Happy New Year!

As the world prepares to bid 2019 farewell and embrace the next decade with the start of 2020, people everywhere are spending their time making New Year’s resolutions as they celebrate the holidays and wait for the ball to drop from Time’s Square. Sadly, as we all know too well, those self-promises and good intentions only tend to last weeks, days or even hours before they are abandoned or forgotten.

The problem, or loophole that lets so many people off the proverbial hook, lies in how a resolution is actually defined. A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” With this terminology, it means that resolutions are designed to last forever. Using that sense of finality sets people up for immediate failure. If someone makes a resolution to not eat sugar, that resolution is broken as soon as you place a food containing sugar into your mouth whether you were cognizant of it or not. The same applies to business resolutions; if you make a resolution to not utilize contract or agency staff at your hospital, it may not be a declaration you can keep. Healthcare is dynamic and difficult situations present themselves unexpectedly, sometimes requiring outside assistance to remedy.

Unlike resolutions that seem to be “made to be broken,” lasting change happens when goals are created, are supported by targets, and are enforced through good habits. The subtle differences between a goal, target, and habit often lead to misinterpretation and confusion. Let’s break down the differences quickly with definitions and examples.


  • Definition: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result
  • Examples:
    • Health:  Lose weight
    • Finance:  Eliminate debt
    • Business:  Reduce Personnel or Supply Cost or Improve Operating Margin
    • Quality:  Eliminate surgical site infections


  • Definition: selected as an object of attention or attack
  • Examples:
    • Health: Lose 5lbs per month
    • Finance:  Pay Down $500 of debt each month
    • Business: Eliminate overtime hours
    • Quality: Zero surgical site infections


  • Definition: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up
  • Examples:
    • Health:  Move or exercise 30 minutes a day
    • Finance:  Save $20 a day, which will be used to make an additional debt payment at the end of the month
    • Business: Check and track overtime utilization daily and correct issues continuously
    • Quality:  Clean the skin at the site of your surgery with a special soap that kills germs

When establishing targets and goals, frequency determines success. Yearly, quarterly, weekly and daily targets continuously drive progress towards achieving overall goals and, in doing so, creating valuable habits. These habits ultimately become the building blocks to long-term success by providing the structure necessary for the changes made to be sustained. Even the slightest adjustments to daily activities help to build the momentum needed for personal improvement and professional growth.

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