Leading up to each New Year, it is common for people to establish a long wish list and/or a list of resolutions. The problem is that neither is typically tied to a plan of action and rarely is either list completed by the year’s end. Funny thing is, year after year, people repeat the same behavior and end up with the same results.
This year, make sure your wishes come true and your resolutions become habits, by starting out with a plan for success. Consciously think through what you want and what it will take for you to get there. This year, take control of what you can do to make things happen the way you envision. The following are some steps for getting started.
Create goals vs. resolutions or wish lists. The difference between making a resolution and establishing a goal is setting time lines and creating accountability. You are the one with the most invested in whether or not you achieve your goals, so it only makes sense to develop your own timelines for accomplishing them. When looking at personal goals, no one else is going to do it for you. (And if someone else is creating your personal goals for you, there may be some co-dependency issues that need to be addressed.) If you have professional goals that are mandated by your employer, don’t stop with those. Incorporate your own ideas of what you want to accomplish in the plan. Once you have a good idea of what it is you want to accomplish, then go ahead and make a commitment to each on a specific date in your calendar. If you want to lose weight, identify how much and by when. During the planning stage and setting objectives you will further break this down into measurable and achievable goals
Eliminate fear. Change is scary. If you are experiencing trepidation about doing something new, know that you are not alone. Everyone is uncomfortable with change to some degree. The key to overcoming it is facing the obstacles now, not later. Typically fear is a greater barrier than the actual perceived barrier turns out to be. Get past it by breaking down your concern item by item. List why you are scared, or why you think you may fail. Then address each point one at a time. It is likely you will find out that most of what you thought was true is mostly in your head. The concerns that are only thoughts need to be tested by taking action or researching through others who may have relevant experience (see “don’t make assumptions” below). If you want to change careers or add a new line of business, write out a list of everything running around in your head that is telling you that you can’t. One way or the other, you will be able to shorten the list if you simply get started.
Don’t make assumptions. Make a list of all you want and need. Methodically go through the list to make sure you are completely aware of what is necessary to proceed in the direction you desire. Make sure you have the required time and resources to invest and plan time to investigate options. Ask others who have had experience in the area you are focusing (e.g., new business, new career path, weight loss). Someone will have information and experience to share. You simply need to ask. The results of a thorough investigation of what you want will allow you to more accurately identify realistic timelines that will lead to success.
Plan ahead instead and avoid passively reacting. Taking a fatalistic view of circumstances you want to change isn’t going to get you anywhere. Creating a plan to deal with potential obstacles will allow you to more effectively approach bumps in the road. Passively reacting to resistance from others, obstacles or challenges isn’t going to get you what you want. Health, family or financial issues are all part of life and may surface at any time. Think through what could or might happen and develop strategies to overcome situations that are not ideal. Plan for adversity; don’t wait until it is too late to take corrective action or make changes to your plan.
Be realistic. Make sure whatever behavioral changes that are needed to accomplish your goal are easily integrated into your life on a daily basis. Setting unrealistic expectations will only set you up for failure. If you want to lose weight, make it obtainable without starving yourself or creating such aggressive goals you are likely to fail. Taking on one change at a time is much more likely to lead to success. Introducing one behavioral change at a time and doing it every day for 30 days is much more likely to make it hard wired action. If you want to lose weight, then being aware of what you take in and the activity you are presently engaged in (calories in, calories out) is the first step. Cutting back on one particularly unhealthy or high calorie food while adding ten minute walks each day are both much easier to handle and gear up from than reducing your calorie intake to 500 a day and running laps. One behavior is easy to do every day. The other is much less likely to be sustainable.
Set objectives/milestones to track your progress. Break the big stuff into smaller bites and track your progress. Set realistic due dates that take into account everything else you are juggling in your life. Don’t allow yourself to spin out of control because you ended up in a ditch on one aspect of your plan. Stay on track by developing new objectives or realistic time lines for what you need to accomplish when new elements get thrown into your life.
Set up contingencies. Think through what could or might happen and develop strategies to overcome situations that are not ideal. Don’t become a victim to circumstances because you haven’t prepared. Think through what you want and develop alternatives to your initial goal just in case things change. As you research your goals you may learn things that will cause you to change your plan. Don’t be afraid to adjust things as you go. If you have an idea for a new career, allow time for a test period. If it isn’t successful right off the bat, you may want to extend your timelines or adjust the amount of resources invested. Making adjustments to your plan is much easier if you think it through ahead of time, and can be addressed much like risk management is prior to the implementation of new projects for a company.
Be flexible. Stuff happens. Life throws us some curveballs sometimes. It is important to make sure your plans will adjust easily to anything that could develop without notice. Goals don’t have to be all or nothing. It’s possible an illness or a family related issue interrupts your momentum. An event doesn’t have to cause you to stop everything; it just may require you to change your plan a little. Adjusting to changed circumstances to achieve part of what you want and extending timelines to accomplish the rest, will bring you much closer to the desired result than throwing up your hands and declaring defeat. Be open to new information and new ideas. Adjust your goals and your plan according to what is working so that you are always clear about what you are doing and why.
Avoid procrastination. The longer you wait to get started thinking through your goals, the more likely another year will go by without having achieved them. Are you daydreaming right now? Wishing for something new? Get started now! Prepare a plan of attack and get in motion by January 1 so you can look forward to a great New Year!
What will you do differently to make things stick this year?