This is the time of year when people pause to think about what they want to be different about their lives, or what specific goals they want to achieve in the coming new year.

Thus they make resolutions year after year to be better, fully optimistic that this will be the year their dreams become their reality. But unfortunately, most new year's resolutions fail. Data shows only 9 percent of people achieved success with what they set out to achieve.

That abysmal number can often be chalked up to folks not going deep enough when it comes to making a plan for how to reach their goals.

For instance, most people's strategy for changing their behavior is relying on their willpower. They think simply deciding to do better will be enough to actually help them. But willpower and motivation have proven to be unreliable allies over the long-term when it comes to impacting your behavior.

As such it is understandable why so many people abandon their resolutions within the first few weeks. No bueno.

This doesn't mean that goal setting isn't fruitful. It just means you need a smarter strategy that will support you in your journey to success, rather than working against you.

The key question that sets you up to actually achieve your goals

It isn't enough to just know what you want to achieve. You've got to go one step further in your planning to get a view of what will be required of you to make your goal a reality and to sustain it over the long-term.

Thus a key question that needs to be integral to your planning is this: "Who do I need to become to reach my goals?"

So if your goal was to lose twenty pounds, and of course keep it off, then an answer to your "who do I need to become" question might look like this:

  • I need to be someone who works out for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week
  • I need to be someone who eats homecooked meals 5 to 6 days a week
  • I need to be someone who preps healthy meals in advance, so I don't make poor food choices out of convenience

And if your professional goal is to publish a book, then the output of your "who do I need to become" exercise could look like this:

  • I need to be someone who writes at least a thousand words a day, 5 days a week
  • I need to be someone who reads at least twenty minutes a day every day
  • I need to be someone who is able to engage in at least one hour of deep work 5 days a week (for efficiency)

See how that works?

By connecting the attainment of your goals to specific behaviors that will enable you to achieve them, you can chart a clear path for what will be required for success.

I've seen the benefits of walking through this exercise in my own life. When I set a goal to take surfing lessons, I knew I had to first become someone who was able to swim well. So I signed up for private swim lessons and then had a weekly swim workout on my own to improve my skills.

And when I decided I wanted to put a cap on the number of hours I worked each week, that meant I had to become someone who was more productive. For me, that meant blocking off two days a week with no meetings, so I could dedicate time on those days to do creative work. And now it means scheduling planning and research time into the calendar, so when I sit down to work on projects, I already have the information I need to complete the task efficiently.

There are a number of entrepreneurs and business leaders who subscribe to this approach. As a result, they are quite prolific in consistently producing high-quality work.

For instance, in his book On Writing, famed author Stephen King noted that if you want to be a writer, you have to read and write a lot. He recommends four to six hours of reading and writing a day.

And in their international best-seller The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan encourage readers to follow their lead to time block the first four hours of every day to focus on working on the work that makes the biggest impact.

You can reach your goals. But you've got to be willing to consistently engage in the specific actions that will help you achieve them. A smart way to get started is by asking the essential question that helps you map out what key changes need to be made in how you operate.