“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” – Melody Beattie
Yesterday was New Year’s and, if you are like most people, you took some time to reflect on the outgoing year and set some resolutions for the year ahead. Maybe you decided to make a lifestyle change, such as eating healthier and exercising more. Perhaps you determined that it was time for more work-life balance or to travel more often. You may have set some business-related goals, such as making more sales calls or taking other action steps that will improve your bottom line.
These, or any other constructive goals, are the first step in living a better, more fulfilled life.
But we know that for so many, New Year’s resolutions are more commonly associated with failed aspirations and wishful thinking than with real, sustained change. We promise ourselves that we will think and do differently, but often quickly lapse into the same bad habits that promoted us to make the said resolutions in the first place.
How can we do better this year and make our commitments stick? Here are some strategies that can get you over the hump and adopt new, sustained behaviors that will make 2018 your best year yet.
- Focus on your purpose – Begin by doing some real thinking about who you are and what you want out of life. I know that this may sound a bit off the deep end especially when you simply want to achieve a little more than you have in the past, but thinking in such terms can give you added clarity and deepen your intrinsic will to succeed, no matter what the goal. Why do you want more balance and time at home? Is it simply to have more nap time or are you committed to being present for your family in a way that you haven’t been before? Why do you seek more money? Are you interested in more widgets or do you want to improve others’ quality of life and become more charitable?
- Create a mental image – The more that you see yourself, for example, as a healthy person who makes wise decisions that will benefit themselves and those they love, the easier it’ll be to resist those added pie servings and commit to real exercise. Ten pounds is now less the goal than living up to your new image of a fit, disciplined self. If you view yourself as intrinsically more curious and interested in learning what the world has to offer, you will find more opportunities to travel, even as you hold down a regular job and raise your kids.
- Set concrete goals – The best way to set along a new course of definite action is to set clear, actionable goals. Seek to concretize your new sense of purpose and self-image into action steps that will bring you closer to the new you. Set specific What, Why, and How’s of the goal.
- What you will do.
- Why that is important.
- How you will achieve the goal.
Goals should be simplistically written and should clearly define what you are going to do.
Say, for example, you see yourself as being very distractible and seek to concentrate more deeply on tasks for longer durations. Set specific goals of what you would like to work on and for how long. Include elements that will keep you from becoming distracted and/or motivate you to stay on task.
It may read something like this:
“In order to complete my daily report/proposal/blog post/etc. each morning (specific goal), I will set aside 60 minutes at the outset of each morning for the next two weeks for in-depth, uninterrupted work (what). During this time, I will not answer phone calls, respond to emails or texts, or engage in any form of web surfing (how). By completing this important task first thing in the morning, I can do it while my mind is freshest and still attend to many other tasks and responsibilities (why important).”
- Take immediate action – The natural thing for many is to push off taking action until…
- The holiday season is REALLY over
- I feel like it
- Conditions are just right
Resist the temptation to procrastinate by taking action, however small, TODAY!
- Be accountable – Clear goals are only as good as the accountability behind them. Make sure that there is someone – ideally someone other than yourself – who is going to hold you accountable. (People can hold themselves accountable but most of us simply aren’t strong and unbiased enough to do this well.) Seek to speak or report often enough that will keep you honest while also giving you enough in-between time to achieve something meaningful.
- Tell the world – Sometimes the simple act of announcing your intentions can keep you motivated. After all, who wants to look like a failure to all your friends and family?
- Reward yourself – Every so often (4-6 weeks, max) take stock of your achievements and reward yourself. As time goes on and the initial motivation is long in your rear-view mirror, you will need a boost to keep you going and achieving. Celebrate your milestones as a way of pushing you forward towards even more.
- Reassess – If you follow these steps, your success is all but guaranteed. But then it’ll be time to set your sights higher. After you’ve been at it for a while, pause to determine what’s working, what isn’t, and how can you push yourself even further. Remember, goal setting and resolutions are not once in a lifetime events. Nor are they even annual rituals. The real winners in life are the ones who keep their eyes continually on the prize of fulfillment and never stop finding ways to grow.
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and President of Impactful Coaching and Consulting. He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Order his new leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon or at BecomingtheNewBoss.com/order.