A new year presents the tantalising possibility of a fresh start. But a quarter of resolutions fizzle out almost as fast as the new year fireworks! Here then, are the Change Agent’s top 10 tips for making goals stick.
1. Make sure that the goal is YOUR goal
A motivating goal is one that you own and is important to you. It should be a “want to do” not a “should do” and not what someone else wants for you.
“When I want to, I perform better than when I have to
I want to for me, I have to for you
Self motivation is a matter of choice”
Inspiring goals are compelling, positive and just a little bit scary. Too small and what’s the point? Too big, and WTF! Dream big but you might want to chunk it down a little to keep it in your grasp.
If 2017’s goals reflect a lack of progress on 2016’s, ask yourself if they are still relevant. What went wrong? Learn from your experience and be smarter in 2017. Speaking of “smart”…
2. Set “S.M.A.R.T” goals
Saying “I going to be healthier” or “I am going to get a new job” is too vague. Clarity and precision are what’s needed for a viable action plan so use the “SMART” acronym and make your goals:
Specific: What do you want to change/achieve exactly? For example:
“I will follow a healthy eating plan to lose weight and get back into my favourite dress” or
“I will find a new job which better uses my talents and skills”.
Measurable: how will you know when you’ve got there?
“I will be 10lbs lighter and my favourite dress will fit comfortably” or
“I will be in a job which allows me to use my people skills and doesn’t tie me to the office”.
Attainable: what steps will you take to reach it?
“I will hire a personal trainer for diet and exercise advice, join a slimming club” or
“I will refresh my CV to target relevant companies, source agencies recruiting in my area and seek out their views on my fit to these roles”.
Realistic: do you have the resources (money, time, information, support) to reach this goal and if not, can you get them?
Timebound: Deadlines help create focus. For example:
“I am going to lose 10lbs of weight and wear my favourite dress to the family’s Easter gathering” or
“I will have found my new opportunity by June 1st”.
Without a firm deadline there is every chance that the favourite dress still won’t fit by Christmas 2017, or you’ll still be in your old job!
3. Identify the consequences of doing nothing
Knowing what these are will help you understand how important your goal is and your level of commitment to achieving it. Be aware that even positive goals can have negative consequences. For example: you’re overweight and comfort eat, so you get bigger still. You then use your size as an excuse not do try anything new. In such a scenario, you won’t stick to even the simplest healthy eating plan for long unless you deal with the underlying issues. A new job could leave you with less time for family and friends. Are you prepared for that? Such consequences don’t necessarily invalidate the goal, you just have to do more planning. And that leads nicely into Tip 4.
4. Don’t rely on willpower
Anticipate potential obstacles and prepare strategies to overcome them. If your goal is to have a dry January but in that month you have to attend two birthday parties and a wedding, willpower alone won’t help you to stay off the booze.
Have strategies in place to support you: You might for example, try the if/then technique:
“If I get pressured to have an alcoholic drink, then I will tell people I am on antibiotics”. You can use this to deal with other potential set backs to help you stay positive. “If I find out that I lack the skills for my dream job, then I’ll look for evening classes or find opportunities in my current role to develop them”.
Then there’s the “what if?: For example, “what if the dream job doesn’t exist? Can I create such a role? Can I get closer to my ideal role somehow?” or “what if the weather is really bad and I don’t want to run outside? What other forms of exercise will I do?”
Motivation is driven by emotion and the prospect of reward or the pain of failure. Motivation is therefore variable and can react badly to setbacks so take it out of the process with a plan. A plan helps you stay committed to your goal regardless of how you feel about it.
5. Focus on what can you control
Goals can be categorised as “end goals” or “performance goals”. End goals may be beyond your control e.g. “I want to win slimmer of the year at my new slimming club” or “I want to be in my new role by June”. You cannot control all the variables which could affect achievement of these goals; you can’t influence who joins the slimming club and you can’t control the jobs market. However, you can come up with performance goals which, if achieved, maximise your chances of achieving the end goal. These could include setting a target weight loss or building relationships with all the right recruitment agencies.
6. Small steps build into big results
Focus on just one goal at a time. Don’t add another one until you are making progress with the first. What’s preferable? A steady road to success taken one step at a time so 2017 ends with a huge sense of accomplishment or feeling like an epic failure come February because you were over ambitious?
7. Build your strategies into your daily routine
Integrate the actions necessary to reach your goals into your daily habits so that they become second nature. Bolt new processes onto existing routines, replace unhelpful ones with new ones that take you towards your goals. Here are some examples:
- Rather than cutting out desserts, swap calorific puddings for a piece of fruit or dark chocolate.
- When walking the dog, build in some sprints.
- Tack a couple of calls to recruitment agencies onto the end of your routine phone time.
- Swap internet browsing over lunch for some on-line personal development.
8. Hold yourself accountable
Set clear targets and log your progress on a weekly or even daily basis. Ask a friend to be your accountability partner and phone you each day or each week for an update. If appropriate, you could publish your goals on social media and update your friends. Join clubs and networks of like-minded people who share your aspirations, inspire you to succeed and will be keen to discuss your progress.
9. Give yourself a break
Despite your best efforts, there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. Don’t give up, learn from them and refocus. Identify the triggers that had you reaching for the ice cream when on the diet or work out what is going through your mind and preventing you from making those calls to the recruitment agencies.
“fall down 7 times, stand up 8”
If the goal is still right for you and you have the support processes in place, then perhaps emotion is influencing the situation. If so, deal with those feelings, or get additional support, so they don’t trip you up again.
10. Reward yourself along the way
Maintain your morale with regular rewards (just choose them carefully!). Identify key milestones and mini deadlines so that you can recognise your progress and commitment along the way.
I hope you found these tips useful. Working with a personal coach is an exciting way to accelerate progress towards your goals. Contact me to find out how my action-oriented, time-boxed approach can help. With a no-obligation introductory you’ve have nothing to lose all to gain!
I look forward to hearing from you,
The Change Agent