The opportunity: Poor goal setting strategies are often to blame.
The solution: Use these 10 steps for goal setting success and make 2016 the best year yet!
Why New Year's resolutions don't work
1.) No clear plan
You may have heard the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin that goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Similarly, the French author Antoine de Saint Exupéry is credited with saying, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." Nothing rings truer when it comes to setting and keeping your goals. No matter how determined, motivated, and heartfelt you are, if you don't have a plan then you won't have success.
2.) "Should do's" versus "Want to's"
There's a big difference between doing something that you think you "should do" versus doing something because you genuinely "want to." Most often, when you believe you "should" do something, you're not really that into it for one reason or another. For example if you say, "I 'should' lose 10 pounds," you could mean that you don't actually want to do it, but that you might look more like the airbrushed picture on the cover of the magazine if you did. On the other hand if you say, "I 'want' to lose 10 pounds," you could be saying that you would like to lose the extra weight so that you can feel healthier, have more energy, and fit into those pants you love.
So many of the goals we set for ourselves are unrealistic and therefore unachievable from the start. You might have a goal for yourself that is so complicated that you'd need Albert Einstein to come back from the dead and invent a new equation to solve it. As he famously said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Or, if it's not too complicated, you may be making yourself wait too long to experience small victories along the way to a larger one. This can be frustrating and can sap your motivation to stay the course. You may also be forgetting to prioritize your goals effectively, which can leave you spinning and chasing something just outside of your grasp. Last, but not least, you might feel like you either want it all right now or not at all. This is possibly the most challenging culprit in setting unrealistic goals and takes a complete change in mindset to overcome.
If you don't have a plan then you won't have success.
4.) The inner critic
The inner critic is that small voice inside that tells you that you can't do it, you're not good enough, and that you shouldn't even try because you might fail. It's the inner judge, jury, and executioner of your biggest goals and most important dreams. As I wrote in a previous post, your inner critic is looking for what's wrong, what's missing, what's impossible. Instead of listening to this unwelcome intruder, learn to tap into your inner champion which is the voice inside of you that knows better. If you only listen to your inner critic, it will continue to dominate your thought life, keeping you from ever fully accomplishing your goals.
5.) No passion or purpose
Setting goals is more than just the mechanical work of thinking them up, writing them down, and working them out. They should also be relevant to who you are and to what moves your soul. One inspiring quote from an unknown author says, "Purpose is the reason for your journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way." I love this! Think of purpose as your big "Why?" and passion and your big "Wow!" When you lack a sense of purpose or passion, staying motivated is often an uphill battle. But, when you can stay connected with your sense of purpose and passion in relation to your goals, then you can keep the fire going to the end without burning out or extinguishing the flame.
6.) Quitting before the miracle happens
I've done it, you've done it, we've all done it. We give up too soon because we can't see the end of the road and we think it will never come. One reason for this is not acknowledging your progress along the way. When you don't give yourself credit for your small accomplishments, it's just like they never even happened as far as your mind is concerned. What you pay attention to grows, and what you ignore fades and dies. Be sure to recognize your progress as you go and you'll last longer. Another reason we quit too soon is that we might think it only takes about 21 days to form a new habit based on information from a couple of decades ago. This is no longer true. The newest research shows that it actually takes us more like 66 days, which is just about 2 months. Give yourself more time to reach your goals and you increase your chances of attaining them. And likely the biggest reason we give up early is that we have little or no accountability to another person. Get an accountability partner that you can trust to keep you honest, encouraged, and on target and you are saying YES to success.
Purpose is the reason for your journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.
10 steps for goal setting success
1.) Forget resolutions! Set goals instead.
Give up on those tired old ways of making changes in your life and start over with an all new approach to goal setting success.
2.) Do it because you want to.
Throw out the "should do's" and let in the "want to's." Make the goals you set for yourself something that you want to do - at least mostly. The more you honestly want to make a change, the more motivated you will be in seeing it all the way through.
3.) Practice being grateful for the good stuff you already have.
Instead of focussing on what's missing from your life, focus on what you already have to be grateful for. Good health, good friends, enough food to eat, water to drink, clothes to wear, the kindness of a stranger, the warmth of the sun, the beauty of your lover, the wonder in your children's eyes, and the list goes on and on. Start small and build from there. Take opportunities for noticing what is good and right in the world. It goes a long way toward helping you feel more satisfied with your life as it is now, while you pursue your goals and dreams into an even better future.
4.) Connect with your values and sense of purpose and passion.
Remember that your goals should move you on a deeper level than just your brain. Take your heart with you and you'll be able to go the distance. Tap into your most important personal guiding principles, deepest reasons for why you have your goals, and the inspiring feelings that keep your fire burning to pursue them. Then there's no holding you back! If you're unsure about what your real goals are, start here and then develop goals that really move you.
5.) Clearly define a specific outcome you want to achieve for each of your goals.
Be as crystal clear as you possibly can about the results you want to see from your goals. Don't settle for any wishy-washy outcomes. Dig in and state your expectations in a way that leaves no room for doubt.
6.) Ensure that your goals are realistic but also require you to stretch.
No need to be an Einstein here. Simplify the scope and scale of your goals, and then simplify again if necessary. Make sure that your goals feel doable, but that they also make you wonder just a bit if you can really do it. That's the sweet spot. If you have absolutely no doubts, it could mean that your confidence is soaring or that your goal is not quite enough to challenge you. Only you can know that for sure. Either way, keep stretching but stay flexible. Allow yourself time to complete your goal and adjust the timeline as needed. And remember to acknowledge your progress all along the way!
7.) Make a clear commitment to yourself and share with an accountability partner.
You've come this far. It's time to take responsibility for your goals by fully committing to the process, and by sharing your commitment with someone you can count on to help you stay the course. The goals you set should be easy to understand and progress should be measurable in some form or another. When you're choosing someone to help hold you accountable, pick a person that works for your personality and preferences. If you need someone to chew you out when you slack off, go for it. That's not my style, so I make sure to choose someone who is honest, insightful, supportive and caring, but that also will not let me off the hook! As coach, this is the way I prefer to help hold my clients accountable to their goals and dreams.
8.) Prioritize it. Schedule it. Do it. Repeat.
Change is hard no matter how motivated you are. You have to make your goals a high priority, and that may mean letting go of other important things in your life for a while. This can be tough for sure, but remember how great it will feel when you can look back and say, "I did it!" In order to get on track, and stay there, you have to schedule tasks associated with your goals. There's no way around it, so don't even try. Suck it up and do the work of blocking out and protecting the time you need to work on your goals. Then do it. No matter what. No excuses. Just do it. And repeat. Although getting used to a new routine takes a little while, it doesn't take nearly as long as giving up now and having to start over again.
9.) Regularly acknowledge your successful progress and share it with others.
This is something a lot of us struggle to do, but it's so important to your success. Don't cheat yourself out of all of the time and energy you've put into your goals. When you make progress, take note of it and tell your accountability partner. If they are excited and happy for you, then you picked a good partner. If not, then pick someone else. You deserve to acknowledge the changes you're making, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Also share your progress with close friends, select co-workers, and a few family members. Above all, allow yourself to experience the feelings of pride and accomplishment for all of your hard work!
10.) Celebrate each and every goal that you achieve. Include friends or family.
When you do achieve your goals (and you WILL), make an event out of it. Have a party at home, a big night out, or take a trip somewhere you've always wanted to go. Invite friends and family and turn it into something you'll always remember. This helps to bring a sense of closure to your goal and enables you to consciously realize that you made it. Celebrating will also encourage you to continue with this goal into the future if it's a long term change, and will boost your sense of confidence about pursuing your next goal. This is the sweet taste of success. Now celebrate it!
- Mark Twain