Setting and keeping your goals
If you've already broken your New Year's Resolution, I have two pieces of good news. The first is that you're ahead of the reported 25% of Americans who didn't even make a resolution, and the second is, that you're not alone. Statistically speaking, less than 10% of us that do make a New Year's Resolution will accomplish keeping that goal. Many studies say, by Feb 1st, nearly 80% of us have already broken our resolution.
When we think of the flipping of the calendar to a brand new year, we become energized and filled with excitement. "This year's going to be different!" we say to ourselves. We set out a goal or series of goals, and then over time, things get in the way. In most companies, the start of the new year also means annual reviews and goal setting as well, in my experience my work goals are often easier to achieve than my personal new year's resolutions, but why?
Typically at work, we have our goals agreed upon, and then, hopefully, we receive regular check-ins with our boss to find out if we're achieving those goals. Rarely is the path towards achieving our goals a straight trajectory with no hurdles to navigate. The best thing to do is arm yourself with skills to navigate those challenges and realize that the result will not be immediate.
If you're not getting feedback from your boss and unsure of how you're doing, ASK.
If you're not giving feedback to your teams, they may be lost and confused, talk to them!
Regular feedback and communication in business are critical to the success of the team. Give it early, and often like saving your computer file..
I digress, back to why I believe many New Year's Resolutions (or any personal goal) have a higher potential for failure than do your professional goals. Perhaps it's a lack of structure, accountability, rewarding, and feedback.
Let's say, you're like me, and you need to shed some pounds, you'll think to yourself, "I'm going to lose weight this year," but who else do you tell? If the answer is 'nobody,' you probably just moved closer to the 80% who break their goals. Why? Because no one is helping you, giving you feedback, or holding you accountable, except you. I learned a while back that if I could have held myself accountable, I wouldn't need the resolution.
Might I suggest a different approach that I've personally been successful with implementing? First, start with setting your goals using some of the same methods you use in the office. "S.M.A.R.T." Goals are good, but "C.L.E.A.R." Goals might work better in this situation, mainly because of the "E" (more on that in a moment). Next, tell someone, anyone, everyone even, that you're about to make a life change to better yourself and that you are hoping they can support you in it. Your friends, family, and co-workers can only encourage you if they are on your journey with you.
For example, the last time I lost a substantial amount of weight, I asked for a meeting with my then director, explained my plan, and also revealed that it was okay to talk to me about it. I didn't want the "oh my goodness, is he seriously sick or something?" rumors starting. I held similar 1-2 minute conversations with the rest of the team as well. Guess what? They all supported me, stopped offering the junk food that inevitably ends up in an office, and encouraged me when they saw me wearing new (smaller sized) clothes into the office. The moral of this part of the story is that the support of your peers, boss, friends, and family is critical, but again, they can only offer it if they know you need it!
Next is to look at rewarding yourself, or learning what will make you feel like you've accomplished some small part of your goal. Liken this to regular feedback; you would give your team after a well-done task on a project. It's at this point where the "E" comes in from "CLEAR Goals," E= Emotional. Small goals and the rewards that go with them are essential for keeping yourself motivated and contributing to the feel-good emotion that what you're doing is a positive thing, not a deprivation of something.
Might I suggest reading one of Gary Chapman's "5 Love Languages", there are various versions depending on what you're looking to improve, but I found it to be a helpful self-realization tool. Knowing more about what motivated you personally allows you to figure out the right rewards to set for yourself.
For instance, if you find out you're motivated by receiving gifts, perhaps reward yourself with a new outfit or a small reward to yourself for losing the next 20 LBS. If your love language is 'quality time,' maybe find a significant other, loved one, or friend to go out and do something you love doing and let them know that you're celebrating 30 days without a cigarette or a drink. If your love language was words of affection, maybe you won't even need a "reward" because, having told everyone your plan, they hopefully already tell you how awesome you're doing, and it's keeping you motivated. Whatever your motivation, find it and utilize it to the best of its ability.
Inevitably, something will challenge us and try to throw us off our plans; it could be extra assignments as work, an issue at home, extremely good or bad news, and a myriad of other things. The strategy here is not to allow them to trigger you back into old habits, talking to someone, removing yourself from the situation temporarily if possible or finding a new positive ritual to fall back on can all help.
Finally, realize that there is one more piece of good news if you're about to give up, or if you've already given up on your New Year's Resolution... it's not to late to start it again! Perhaps setting new and even changing goals each month would help keep you motivated and interested in the goals. We can develop a "New Month Resolution" or even a "New Day Resolution." The main thing is to never give up and always focus on making today great and tomorrow even better!
"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals"
- Henry David Thoreau
PS. For the 25% that don't set New Year's Resolutions, if the reason you don't set a goal is that you're already making small improvement regularly, that's awesome. I would love to hear how you do it. If you're not setting them because you don't think they would help, then you're right! It would be best if you start by changing your mindset and making the decision to change. Because, whether you believe you can, or you believe you can't, you are, in fact, right.
Special thanks to my beautiful wife for keeping me inspired to become better and for supporting me in achieving all my personal goals. I love you, Tabby!