Within a couple months, we will be celebrating New Year’s Day. As we enter the new year, many of us will use the turning of the calendar page as an…
Within a couple months, we will be celebrating New Year’s Day. As we enter the new year, many of us will use the turning of the calendar page as an opportunity to reflect on our life. We will see the things in our life that we would like to improve, and we will start the year with a new ambition to be thinner, healthier, more disciplined, etc.
Over the years, I’ve become skeptical of New Year’s Resolutions, because most people who declare a resolution are merely engaging in wishful thinking. I’m including myself in that statement; I’ve used New Years to chart a new path more than once without avail. But the act of self-reflection, and wanting to better yourself, is a good thing. The dawning of a new year is as good of a reason to make positive change in your life as any other. So rather than being a New Year’s naysayer, let’s talk about some ways to improve the odds of sticking to our resolutions.
I’ve become very focused on using business planning to drive results in my business, and I’ve shared my process with those around me. The concepts of business planning translate well into personal goals, so they can help us here too. The first and most important realization is this:
A goal without a plan is merely wishful thinking.
A goal is an important first step because it defines what you are going to work towards. The problem is that the goal doesn’t contain everything you need get to your desired results. There are three other critical components that will greatly increase the likelihood of achieving your goal.
In every pursuit, we can find smaller “mini-goals” that I’ll refer to as metrics. These metrics are the proof along the way that you are doing the work needed to get to your goal. Using the most common New Year’s goal of weight loss as an example, the most important metrics to track are nutrition and exercise. Ask yourself the following question, “what results do I need to see in these metrics to achieve my goal?” Examples of this might be limiting calorie intake to 1800 calories/day, or burning 500 calories through exercise four days/week.
Tracking specific results on your metrics helps you see the difference between doing some work, and doing the work that’s necessary to accomplish the goal. Going to the gym may look like doing the work, but if you are not burning enough calories while you are there you are only deceiving yourself about your effort. The metrics you choose need to be specific and measurable so you can verify that you’ve done the necessary work.
If metrics answer what needs to be done, strategies answer where, when, and how. Strategies work best if you make them as specific as you possibly can. Rather than just saying, “go to the gym four days/week”, list the specific days and specific times you will be there, and what exercise you will do when you’re at the gym. If we fail to do the work needed to reach our goal, it is often because we allow for too much variability. When life throws us a curveball, (which will happen) we allow other things to derail our efforts. Taking as much variability out of the equation increases the likelihood of sticking to the plan.
The last component is accountability. If we were disciplined enough to accomplish our goals on our own, we probably would have done so already. Enlisting one or more accountability partners greatly increases the likelihood of staying on plan. Choose people who are genuinely interested in your well-being, and who are tough enough to hold your feet to the fire. When you fail to execute a strategy, you want people to respond firmly and get you back on track. Have a routine check-in with your accountability partners to update them on how well you are executing your strategies.
It can be tempting to skip this step, but don’t do it. Deep down, we can be concerned about how others will view us if we will fail. If we surround ourselves with people who genuinely care about our well-being, they will not abandon us when we fall short. But they will help redirect us and keep us moving towards our goals.
How good would it feel to be well on your way to reaching your goal when New Year’s Day comes around? There is no time like the present to begin working towards your goals. Start planning today, and use New Year’s Day to celebrate the progress you have made instead!
To your well-being,