I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. I’ve never made them and I think the premise is kind of silly. Most people make resolutions on a whim and never take the time to honestly figure out how they are going to accomplish their goal for the new year. Aside from New Year’s Resolutions, I set goals all the time. I’m a goal-oriented person and although my thoughts on how to make and achieve goals has changed over the years, I do feel like it’s very important to push yourself in all aspects of life – career, family, spiritual, athletic, etc.
My goal setting process used to look like this:
Step 1: Put a lot of thought into what my goal should be and why I wanted to accomplish it.
Step 2: Try my best to make the goal a reality, without having real structure or a plan.
Step 3: Accomplish the goal. Or if it appeared to be unreachable, change it or drop it altogether.
Since stepping into a leadership role in my career, I’ve started to work with others in setting and working toward individual goals. This process forced me to really examine how to properly set and achieve goals. My old method was inefficient, and unfortunately, even with good intentions this is the method that most people prescribe to (no wonder 92% of people fail at their New Year’s Resolutions). There is more to reaching goals than just wanting it. Success requires desire and a detailed strategy. Emphasizing the process of getting to the goal lets you break it into smaller, more manageable steps. The following is my recipe for doing just that.
Step 1: Think about what you want the end result of your goal to be Have a purpose! It could be to look better at the beach, earn enough money to buy a boat or a lake house, learn to speak a new language, be a better spouse or parent, finish a marathon, get out of debt, quit smoking or travel to Europe. Whatever it is, it needs to be precise and something that you are passionate about. It should also be something that is outside of your comfort zone. Dream big and come up with something that is truly challenging!
Step 2: Set a completion date and commit to it. Without a deadline, most things never get done. If your goal is to finish a marathon, find a race that is 6-9 months out and sign up. If your goal is to get out of debt, put a date on the calendar when you want to make your final house payment. Make the date realistic, but not too far out. The date cannot be “someday” or “in a few years”, it needs to be near term and have a specific date assigned to it.
Step 3: Set milestones to help you achieve your goal. Rome was not built in a day. You are not going to learn how to speak Spanish in a day either. We’ve all heard the phrase about eating an elephant one bite at a time, you need to have this mentality when it comes to your goals. Milestones are smaller goals that you can work toward on the way to accomplishing the big goal. Constructing a sturdy building requires a strong foundation. These milestones are the foundation of your goal. An example of a milestone toward the goal of getting out of debt might be to pay off your credit cards in three months. Or to cut back to only smoking two packs a week if your ultimate goal is to quit smoking altogether. You should have two or three milestones for your goal.
Step 4: Set small tasks that you can give yourself to get to each milestone. These tasks should be things that you can do daily that are not too overwhelming. With each task, think about potential obstacles and how overcoming them can help you reach a milestone. If your milestone toward a weight loss goal is to eliminate bread from your diet in two weeks, a task might be to remove all the bread from your house, or to tell the server at lunch that you don’t want any rolls. If your milestone toward the goal of being a better spouse is to establish a baseline, a task might be to sit down with your spouse and have them honestly answer how good they feel your are at communicating with them. Just like the goal and milestones, each tasks should have a completion date assigned to it. Each milestone should have two or three tasks associated with it.
With all four steps, it’s critical to write them down and reference them on a DAILY basis. Without a constant reminder of your goal, you are likely to let the small tasks slip, which makes the dates assigned to your milestones impossible to hold.
No matter what your goal, if you are not passionate about it, you are a lot less likely to accomplish it. Some things that you can do to increase this desire is to think about all of the things that will happen if you accomplish the goal. You can also think about what will NOT happen if you miss your goal. People are only driven by two things, pleasure and pain. We all know stories of people that quit smoking after they find out they have cancer. Or the husband that ends his affair once his wife threatens to leave. Or someone that only changes their diet after being diagnosed with diabetes.
In my book The Holistic Approach, I have an entire section on mental preparation. When it comes to achieving a goal, the mental side plays a huge role. Your passion can only carry you so far, the next step is belief. You have to believe that it can and will happen. Your reality is the truth. Don’t let other people form your reality. Don’t let excuses creep into your mind. Rationalizing and making excuses has prevented incredible amounts of potential from blossoming, and is the ultimate killer when it comes to accomplishing your dreams and goals. You must believe that you can accomplish your goal. People around you may not have faith in you, but if you have faith in yourself, what those people think is meaningless. If you are lacking in belief, search for someone that overcame odds and accomplished a goal similar to yours. The internet is full of stories that can motivate you to believe in yourself.
Once you believe in yourself and you expect to accomplish your goal, you need to start gaining confidence. As you complete the small tasks and milestones along the way, congratulate yourself. Creating positive momentum and energy builds your confidence along the way. This will help you roll into the next task or milestone expecting to achieve it before you even start. Assume the feeling of already having accomplished your goal. Get really personal with your goal. Visualize what it looks and feels like, in your body and in your mind, when you have accomplished it. Do what you can to truly know that your dream is on its way to reality. Affirmations reminding you of this work really well.
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