How Mark Zuckerberg, Melinda Gates and other leaders approach New Year’s resolutions

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After the champagne is drunk and the confetti cleaned up, there are usually two camps of people: Those who set New Year's resolutions, and those who do not.

Here's how five of America's business leaders approach setting goals for the new year.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a longtime advocate of New Year's resolutions and he publicly pledges a new personal challenge every year. While he has yet to reveal his resolution for 2018, his past challenges have included some more mundane goals, like "wear a tie every day" (2009) to "become a vegetarian" (2011), and some ambitious ones, like "build a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work" (2016).

This past year, the billionaire's resolution was to meet new people throughout the country.

"My personal challenge for 2017 is to have visited and met people in every state in the U.S. by the end of the year," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. "I've spent significant time in many states already, so I'll need to travel to about 30 states this year to complete this challenge. After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future."

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg recently leaned in to the idea of setting and keeping New Year's resolutions. She revealed that 2016 was the first year in which she stuck with her goal, which was to write down three moments of joy each day in a notebook.

"This is the first year I have ever kept a New Year's resolution," Sandberg told Zuckerberg in a Facebook Live event in 2016.

Overcome your greatest fears by using Tim Ferriss' fear setting exercise

Marcus Lemonis

Businessman Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC's "The Profit," meanwhile, thinks any time is a good time to make a change, not just the end of December.

"I don't know that I make specifically New Year's resolutions. I think I typically make a new resolution when something bad happens or I have a failure or something doesn't go the way I think it should," Lemonis tells CNBC Make It.

"I almost have this reset and I don't use the calendar year as a time to do that. I use a mistake that I've made or a decision that I made that didn't go right as a time to do that."

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has a unique strategy when it comes to resolutions. In the past, she has said that, instead of setting a resolution, she picks a single word to look to for guidance over the next 12 months. In 2016, that word was "gentle."

"I've found this to be more successful than setting a more traditional resolution, because instead of prompting a radical change in behavior, it encourages a gradual change in mindset," Gates wrote in an article for Real Simple. "Last January, I chose the word 'gentle,' and I've spent 2016 trying to put it into practice — being gentler to those around me, gentler in my approach to the world, and most importantly, gentler to myself."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb 

This year, best-selling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb has decided to forgo making any new resolutions. Taleb explained why on Twitter, saying that, since he failed at making all three of his 2017 resolutions, he wouldn't be making any for 2018.


Of course, you can also use failure to spur you on to future success.

Feeling inspired? Before you declare your own New Year's resolutions, make sure you set yourself up for success with some thoughtful planning.

Leadership expert Michael Hyatt recommends starting the goal-setting process with adjusting your mindset to be more optimistic. When it comes to actually crafting your goals, Hyatt suggests writing them down and focusing on goals that give you clarity and direction. The more specific, the better.

Finally, don't forget to keep those goals top of mind with daily, weekly and quarterly goal reviews.

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!

Don't miss: 4 tips to achieve your goals in 2018, according to a leadership expert

5 tricks to make 2018 your most productive year yet