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Is it time for some February Resolutions?

By January 30, 2019June 19th, 2020Advice, Planning

As the month of January draws to a close, the Christmas festivities fade in the memory, and the excesses of the season slowly work their way (too slowly!) off the waistline, I thought it opportune to write about setting goals, and why New Year Resolutions don’t really work.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

There is lots of literature around about SMART Goals (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely) and any number of self-help books which can give you ideas on how to set goals, but the real problem is not in the setting, it is in the achieving. Maybe your first resolution should be not to buy another book about goal setting (but please make sure you read this article first!).

There are a couple of major issues I have found after years of working with clients to set and achieve goals.

  1. Too many goals are set.

We all have a host of things which we would like to achieve, but in a practical sense, we have limited resources to dedicate to working towards them. Best results are achieved when we focus on a small number of goals, which when achieved allow us to move on to the next one. We gain confidence in our planning process because we have achieved success, albeit in a small way – baby steps are often better than no steps at all.

  1. The goals we set are too big

The time horizon is very important, for most of us any planning period beyond a year or so limits our chances of success. What can we hope to achieve in the next year is more likely to work than what we can achieve in the next 5 years? The problem here is that in part at least, if the achievement of our goals is so far away, we can put off taking the action until later, and nobody wants to take the action. Dream big, but the real skill lies in breaking the dream down into bite-size chunks which we can concentrate on to move us forward.

  1. The goals we set are not ours

I have written previously here about making sure your goals are your own. In all the pressure around New Year’s Resolutions, we can easily adopt other people’s goals. To be honest, I really don’t have any desire to run a half marathon, or make $10 million in the next 5 years, or travel the world for twelve months. Whilst these might all be worthy goals for someone, because they are not mine, I am unlikely to do what is necessary to achieve them. I might feel good about setting the goal, but I won’t be all that disappointed if I don’t make it (and I know I won’t). For success, the goals we set need to be important to us and no-one else.

  1. No-one holds us accountable

Setting goals and not telling anyone means we never have to face up to our shortcomings. I always advise going through a goal-setting exercise with someone who can help us stay on track when it comes to doing the things we need to do. Having someone check in on our progress can often give us the encouragement we need to keep going, even better is if we report to our accountability partner without prompting. Chances are if you have taken this step, that you have done what you need to do. In either case, scheduling a firm date by which you are prepared to be answerable for taking necessary action can act as the virtual cattle prod you might need.

  1. We can’t visualize success

The vital question here is what will have changed in your life if you achieve what you set out to. If the half-marathon is important to you, how will you feel if you have achieved it? Goals need to be tangible, and their needs to be some sort of reward for having done the hard work you need to, to get to where you want to be. If nothing much has changed, then it wasn’t much of a goal really was it? What does “Made it” mean to you, does this mean you stop dreaming your dreams and working towards making them a reality?

All of this applies equally to whether we are talking about life goals or financial goals or business goals. I think a good first step is to ditch New Year’s Resolutions and start with one or two things we want to achieve and start taking action on 1st February. Dream a big dream, then work out what you need to do in the next 6 months to work towards it. DO that, after all, dreams are just dreams which disappear when you wake up and will disappear more quickly if you don’t act. Once done, work out the next steps and DO that. Make a plan and your dream is far more likely to become reality. Take some action and you have a great deal more likelihood of success. Find someone to help keep you on track, and only good things can happen

I’d love to be part of your success.

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