Did you make any resolutions this year?
Did you resolve to go to the gym, lose weight, make more money, save more money, or be less stressed? How well are you doing so far?
If your resolutions have already fallen by the wayside or never started. You’re not alone. A FranklinCovey survey found that more than 75 percent of people break their New Year’s resolutions, and 35 percent don’t even make it until the end of January.
What’s behind these low success rates? 40 percent of the respondents said they had too many other things to do, while 33 percent said they were never committed to the resolutions in the first place.
If you’re looking to set new goals this year (and let’s face it, we all want to change or improve some aspects of our personal and business lives), it’s critical that you set yourself up for success. That means getting away from this silly, once-a-year, obligatory list of resolutions. Don’t worry that we’re well into January. You can set goals for yourself any time of the year; you just need to be in the right frame of mind.
Visualize Your Goals: What’s Really Important to You?
One problem with New Year’s resolutions is that the tradition has become so ingrained in our culture that it’s easy to churn out a long list of common resolutions (like lose weight or save money) without a moment of thought or reflection.
Take some time to evaluate what things are most important to you: what do you want to change, where do you want to go, what would you like to be different a year from now? You can even put visualization techniques to work by taking a few slow, deep breaths and visualizing a specific goal in as much detail as possible. The more clearly you can see your goal, the more inspired you will be.
Some people use vision boards to map out their goals, but I’ve always taken a slightly different approach. At the beginning of each year, I write a letter to myself. The twist is, I write the letter as if the year were already over and all my goals accomplished. By writing it this way, I visualize my goals as reality as opposed to hazy wishes for the future. Then, I seal the letter and check back a year later to see what I actually accomplished.
Make Your Goals Specific
If you are familiar with the term SMART goals, then you know that “Specific” is the first word in that acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound). New Year’s resolutions are typically too high-level to be actionable. Saying, “I want to be healthier” is a nice thought, but it doesn’t give you any guidance on how to make it happen.
If you want to get serious about a goal this year, then you need to dive down into the details. Let’s say you want your business to make more money. Come up with some specific goals for how to make that happen; for example, set a goal to make five more cold calls each week, attend three networking events, or try one new form of advertising.
The key here is focusing your goals on what you can control. You can’t necessarily control or predict whether or not you land a new client, but you can control what actions and steps you take to make it happen.
Break Everything Down into the Smallest Steps Possible
Even when you make a tangible and specific goal like attending more networking events, this can’t be accomplished all at once. You need to break it down into a series of smaller steps (research potential events, schedule events, practice your “cocktail pitch,” etc.). In psychological terms, you’re moving from goal intention to implementation.
Breaking down a larger goal into small, individual steps helps you see your progress, which is an essential element in motivation. I read about an interesting experiment in which participants were instructed to squeeze something for 130 seconds. Half of the people saw a progress bar on a computer screen and the other half had a stopwatch. The thinking was that the progress bar made it easier to visualize progress than the stopwatch.
As the test closed in on the 130-second mark, the people with the progress bar were more likely to keep up their efforts, while the people with the stopwatch were more likely to succumb to the fatigue.
Adapted from an original article by By Nellie Akalp