Happy New Year! Great stuff can happen if you follow some simple steps that will help insure that you reach your goals instead of just making resolutions.
Be clear on what your goal is
I mean be really, really specific. Many resolutions fail because they are vague. Let’s take the number one resolution which was made by at least one in five people last year – loss weight or get healthy. How many succeeded? I’m not sure, but if the empty treadmills at the gym after about January 15 are any indication, I’ll bet a lot of people are making that same resolution again this year. So instead of saying I’m going to lose weight, if someone said I am going to lose 10 pounds by starting a walking routine and giving up soda, now we can work with that. Better yet would be to add a deadline. Do it by April 15th, which is tax day in the US, so at least you would have your weight loss success to cheer you up.
Break it down into pieces
Sticking with the example above, focus on the individual pieces. You can’t lose 10 pounds until you lose one pound. So start there, one pound at a time. Also the walking routine. Let’s get specific and say that you are going to walk briskly at least 30 minutes 3 times a week. These are just examples, so if you could fill in whatever numbers would be challenging yet doable for you. And to give up soda you could swap out a glass of water, let’s say. But now we have smaller, short-term goals that will lead to the big finish.
Track your progress
One of my favorite phrases that I use both when working with learning professionals and just in life is “Make Progress Visible”. When you can see your progress you will be more likely to continue doing whatever it is. Sticking with our fitness goal. If I say I am going to walk three times a week, I am going to need a way to track that. You can use a wearable device or your phone or a piece of paper, but record it. Every time you walk, check it off. Did you make it through the day without a soda? Give yourself a visual high-five. There is great power in the visual. Seeing your trend of showing up and doing what you said you would is a great motivator and an reward itself. People thrive when they can see they are making progress.
Refine your tasks and processes over time
One of the other problems with resolutions is that they feel kind of set in stone. But when we break down the goal into small pieces, it is easier to see how those might adjust over time. Maybe I’m starting to really get into the walking and want to up my game a bit. I can start tracking how many consecutive days I walk. Or just up the number to 5 times a week. Or whatever new measurement I want to set. The point is to acknowledge how much progress you have made and stretch just a little more. Or maybe you discover that one of the pieces of your goal-completing puzzle just isn’t quite right and you want to adjust course. Instead of ditching the whole resolution (how many of us know someone who gave up on their diet because they had one bad day of eating?) you can remain flexible and keep moving forward.
Tell other people
The final suggestion is to share what you are doing. There are many levels of commitment. If we think about doing something, that is easy to dismiss or forget. If we write it down it becomes a bit more tangible but unless we follow through and keep writing (or tracking) it may slip away. But if we tell someone that raises the stakes a bit. We don’t want to not follow through on something we told people we were going to do. Finding an accountability buddy can be a great help to some people.
So let's get out there and have a great year completing your goals. Did these steps work for you? I'd love to hear about it.