goal (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
Most of us will start the New Year with a list of goals we would like to achieve over the course of the next year. Making New Years’ Resolutions has become an American pastime. Unfortunately, a majority of us will end up falling far below our initial expectations. For some reason we lose interest, become distracted by other things, or find the goals end up requiring more than we are willing to give to get there. Over the years, I’ve observed a much smaller number of people who actually achieve what they set out to do each and every year. From this experience, I have developed the following tips to help you become one of these lucky few:
1) First and foremost, pick a goal you genuinely want to achieve not something you think you should be focused on or feel pressured by others to get done. When our will is tested, our real level of commitment typically becomes apparent. People who aren’t committed to stopping smoking won’t do it; however, they may start eating healthier and/or start doing exercises that increase their lung capacity.
2) Be very specific about what you want to achieve. Saying I want to lose weight or save more money is too vague. Making it something more concrete like I want to lose 15 pounds by Memorial Day Weekend or have my resting heartbeat drop to 60 beats per minute by softball season or I will finish the first draft of my book by Halloween.
3) Push yourself but be somewhat realistic. If you make $75K a year, saving $25K probably isn’t doable, but $7,500 may be if you push yourself. If you want to still aim high, create a stretch goal above and beyond your desired outcome, but make sure there is some level of success that is initially achievable and worth celebrating.
4) Be transparent about your goals with close friends/and or loved ones and make your progress highly visible. Put this information on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, as your screen saver, tape it to your desk, etc. – the more places the better. In addition, start and end each day by reading them out loud.
5) Break your goal down into smaller increments so that you build up positive momentum throughout the course of the year. Reducing personal debt by 25% sounds great, but how will this happen, e.g., increasing monthly payments by 5% each successive month, paying off highest interest credit cards first (1 at a time), etc.
6) Have a goal buddy with a similar mindset that you check in with on a regular basis, at least once per quarter, but preferably every month. You would be surprised how just talking with someone regularly increases individual accountability. You’ll also both get goal fatigue at some point in the year and the other person will help you stay focused.
7) Establish an additional attractive payoff once you have achieved the goal like buying new summer clothes if you lose weight, or going on a more active fun vacation if you get more fit, or starting a regular fun/entertainment budget once you are out of debt. We tend to stay focused on not just what we measure but also what we reward.
I have been fortunate to have a good record of accomplishment of achieving my own goals on an annual basis although I do plan to push myself a bit more this year. I honestly believe that most of our limitations in life are self-imposed and we are all capable of achieving whatever we want when we put our minds to it. I sincerely hope that the New Year is a banner year for you and that you use the following seven tips to help get you there.