gym, how do I stay motivated?

If I’m looking to find a romantic partner, but after countless hours spent on mind-numbing dating apps, a half-dozen lousy dates, and a handful of rejections, how do I not throw in the towel?

If I’m wanting to double my company’s revenue this year, but after three months we’re on par with where we were last year, how do I continue believing that this goal is attainable?

Systems Aren’t Enough — Set Intentions Too

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, has spoken at length on the power of systems.

We rise or fall to the level of our systems, not to the level of our goals.

For example, if I’m trying to lose weight, the system could include finding a personal trainer, paying for and scheduling several workouts a week, and having an accountability partner.

But still, I might not see results for months, even with systems in place. Clear himself says that results are a lagging indicator of our habits.

This is where intentions come into play.

Former monk turned author and positive psychology instructor, Cory Muscara, defines intentions as internal commitments that are process-oriented and help us enjoy the journey towards our goal.



Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.