Back to New Year’s
Forget the date on the calendar – it’s never to late to meet – or exceed – self-sanctioned goals
It was the vow of many on New Year’s Day to make some positive changes. But, by this time of year, odds are the average person has deserted those resolutions in favor of keeping those comfortable bad habits.
Goals don’t necessarily founder because willpower erodes over time. Some goals are destined to fail from the start because the goal-setting process is flawed. But if one goes back to the drawing board, it can be easy to retool those New Year’s resolutions for a second chance and a better shot at success.
A person should determine how committed she is to each resolution. Rewrite or reconsider them if uncommitted “no matter what,” and work on the approach and wording until the prospect of succeeding “fills you with vigor and excitement,” advises Lorin Beller Blake, founder of Big Fish Nation, a web-based consulting firm for women-owned businesses. Example: “Lose 10 pounds” becomes “Throw a pool party in August to celebrate the fact I slimmed down to fit into my swimsuit from college.”
Change negative goals (the ones that admonish you not to do something) into positive ones. “Stop drinking coffee” morphs into “drink eight glasses of water” or even “substitute my second cup of coffee with water” if the goal is to cut down and eventually quit.
Rewrite resolutions that lack specificity. “Exercise more” is good advice but hardly a plan of action, which looks more like this: “Work out on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 a.m.”
Formulate goals and action plans to which metrics can be applied. “Get published” becomes “revise two short stories and submit them to no fewer than six literary magazines by September.”
Reframe and think about your goals in ways that show intent. “Try verses intend creates very different end results,” Blake says. And “lose weight” sounds like a directive, while “I choose to live a healthy lifestyle” is a self-affirming action taken willingly.
For each goal, a person should determine how comfortable she is with the amount of investment required – be it time, effort or money – to achieve it. Then, “Figure out what needs to be part of your action plan to overcome the pain of discomfort,” says Susan Wilson, co-author of “Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals” (Amacom, 2008) and president of Executive Strategies, Stevensville, Mich.
Identify any and all obstacles that might get in the way of meeting goals, as well as subtler distractions that might hinder progress, and determine how to overcome them, Wilson adds. For example, if one goal is a pledge to work on a screenplay for 30 minutes every day before dinner, what is the contingency plan if plans suddenly include going straight after work to meet friends at a restaurant?
It is important to create a vision board, as opposed to a list, to show how goals tie together and how goal achievement will impact other areas of life. For example, shedding 30 pounds might boost confidence at work; enable someone to play harder and longer with her kids; and lower blood pressure. In other words, that one goal impacts appearance, career, family and health.
Sometimes we give up on resolutions because we’re “too busy,” so when lulls occur (and they will) check in with yourself gently. Is what you’re doing in the present moment conducive to success? Don’t think in terms of what “should” be done. Instead, fill in the blanks: “At this moment, doing X would bring me closer to reaching my goal” or “doing X would bring me the greatest amount of self-respect.”
Use social media and support networks judiciously to create accountability. Consider designating a coach to offer instruction, advice and tough love when needed, and a cheerleader whose job is strictly to encourage. Wilson recommends rounding out that support team with an accountability partner, a sympathizer and a boot camp instructor who means business.
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