How many times have you made a resolution to start the new year and then failed to see it through? Maybe it was something that you were extremely passionate about in late December or early January, but then seemed to completely forget about in February or March? Some people may make it a bit longer, till Summer or early Fall. However, most people who set New Years resolutions never achieve progress!
The truth is that resolutions don’t work. According to Michael Hyatt 25% of people abandon their resolutions after one week, and another 60% abandon them within 6 months. How many times have you made the same New Years Resolution without ever making progress on it in the following year? If you are like most Americans you do this year after year.
While resolutions don’t work, there is a solution to the problem. Goals work! But you may be asking yourself “What is the difference?” To start off with, one of the biggest differences between goals and resolutions is that goals are in writing. In a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, she found that participants were 42% more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down.
Most people don’t ever bother to write down their goals. They think about them at the beginning of the year and then hope that they magically happen somehow. Putting your goals in writing is not the only thing that it takes to achieve them, but it gives you the best start and the greatest chance of success!
The secret to accomplishing the goals you have for this year (and beyond) is to follow a goal setting process. There are a number of experts who teach great methods of goal setting, each slightly different, but the following criteria are included by most goal setting experts. The term S.M.A.R.T is very commonly used as a guideline for goal setting and it is the one I personally use.
- SPECIFIC.Too many people set vague goals like “get in better shape.” What does that mean? How do you know if you achieved your goal. To be effective you need to be specific. Write down things like “Lose 15 lbs…” or “Earn $100,000 ….”
- MESURABLE.Have you ever heard the saying “what gets measured gets managed?” It’s true. The things that we measure become a focus of ours and make it easier to devote attention too. This fits hand in hand with being specific. If your goal is to lose 15 lbs you can measure that with a scale. It gives you an instant progress update. Every goal needs to have a form of measurement.
- ACTIONABLE.Your goals need to be things that you can take action on. Setting goals that rely on outside influences to make progress are not realistic since you cannot control if those circumstances take place or not. Make sure your goal can be broken down into action steps that YOU can do!
- REALISTIC.This is one step I believe is dependant on the type of person you are. Setting goals that are realistic give many people the best chance to achieve them. However, some people set goals so realistic that they shouldn’t really be considered goals. If you are the type of person who gets discouraged easily you will want to set realistic goals that still stretch you. If you are the type of person who thrives on having a big challenge and doesn’t let it discourage you then you may want to set somewhat unrealistic goals. I said somewhat unrealistic, not crazy. If you suck at golf don’t set a goal to play on the PGA Tour. Set a goal to become a scratch golfer instead.
- TIME-BOUND. Give your goals a deadline. A goal without a deadline is a dream, not a goal. Assigning a completion date to it contributes a sense of urgency and will make you much more likely to get it done. Don’t assign the same completion date for all your goals. Make some short term (a month or a couple months) and others longer term. Some may even take the whole year or longer.
Some people will add additional steps to this 5 step goal setting process, but these are the core steps that you want to include. Here are some examples of goals that fit the S.M.A.R.T criteria:
- Lose 15 lbs by May 31st, 2015
- Run a half marathon on June 4th, 2015
- Earn an additional $30,000 income by December 31st, 2015
- Pay off $5,000 of debt by September 1st, 2015
- Read the entire bible by December 31st, 2015
If you are looking for some help with creating your goal setting I recommend checking out Michael Hyatt’s “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever” course. It is a great resource to help you with your goal setting. You can watch his free 3-video series to help you get started on your path to creating your best year ever.
So now that you know why you need to set written goals, and how those goals need to be formatted, what are your next steps? First you need to block off some time on your schedule to work on your goals. Not a lot of time, a half hour or an hour should do. Make sure you are in a place where you can be quiet and brainstorm. Turn off your phone. Your future is more important than the funny cat email that your aunt is sending to you.
Try to come up with at least one goal in each area of your life, trying not to set more than 7-10 goals total. Make sure you have at least one goal in each of the following areas:
You’re almost done. Just a few more steps to complete your goal setting:
- Break your goals into manageable steps. What is the first thing that you need to do to begin making progress on this goal. And then what comes after that? And so on. Losing 24 lbs in 3 months sounds a lot more daunting than losing 2 lbs per week, or 0.26 lbs per day. Paying off $3,000 is more frightening than saving $8 a day. Heck thats barely more than a Starbucks. Write down the steps you are going to take to achieve each goal.
- Keep your goals in a convenient place. Don’t bury your goals deep in the my documents folder on your computer. Keep them somewhere within reach, somewhere that you can see them anytime you want. I use Evernote for this so that I have mine with me at all times. Some people like the old fashioned route and write them on a 3×5 index card to keep in their wallet. Find what works for you and go with it.
- Review your goals often. I review my goals every morning and every evening. Make sure you review yours at least once a week
- Take action. No matter how good your goal setting is, and how many manageable steps you have broken them down into, they will never be achieved unless you take action. Any action. Do something today that pushes you towards your goal. Any action is better than no action.
Thats it. You’re done. You have the goals that you can work on this year. Just the act of goal setting puts you in the minority. This can truly be the best year of your life if you choose to make it so. Take action! Go after your goals!