With the first month of 2016 coming to a close, New Years seems like only a distant memory. It is by far the most popular day of the year for setting new goals and resolutions and yet most people fall short of reaching them. Ever wonder why?
Leadership expert John Maxwell teaches not to make major life decisions when in an emotional valley. The same can be said for making major decisions when on an emotional high…like New Years. Now personally I love New Years as a time for renewal and resharpening my focus and plans on existing goals. It’s not a time however where I proclaim to the world the desire to accomplish some grandiose new endeavor.
But that’s just me. What about you? Did you set any New Year’s resolutions? And now with January almost in the books, how are you doing? What steps have you taken to create the change that you desire in your life? If it was some wild and crazy from the hip resolution largely driven by the emotion of the holiday, then no worries if in hindsight you realize that it wasn’t such a practical pursuit.
However, if you set a valid goal that you’re still willing to fight for, then how are you doing? One thing I know regardless of your goal is that for your life to change, you must change. The following from America’s foremost business philosopher and from one of the most brilliant minds in history says it best:
“If you will change, everything will change for you. You don’t have to change what’s outside, all you’ve got to change is what’s inside. To have more, you simply have to become more.”
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
So what changes do you need to make to reach your goals?
One common mistake with goal setting is shooting for the moon without any practical plan of action to get there. The flip side is making the process way too complicated. You can only focus on so many things at a time on top of juggling all the other responsibilities that your average American adult has on their plate.
“Unless you change how you are, you will always have what you’ve got.”
The resources available on goal setting just on the internet alone are staggering. Upon writing this post, a Google search of “goal setting” resulted in 27,100,000 results. While not as popular as a search on fitness (over a billion results), you can still be left in a state of information overload.
If your “why” is big enough, the how won’t matter. Your “why” acts like a magnet to draw you to accomplishing your goal. The following are some methods and ideas I’ve picked up over the years, and my hope is that these add some value to your life in your efforts to reach your goals.
Are your goals “SMART”?
The an-acronym SMART stands for:
- Specific – Your goals must be specific. Vague or undefined goals will be difficult to reach and not provide the pulling power needed to weather the “storms” of change.
- Measurable – You must be able to track progress. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
- Attractive – The is the true “why” behind the goal. For example, a goal of getting into better shape physically is valid enough. However, when the underlying reason is tied to living a longer life providing for and spending time with the ones you love, you have much more power to drive change.
- Realistic – All the enthusiasm in the world will not allow you to reach a goal you’re not gifted to achieve. Shooting for the stars is one thing….shooting for the impossible is another.
- Timely – A goal without a timeline is only a wish. There has to be a target date for attainment.
If your goals are truly SMART, then you have a great chance of reaching them.
How many goals at a time?
Motivational icon Zig Ziglar used to teach at length on the art of goal setting. And while he believed in setting numerous goals in all areas of your life, he also believed in focusing the bulk of your energy on a few top initiatives at any given time. Having a long list of goals is admirable. Just be careful not to go after too many things at the same time where you spread your efforts so thin that you accomplish very little.
While there are many ways to organize your goals, I learned years ago to break them down into four primary categories:
This simple approach has served me well and allows for a number of goals to fall within each area. One method I learned from Darren Hardy, Editor of Success Magazine, it to break down my focus by quarters of the year. I may have multiple goals within each category, however for a given quarter, I will select one from each as my primary focus.
The others will always remain important, but again, you can only poor so much energy into each day.
Another thought from Darren that he teaches in his amazing book, The Compound Effect, is the idea of “cashing out”. This coincides strongly with the “measurable” element from SMART above. The timing could be daily or weekly or other depending on the nature of the goal, however ultimately you have to face the facts and look at your progress or lack of.
For example, as a fitness consultant, I like to use two weeks as a bench mark for my clients seeking to lose weight. Two weeks is long enough to see change. If we’re not seeing progress after two weeks, something needs to be modified. Are they being compliant to the exercise program? If yes, do we tweak their daily food intake? All goals will have their own unique set of variables for consideration. You must be willing to track progress and then make adjustments as needed to keep moving forward.
The Motivation Trap set
Motivation is a trap. You are more likely to act your way into feeling verses feeling your way into acting. I’ve had some of my very best workouts when emotionally I had every reason not to. From the excessive stresses of life or a short night of sleep, I have walked into the gym on countless occasions feeling way less than 100% only to walk out with another phenomenal workout under my belt.
People make decisions emotionally and back them up with logic. The same thing occurs with setting goals. The key is having the discipline in order to do the work regardless of how you feel. This is where having a big enough “why” is so critical. Remember, if your “why” is big enough, the “how” won’t matter.
There are many things we do daily in life where regardless of our emotions, we must perform the action. Most people don’t always feel like going to work and yet the commitment to providing for their family is all it takes to get the job done.
Use the same discipline with your life changing goals and act on principle and commitment…not your emotions. You will often find that once the progress starts to come, the emotion will kick in and the whole experience will take on a new and positive life.
“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
Baby Steps Add Up
Consistency is one of the most critical elements to reaching your goals and its amazing how baby steps add up. One of my favorite stories on the power of consistency is from an interview I once read with Jerry Seinfeld. When asked what he would attribute most to his success, Seinfeld’s reply was his “calendar”.
He explained that his goal in the early years was to write something every day. Some days were better than others but the goal was simply to write. He tracked his progress on a calendar marking each successful day with a big “X”. It got to be a game after a while that regardless of how he felt, he refused to miss being able to mark off another “X”. This simple method built the consistency that produced the work of one of the most successful sitcoms in history.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”
Thinking and Habit
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Stephen R. Covey
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
I went into detail in my last blog post explaining how the power of your associations and personal education will largely determine your success or failure in life. If you’re seeking to change your life in a big way, it only stands to reason that your thinking must change. And for your thinking to change, you must take in new information. To expect any less is “wishful thinking”.
Take home point for my readers:
Zig Ziglar used to teach that failure is an “event”, not a “person”. We learn and grow the most from our struggles in life…not the easy times. From Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison to Michael Jordan and essentially every other high achiever in the history of the world, their success came after in some cases many dramatic failures.
“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
“Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel.”
The only way you can fail is to quit. As my mentor Andy Andrews teaches, “Persist Without Exception!” and you will give yourself the best possible chance of reaching your goals.
Best of luck in your journey.