Believe it or not, it’s just a slim margin who achieve what they set out to do. Every January First, a collective inhale followed by a half-hearted, “here we go” occurs worldwide. The fat and happy holidays are over. An empty new calendar invites us to make something of the new year.
About half of Americans make new year’s resolutions. And of those folks, an astounding 92% give up, let go, or forget – oftentimes within the first few weeks of January. What sets apart the other 8% from the rest? As a lifelong goal setter and achiever, I have a few thoughts on the matter.
I am one of those goal setting, calendar-using nerds. At the age of 21, I discovered the Franklin Planner which was all the rage in the 1990s. I took the seminar and read the books. When my contemporaries were following the latest fashion trends and dance moves, I was filling in the empty spaces of my planner, plotting my life goals and devising plans.
Admittedly, being a calendar user does not equate to goal achievement. I have seen goals fall by the wayside and opportunities pass me by. That said, having lived more than half my life using a system to dream, plan, and track has resulted in satisfaction and purpose. This also means I’ve become somewhat of an expert on goals and what it takes to make it happen. So without further ado, here are my suggestions for joining that small crowd of 8% who achieve their goals.
- Write down your goals. This may seem obvious. The truth is, thoughts come to us while driving, in conversation, or while drifting off to sleep. And we never write down our big ideas. If you don’t write down what you really want, it’s no different than tossing a penny in a fountain or blowing out a candle on a cake. Don’t simply wish for what you want. Have the courage to transform it into a daily thing that you think about and work toward.
- Be specific. You’ve got to practically see what it is that you want. Describe it with detail. Losing weight is a popular goal for many people. It can be difficult to settle on a goal weight, so many people just say they want to lose weight or feel better or be healthier. Those statements are simply too open-ended and not specific. What if the goal was about fitting into a new a dress for a wedding and imagine yourself dancing and posing for photos, feeling beautiful and confident. A vision board can be a useful aid for making goals more real and specific.
- Goals must be aligned to values or a long term vision. When goals are the smaller steps to a bigger and more meaningful vision for how you want to live your life, you greatly increase the odds you will achieve the goal. You’ve hooked your goals onto something of real substance such that your goals won’t fall away too easily.
- Share your goals with someone. This is where the rubber starts meeting the road. Many of us have secret hopes and wishes that remain locked away in our private thoughts. It takes courage to share, and in doing so you are strengthening your resolve to make the goal a reality. If your goal is met with anything less than support, find another person to share with. About 50% of Americans do not set goals. So if you have shared your goal with one of those folks, more than likely they are not going to be supportive (they may even be intimidated by your desire to improve yourself). Share with someone who is delighted by your audacious goal!
- You’ve got to be passionate about it. The goals that I’ve achieved were things that I really, really wanted. The goals that fell away were things that did not grab me. They were pennies in the fountain of life. They were throw away goals, things that would be nice if they fell in my lap but nothing that was a fire in my belly.
- You need support and a feedback. You need someone with whom you can discuss what is working and what is not working and what adjustments need to be made to achieve your goal. This is one of the benefits of coaching. It has been said that you can go far on your own, but you don’t know how much farther you could have gone with a life coach.
- Willpower doesn’t have that much power over you. Nike has it right, just do it. The more you do what you feel you ought to do for yourself, the more willpower you will create. The thing about willpower is that it grows. So when you catch yourself looking at a pan of brownies and thinking, “I don’t have that much willpower” as if to give yourself permission to throw away your goal, replace that negative thought with positive action. Step away from the temptation, reframe your thoughts, and grow your willpower.
- Celebrate the little things along the way. Have fun and don’t make goals such a chore. Setting goals is more about living the life you choose. It’s about embracing who you are and who you are becoming. It’s about progress, not perfection. Shoot yourself some grace on the harder days and throw yourself a little party on the awesome days. You are so worth it!
One of the greatest benefits of setting goals, in my opinion, is that it moves you down the continuum of progress. If you fall short of achieving your goal, if you were treating it with respect and keeping it in sight, well then… you are winning. You are learning, gaining more experience and mastery. These are great things!
Let’s hear it for a new year and a new calendar wide open with possibilities and promise! Happy New Year!