Goal Setting for Gen Z-ers: Keep Your Goals in 2020


It’s 2020. You feel refreshed and want to put your best foot forward into the new decade. You’re not alone. There’s a shift in the air, a feeling of reset, that begins days before a new year and lingers throughout January. Studies show this is when the highest volume of goal-setting takes place. But, according to U.S. News and World Report, 80 percent of New Year resolutions fail by February. 

Did you know there’s a known pattern that most personal changes occur on Mondays, birthdays, certain religious holidays, and the New Year? Obsessed with self-improvement, Gen Zers are bombarded with personal development content from self-care products, weight loss apps, productivity journals, books on self-improvement, and even Astrology apps like Co-Star and The Pattern to guide daily intentions or actions. Even with the extra assistance, however, our attempts aren’t always successful.

Gen-Zers and self-improvement
Photograph by Jared Rice

It takes more than willpower and determination to strive for change. Professor David DeSteno from Northeastern University states that because we tend to rationalize with ourselves, it causes short-sighted goals, i.e. “I deserve an extra scoop of ice cream” or “I didn’t budget these new sneakers that are dropping. But I’ll just take it out of my savings and I’ll start really saving on my next paycheck.” In these examples, instead of sticking to a nutrition plan or savings goal, we’ll rationalize for instant gratification which ultimately sets us back. How many times did we fall off from the gym routine or break our social media cleanse, watched TV versus doing homework, or got off track from finishing a book? Getting off course from resolutions or goals happens more during January. That isn’t commentary toward your dedication or level of commitment. It may just be difficult to make new routines, especially in January, “which is a really difficult time to make changes because we’re run down from all the holiday activities, our routines have shifted,” explained NBC News, adding. . . “for most of us, the cold weather doesn’t have us functioning optimally.” In short, we don’t like to change our habits even if it’s beneficial for us. Even when motivated to make the effort, we’re creatures of habit — and without the inertia of a good start, our bodies and neurobiology naturally goes against our attempt to change.  

And while the statistics may look grim for accomplishing resolutions or the goals set at the top of the year, the upside is we can teach our brain to get used to change. Growth isn’t a linear process, after all. It takes an actual plan to feel less overwhelmed and feel your progress. 

Growth is not linear
Photograph by Isaac Smith

You may have heard of the acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based) for goal setting, but effective goal setting also needs an achievable action plan. Although we may mean well, stopping short of developing a strategic plan leaves us without a step-by-step roadmap to succeed — or even get started. One mythology to help with fleshing out your personal strategic plan is the 1-3-5 approach. Known as a way to simplify your to-do lists, the 1-3-5 approach can also be applied to goal-setting. Beyond lofty wishes like “get rich,” “get insta-famous,” or “pursue my passion project,” 1-3-5 breaks down your larger aspiration into subgoals then to smaller habits to form building blocks for realizing your vision. If we’re not relying entirely on grit and willpower but cognizant of our goals by breaking them down, it’ll be easier to navigate what psychologists call “intertemporal choice” — in this case, debating between rationalizing if you want instant gratification or willing to forgo so you can have a better gain in the future.

Below is a breakdown of the 1-3-5 approach and how it’ll increase your success rate for goals:


Aim for the bigger picture, but be tactical. Identify your intentions behind your objective. Is it a change that you want or need, or is obligation driving it? Set goals based on what you want.


Create bite-size goals that are specific to help attain your main objective. Concentrate on what would feel like the biggest wins. 


Support strategies for your goals using a verb-noun structure. These action items must drive you towards action. These will connect and will build toward your main objective. 

Goal Getter Worksheet by Find Your Grind


Here is an example of the 1-3-5 strategy in play:

Example of Goal Getter Worksheet by Find Your Grind


Interested in developing more healthy habits or how to identify your strengths and opportunities? Check out this Unit 1 Activity: Find Your Self of the Find Your Grind curriculum


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