Well, it’s that time of year again…What are your New Year’s resolutions? No more yo-yo dieting? No more binge TV? Finally losing that last 10 or 20 pounds? Are these the same goals you set last year, or even the past several years? You’re not alone. According to Forbes Magazine, 92% of people don’t achieve their New Year’s resolutions, and 80% of people fail by the end of February. The good news is, there are ways to beat these statistics. The following strategies are proven to work for any goal, no matter when you set it.
#1 – Write down your goal, and then share it with as many people as possible who’ll support you. Just saying it out loud or thinking about it isn’t enough. Writing it down makes it real. Better yet, write it down on something you can place where you’ll see it, preferably multiple times per day. The fridge door, the bathroom mirror, the car dashboard, and next to your computer are all good choices. Sharing your goal with others provides a level of accountability. People you trust to believe in you and truly support you won’t let you quit. Be careful about whom you choose, though: your goal – and the change in you that achieving it will bring – may actually be threatening to someone you love. They may unconsciously do things that sabotage your progress.
#2 – Make sure your goal is SMART: Specific, measurable, attractive (more on this in #3 below), realistic, and with a time frame. “Realistic” is often the toughest of these, as it’s easy to overestimate what is truly do-able given our own circumstances. This isn’t surprising, given what we’re bombarded with every day in magazines, the latest fitness, diet, and productivity gurus’ books, and the miracle claims of the supplements and nutraceuticals industry.
#3 – Know your “WHY.” This is the “A” in SMART, which is traditionally meant to stand for “attainable.” A very wise mentor of mine said “A” should really stand for “attractive.” In other words, what’s the deep, underlying reason why you want this goal? Try asking yourself “why” three times. For example:
“I want to lose weight.” Why?
“I want to look good in my clothes.” Why?
“I don’t feel confident enough in my own skin.”
Aha! Now we’re at the real “why” behind this goal. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about building confidence and self-worth. It might take you more than three “why” questions to get to the source, so keep going until you find it. Understanding your “why” will help you stay focused when the going is tough and you’re tempted to give up on your goal. [Watch: Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”]
#4 – Focus on a process or behavior that will help get you to your goal – not just the ultimate outcome. If you want to lose 20 pounds by Memorial Day, set interim smaller goals that are tied to behaviors which will result in healthy weight loss. For example, your goals for the first four weeks could be to drink 65 ounces of water every day, and go to aerobics class three times each week. Outcomes are often not within our control, but our own behaviors are.
#5 – Start small and simple. This goes hand in hand with #3. Rather than that one Big Kahuna, start with something simple and short-term. Pick an action or behavior for which you have at least 90% confidence that you can do or achieve, consistently, over the next four weeks. Once you succeed, pick another and work on it for four weeks. Every process, every step is helping you build new, permanent habits that will get you to closer to your goal.
#6 – Plan, plan, plan. Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Whether you use a paper planner, a phone app, or a chalkboard, map out and write down your plan at the beginning of each week. Block out time to complete the processes you’ve identified –for exercise, for weekly food prep, or for whatever meaningful process or action will move you closer to your ultimate goal. This weekly approach keeps it manageable, and helps you feel more in control by allowing you to adjust and prioritize the unexpected.
The New Year represents a fresh start, and it’s a great time to set new goals. Let this be the year that you finally make your goals a reality. Know your “why,” share your goals with supportive people in your life, and keep it simple by focusing on the actions, behaviors and processes to get you there.