It’s great to hear success stories of my clients and friends keeping their New Year’s resolutions and getting results. Posts on Facebook of pounds lost, miles logged in preparation for a mini-marathon or conversation around a new daily habit of saving money all bring me satisfaction. Possibilities imagined, and realities experienced! But it seems more common to struggle with unmet goals, or perhaps,lose focus of why we really want that almost 30-day old resolution.
So beyond SMART goals, here’s my list of favorite tips & tricks for keeping resolutions alive no matter what time of year it is:
Break down big goals: Whatever result you want, find a way to break down a goal into smaller chunks. I’m a fan of selecting daily choices and concrete actions that can add up to bigger wins.
Do something daily: For example, if you have a goal to run 4 times a week, find something to do on the other days. It could be walking more steps or another kind of activity goal, but making the commitment to think about and make a choice about your goal helps to reinforce new behaviors.
Know your core values: Figuring out what’s really important to you and finding ways to set goals around your values reinforces the meaning behind the resolutions. Knowing the “why” powers the “what.”
Be flexible if you relapse: Research shows goal success is linked to those who can reset themselves and start over if they get off their plan. Those who “successfully relapse” had a greater chance of reaching their overall goal. Cut yourself some slack and make a fresh start tomorrow.
Focus on adding something: Instead of cutting back, think of what you can add. If you want to eat healthier, think about adding more vegetables instead of cutting back on the bread. If you want to stop rambling in meetings, think about adding powerful, brief openers to summarize your thought. Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.
Write it down! A must-do but often overlooked…think about the number of times during the day you can see your goal. What about your screen-saver, post-it note on your bathroom mirror or maybe an index card inside a meeting portfolio? There are lots of places to see what you want!
Review your goals regularly: Along with looking at your goals, find a regular time to review your goals – daily, weekly, monthly, but decide where and when you will review them in advance. Asking yourself, “Exactly what steps do I need to take in order to move closer to this goal?”
Make your brain work less: The fewer decisions your brain has to make, the better. Remember that every time you have to make another choice, it depletes energy. Setting your exercise clothes out the night before your 5:30am alarm, making an exercise plan before the week starts, or writing down some strategies for speaking up in the meeting and reviewing them before it starts are all ways to reduce the mental energy needed to get to your ultimate goal.
Know where you stand: Figure out a way to measure your progress every day and reward yourself for what is working. Feedback consistently shows up as a motivator. The popular “Fitbits,” the armbands that instantly measures your steps, distance, sleep & calories, is a great example of how knowing where you stand can improve your performance.
Be realistic and start small: Motivation comes from successful results, so make your goals are realistic and build on them as you go. Write down 5 goals you really want and then pick 1, maybe 2 to start. Finding something realistic will help you stick with your plan over the long haul.
Start with a single focus: According to David Rock, every time you focus your attention you use a measurable amount of glucose and other metabolic resources. Research shows that each task you do tends to make you less effective at the next task, and this is particularly true for high-energy tasks like self-control. Finding a single focus with goals helps maximize energy and create momentum. Sometimes dropping the goals you aren’t making good progress toward achieving are good to stop in order to have focus for the bigger one.
Be positive and with purpose: Say what you want to happen, and why it’s important to you. “I am going to cook healthy meals to have more energy and feel better” rather than “I’m not going to have fast food for dinner.” Or perhaps, “I am going to end the day with time to prioritize the next day so I will be more present with my family at night.
Tell someone: Making your goal public is often a way to provide a healthy dose of accountability, given those colleagues, friends and family members truly support what you want to achieve. Let them know how they can support you and schedule time in advance when you will share your progress.
Setting goals creates a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and can deepen the meaning we experience in our lives. Knowing how to successfully set goals and make a plan to get there creates new possibilities for being in this world. What is one way you can strengthen the way you set and achieve goals? What is your single biggest area of focus for this year?