It happens every year around this time: many millions of people across the globe vow- fireworks included- to turn a new leaf in the name of self-improvement, committing wholeheartedly to a fresh start. And then, around the second or third week of January, motivation begins to wane; the person they’d hoped to become eventually acquiesces to the comfort zone of where they’ve always been. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does to me! Every New Year’s Eve for over a decade, I’d vowed to quit smoking, only to feel more frustrated and beat down each and every time I failed. My list of resolution disasters continued to grow alongside my disillusionment and it was not until I changed my SYSTEMS that I was able to experience success with my goals. Here are my top 5 tips to give those resolutions sticking power:
1. Set SMARTER Goals
Many people make the mistake of setting half-baked goals like “lose weight” or “make more money”, often because they’re just not quite sure how to go about designing a success-oriented resolution. Give each goal you’ve set a real boost in potential by running them through a SMARTER checklist:
SPECIFIC goals are precise and answer the “who”, “what”, “when” and “where” questions. For instance, instead of setting the goal of “improve my health,” you would create a goal such as “go to the gym for a 45 minute strength training workout every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and pre-plan and prepare my meals for the week on Sunday evenings between 6-8pm.”
MEASURABLE goals require quantifiable criteria to track your progress. How will you know that your goal is achieved? How will you measure it? Generally, it’s best to set up a system to record your progress for each goal, whether that’s a spreadsheet, journal or in an app.
ATTAINABLE goals are built on self-respect and self-efficacy. These resolutions are achievable because you’re willing to put in the necessary work they require, whether that’s building new skills, talking to the right people, or changing your schedule around.
RELEVANT goals have the importance they deserve in your life, and are given the space they require. Exploring the real reasons behind setting a goal will let you know whether it’s relevant or not. Do you really want to complete a triathlon, or do you merely admire triathletes? Is making enough money to buy a sports car really important to you, or are you just trying to prove something?
TIMELY goals are made with a specific time frame in mind, often broken down into a few components. For instance, if your goal is to train for a marathon, you may set a goal of running 4 times a week for 16 weeks and signing up for a race on a specific date.
EXCITING goals are key- if you’re not enthusiastic about what you’ve set out to do, your chances of accomplishing it are going to be pretty slim. Dig deep to unearth your true reasons for achieving your goal, and imagine yourself finally attaining it. How does that feel? Does this resolution make you excited about your life?
REVIEWED goals keep you on target throughout the process. By reviewing your goals each week, you’ll pinpoint what you need to do in order to improve your chances of reaching it, and make any necessary tweaks along the way. For instance, perhaps you’ve set a goal of building muscle by weightlifting 4 times a week in the mornings before work, but your boss has made a shift change and asked you to come in an hour earlier. Reviewing your goals gives you the opportunity to edit and revise as necessary, rather than dropping the resolution altogether.
2. Get Accountable
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a behavior change specialist and regular goal achiever, it’s that success rarely- if ever- happens in a vacuum. A support team can make all the difference in how far you’ll travel toward your dreams, and contrary to popular belief, they’re not so difficult to build. With the proliferation of social media groups, buddy apps, fellowships and meetup groups, you can easily link to motivated people who are traveling along the same path that you are, and who will be more than happy to establish a mutual accountability arrangement. Hiring a professional accountability partner like a personal trainer, coach or therapist can also provide an incredible motivational boost. These professionals come armed with an ample box of tools and skillsets to keep you on top of your game. For some reason, we human beings will often choose disappointing ourselves over disappointing someone else, and for this reason alone, accountability can be just the magic you need to fuel your resolutions.
3. Measure Your Progress
As a component of SMARTER goals, creating a reliable tool to measure your progress will keep you thoughtfully focused day-to-day while minimizing feelings of overwhelm. There are many options for measurement, and one I’m particularly fond of is behavior change guru Marshall Goldsmith’s method of tracking and accountability in the evening, as covered in his latest book,
"Triggers." Instead of listing each specific goal in a spreadsheet, he suggests reframing the goal by asking, “Did I do my best to________?” each day, and then rankiing the answer on a scale of 1-10. Additionally, he mentions enlisting a reliable accountability partner to review this list at the end of each day and briefly talk over any pitfalls. I was impressed to learn that one of the most esteemed coaches of our time actually hires a coach to phone him each night to go over his spreadsheet! It only takes about 5 minutes, and the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.
4. Put Your Money On It
If you want to put some real skin in the game, throw your money down! No one likes to lose money, which is why I recommend signing up to an accountability program like Stikk, an app that has users define their goal, set a timeline, and then put something at stake, whether that’s their hard-earned dough or their reputation through donating to a charity or a cause they vehemently oppose. According to Stikk, using a commitment contract triples the goal-setter’s chance of success. If an app like Stikk doesn’t appeal to you, then consider parting with your beans by purchasing a service that supports your resolution. This could include a personal training or coaching package, a gym membership or a race entry packet for a 10km or triathlon.
5. Visualize the Future
Without a clear picture of where you’re heading, how can you reach your desired destination? Being able to clearly imagine where you’d like to be in the future, as well as the person you’re working to become, is paramount to effectively reaching a big goal, particularly if that goal may take years to achieve. I have personally been using visualization to reach my goals for many years, and now lead sell-out workshops on a topic that drives my own life. Instead of solely visualizing the end goal, I recommend first writing down the steps required to the goal, and actually visualizing each component of the process. For example, ifyou want to open a business this year, map out what it will actually take to do so, from waking up earlier to meeting the perfect business partner or investor to landing your first client. What does that look like to you, and how does it feel?
While visualization isn’t as easy as “The Secret” would like you to believe- explicit action is required- numerous studies prove that having a clear picture of the journey ahead can make a big difference, and athletes are notorious for mentally rehearsing their sport to ensure a winning outcome. If you’d like to experience just how powerful visualization can be while letting the child within come out to play, come join my next Intention Board Session.
Unconvinced? Still need some time to procrastinate? Then check out my top 5 book picks to help you get motivated in achieving your goals.
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts by Marshall Goldsmith
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill
Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins
What systems have you created to ensure an awesome 2016? What goal gets you most excited this year? Are your resolutions still sticking? I'd love to hear from you!