It’s a few weeks into the new year, but you may already be regretting making those new year’s resolutions. And you’re not the only one. Turns out, most studies show that the vast majority of people—in some cases over 90% of them—not only fail at their resolutions, but only make it a short while before doing so.
On the surface, we have any number of excuses. Most of them sound something like:
I got burned out too fast.
I have too much going on to worry about this right now.
______ is more important.
I don’t have the time to make it happen.
I just wasn’t meant to ________ this year. Maybe next year.
But here’s the thing. Our circumstances get a lot of the blame for our failure to keep resolutions, but there’s something we often miss. Many times, we fail because our goal setting process itself is out of whack.
The approach you take to goal-setting is critical. What does (and doesn’t) make something a goal factors in, big time, to the odds of that goal being achieved.
A lot of times, in fact, our goals are nothing more than a list of carefully constructed wishes.
Why? What’s sabotaging our healthy goal-setting mindset?
We have a lack of definition. Many resolutions sound like this:
- I will eat healthier food.
- I will drink more water.
- I will read more books.
- I will make more sales.
- I will be a better leader.
While it seems like these kinds of general resolutions are easier to achieve (because they’re very broad), it’s actually more difficult to achieve goals like this— because it’s not clear what achievement looks like.
But don’t worry, it’s an easy fix. All you have to do is give it better definition. One way to do this is by using numbers. For example:
- I will eat 3 servings of fruit or vegetables every day.
- I will drink 8 glasses of water every day.
- I will read 12 books in a year.
- I will make 10% more in commissions.
- I will get feedback from each member of my team on my leadership.
We don’t plan for the obstacles. It’s great to be enthusiastic about your goals for the new year. But sometimes, we get so fired up that we forget something important along the way. We’re going to face obstacles— and we need to plan for them.
If you want to eat 3 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, but don’t figure out ways to plan meals, make healthy recipes, or have a strategy for eating out, chances are you’re not going to make it very far. It’s important to remember that planning for obstacles isn’t cynical, it’s responsible. To help with this, ask yourself:
What are some obstacles to achieving this goal:
- In my environment?
- In my personality or character?
- In my circumstances or schedule?
- . . . and how can I take practical steps to address them?
Knowing the limitations and challenges in front of you is integral to having a realistic plan for setting and achieving your goals.
We don’t eliminate enough distractions. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we live in a world full of distractions. And if you’re a human being, you’ll succumb now and then. But there are things you can do to curb and eliminate distractions along the path to your goals. For example:
- If you’re working on developing a healthier diet, it may be a good idea to limit TV time (since that distraction is often paired with too much snacking and other unhealthy eating habits).
- If you want to write 250 words a day on a novel, make sure you have a dedicated quiet, well-lit space where you can work, uninterrupted, until you meet your daily goal.
We’re mismanaging our time. You’re a leader. That means you wear many hats, fulfill many roles, and always have a lot on your plate. But being too busy is still a mismanagement of time, just like wasting it. But there are some simple things you can do to start turning things around:
Namely, develop a time frame for your overall goal, then work backwards to set up the incremental goals leading to it. Let’s take our reading goal as an example. If you want to read 12 books in a year, that means you can reach your goal by reading a minimum of 1 book a month. [You can take this further by deciding how many chapters you want to read a week, and how many pages a day once you have your books picked out.]
Now you know your way around some of the most common resolution pitfalls, so it’s time to get started.
Your Excellence Challenge starts now.
- Set 3 specific goals for this year.
- List the obstacles to achieving those goals.
- For each obstacle, suggest a proactive approach to address it.
- List the incremental goals (divided up by days, weeks, or months) you need to achieve the Big 3.
- Write the goals —and the timelines—somewhere you can see them every day.
Congratulations! You’re one step closer to an amazing year!