The New Year is here, and with that, New Year’s resolutions. Last year’s blog post discussed why New Year’s Resolutions are so hard to follow through with. Some experts advise against making them since they are often abandoned. Still, anything that helps you refocus your goals can only help.
Be in control
Achieving goals that are personally meaningful increases one’s sense of well-being. It is more important, then, to make goals that are realistic, as this increases the likelihood that they will be accomplished. One way to make a goal more realistic is to make sure the goal can be achieved without the help of external forces.
The problem with some goals is that they are geared toward outcomes which are out of our control. For example, instead of making your goal to drop 10 lbs. in one month, make your goal to exercise five times per week. You have control over the number of times you exercise, but not necessarily how quickly or easily you will shed weight. Trying to force outcomes that are out of your control may lead to disappointment and can hasten giving up on your goals altogether. Similarly, if you work in sales, it’s better to make your goal “100 cold calls per month” than “10 sales per month.” The cold calls you can control, the sales you cannot. The results will follow from your dedication to the things you can control.
Get an accountability partner
A friend of mine gets a phone call every morning from his accountability partner to remind him to achieve his goal of writing every day. Having a person with whom you share your goals and who supports your efforts to achieve them is invaluable. Find an accountability partner who will be in your corner and pay them back by being in theirs.
Give yourself incentives
One tip that was not included in the last blog is to reward yourself for your progress. If you’ve gone to the gym 5 times this week, treat yourself to a reward at the end of the week. Maybe it’s to relax and watch a few episodes of a Netflix series. Maybe it’s going out for pizza.
You may not have a parent, teacher, or boss, to reinforce your efforts through praise and incentives. Give it to yourself. Do you want to treat yourself to a reward at the end of the week? End of the month? End of the year? Or all of the above? Give yourself fairly regular rewards for reaching your goals. Treat yourself to a massage after a month of consistent exercise. Take a vacation after several months of meeting your professional goals. Good coaches don’t give their players praise for everything, so when they do it’s even more meaningful. Be a coach by recognizing and rewarding your own efforts.
Write it down
Writing things down is a lost, but important, art. Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci took copious notes and made countless to-do lists. Some to-do items from his notebooks include: “Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square the triangle” and “describe the jaw of a crocodile.” Many of the tasks were intended to help with da Vinci’s artistic pursuits, while others were simply to quench his endless curiosity. Nevertheless, he recorded everything from random thoughts to first drafts of drawings in his notebooks.
Don’t give up, even if you didn’t follow through
So you didn’t meet one of your goals, don’t give up altogether. Feel free to revisit your resolutions, adjusting them wherever necessary to give yourself a realistic chance to succeed. If you hit some road bumps along the way, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Get back on track. How you respond to “failure” is a big part of success. To quote the playwright Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”