Dedicated to everyone who is looking to make 2016 the year of Big Dreams and #BigIdeas
As I set out to write this article, my last of 2015 – I hope that this will leave you in a good head space as the clock turns, the ball drops and we usher in the unknown of a new year. For many, the thought let alone the verbal act of expressing one’s resolutions have become diluted into more of fashionable trend versus a powerful statement or intention in which someone is looking to take ground in their life. But with a new year approaching, once again you have the opportunity to not just talk about detoxing, finding love or landing your dream job but rather fulfill on those intentions and this article is going to support you in achieving just that.
Let’s start with some fun and fascinating facts about making, keeping and fulfilling on new years resolutions. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, The Top 10 Resolutions of 2015 were:
- Lose Weight
- Getting Organized
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy Life More
- Staying Fit & Healthy
- Learn Something Exciting
- Quit Smoking
- Help Others
- Fall In Love
- Spend More Time With Family
This sounds pretty normal, more or less until you get to this staggering little statistic:
92% of people fail in keeping their New Years Resolutions
So what’s happening here and what can be done about it?
Great questions and I am going to attempt to demystify this entire topic so that by the time you are done reading this, you are able to decide on your own if you are going to make a resolution and if so, are you prepared to keep it.
Let’s first take a good look at what it means to make a resolution and what exactly is involved by making a goal and seeing it through to the end.
According to self-improvement guru James Clear, he argues that the key to accomplishing things is to create systems, not goals.
Okay so now you are probably wondering what the difference is between a system and goal: A goal, like a resolution, is a specific end-point that you want to reach. As Clear explains, a runner’s goal could be to run a marathon. A writer’s goal could be to complete a book. The system, on the other hand, is the strategy you use to achieve those goals. For the runner, that would be the training plan. For the writer, it’s a writing schedule.
He goes on to say that, “the problem with goals, is that you trick yourself into believing that once you reach that goal you’ll be happy and successful. That mindset puts unnecessary stress and weight on your shoulders. Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.”
Regardless of whether you goal is short term or long, you will still need the drive, passion and commitment to seeing them through. Here are 15 ways I found to better support you in achieving your goals:
- Make it something you really want.
Don’t make it a resolution that you “should” want or what other people tell you to want. It has to fit with your own values. Make it two or three resolutions that you intend to keep so this way you’re focusing your efforts on the goals you truly want. This is important so you don’t lose sight or interest as the days, weeks and months endure.
- Be specific.
To be effective, resolutions and goals need to be pretty specific. You can always make them S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
- Be prepared to change some habits.
One reason that resolutions fail is people don’t change the habits that sabotage them. There is a reason you are making a resolution in this particular area of your life and gaining some clarity on how you got here may prove to be the one thing that supports you in achieving your goals. Spend a few minutes reflecting on the past and see if you can jot down a few actions or experiences on your part that led you to this moment in time.
- Write down the goal and visualize it regularly.
Writing and visualizing are effective tools for fulfilling a goal because they fix it firmly in the subconscious. In fact, over 60% of people are visual learners. I personally use this method in my life as well with my clients. Write down your goals, put them in a prominent place where you’ll view them frequently, like your bathroom mirror, fridge or on your desk.
- To tell or not to tell?
Having someone hold you accountable can be a powerful tool. As a coach, it’s my role to play the accountable police but even if you don’t have a coach you are still in great shape. If you have one or two people in your life who will act as cheerleaders or coaches, share the goal with them and be open to the support. One tip I would add is to ensure this person gets the importance of achieving this goal means to you and let them know what to look for in terms of signs you are slipping.
- Forgive yourself.
If you fall off the wagon, jump back on. Many people fall into the trap of believing that if they stumble, they should give up but this is simply not true. The truth is slipping is part of the process, so expect it, acknowledge it and then get back to it. See tip #5 to further support your chances of success.
- Be realistic.
Don’t aim too high and ignore reality – consider your previous experience with resolutions. What led to failure then? It may be that you resolved to lose too much weight or save an unrealistic amount of money. Remember, there will always be more opportunities to start on the next phase, so set realistic goals.
- Create bite-sized portions.
Break goals down to manageable chunks. This is perhaps the most essential ingredient for success, as the more planning you do now, the more likely you are to get there in the end. The planning process is when you build up that all-important willpower which you will undoubtedly need to fall back on along the way.
- Plan a time-frame.
In fact, the time-frame is vital for motivation. It is your barometer for success, the way you assess your short-term progress towards the ultimate long-term goal. Buy a calendar or diary so you can plan your actions for the coming weeks or months, and decide when and how often to evaluate. See tip #2 above.
- Treat yourself.
When making your plan, a vital feature should be the rewards and you will give yourself at those all-important milestones along the way. But be warned, don’t fall into the trap of putting your goal in danger – it’s too easy for a dieter to say “I’ve been so good, I deserve a few candy bars”, or a saver to throw caution to the wind with a new purchase. Treat but don’t spoil yourself.
- Put yourself in charge.
These achievements are under your control – other people can advise, support and coach you but it’s your actions and behaviors which need to change to see the results you want. Having a strong sense of control over your life is necessary to stick with your plans. Those who blame everyone and everything apart from themselves will not have the resources needed to change.
- Join a group.
The social atmosphere and firm time commitment make joining a group a winning strategy for nearly any resolution. Can’t find a group that fits your needs? Why not poll your friends and see if anyone is interested in starting one with you — the sky is the limit.
- Make it automatic.
Technology can be your friend when it comes to remembering daily habits. Trying to slash energy bills this year? Install a thermostat you can control through the gadget itself or via your smart phone. Want to save money for that designer chair you have your eye on? Have cash automatically deposited into an earmarked savings account. Here is a list of apps worth checking out.
- Limit yourself to one goal.
Even if you have many goals you would like to tackle this year, if you can narrow it down to only one to focus on first, your chances of success will be much higher. Multitasking is difficult (see my article: 5 Ways Successful People Avoid Multitasking (and Multi-slacking) At Work) on the best of days, and trying to keep up with too many resolutions is bound to result in a ball dropped somewhere. Instead, choose to focus with laser-like precision on one thing — and be sure to reward yourself amply when you succeed!
- Keep a resolutions chart.
This method is old school, but since Gretchen Rubin swears by it in her popular book The Happiness Project, I am convinced it’s worth a shot. The idea is to hold yourself accountable each day through the habit of checking boxes in a chart — low tech but effective.
The idea and sometimes pressure from others to create a list of new years goals can be daunting, especially when it’s as long as your holiday shopping list of gifts. Tack on that little annoying voice in your head, you know the one that quietly tells you you can’t do something and in this case it’s keeping your commitments past January. That alone is enough anxiety to keep you from being in a festive mood.
However, it is important to remember that the New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for monolithic life or character changes. It should be a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive lifestyle changes. Start by simply making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that you will keep them throughout the year, incorporating healthy behavior into your everyday life.
I want to leave you with this one last piece from James Clear:
“Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.“
What are your 2016 resolutions and how do you plan to achieve success? The floor is yours.
Wishing you and yours a Happy & Healthy New Years,
Not-your-typical Personal and Executive Master Certified Coach.
Joshua Miller is a creative and impactful leader. His career experience has spanned both the advertising world and the world of leadership and organizational development. In advertising, he was responsible in delivering campaign strategies for Fortune 100 companies. Now he innovates and delivers results when supporting executive talent development and change management for the same clients.
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