Sad fact: Studies show that most New Year's resolutions fall to the wayside within seven days. Plans in our personal lives to lose weight, quit bad habits and even in our business lives to improve our customer service, or grow a new product just don't seem to stick.
This isn't to say that goal setting is futile. The problem isn't the goal itself, it's how we set it.
When we set goals, there are two pitfalls that will almost inevitably lead to failure. The first is overstatement and the second is the lack of a plan. When we are ripe for change, we often set goals that are desirable, but don't seem achievable. For example, if you are trying to get in shape, it may not be a good idea to say you are going to run a marathon. It sounds great, and is certainly achievable, but the goal is so big that it may deter you once you get started. More importantly, goals without clear plans that include daily action simply won't stick.
Goals are essential for achieving what we want in life, but establishing them requires that we go through a process to make sure they stick. For starters, take a few minutes to sit down and get clear. Writing your goals down may seem silly, but it is absolutely essential. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to achieve what you want. This exercise should only take about 15 minutes, but it will be well worth your while:
Step 1: Write down one to three things you want for yourself either personally or professionally in this coming year. They must be things that: 1) seem feasible to you, 2) are specific, even quantifiable, and 3) can be achieved or off the ground within one year.
Step 2: Create an action plan for each goal that involves weekly, and even daily efforts. This doesn't have to be complex. If, for example, your goal is to get a new business idea off the ground, ask yourself what should be accomplished each month, and then take daily and weekly action to make sure you achieve the goals. The reason for doing this is to break down your big goal into manageable, time-sensitive pieces. That way you ensure that you are working on it consistently
Step 3: Hold yourself accountable. It's too easy to let life get in the way and give up on our goals, and yet that is precisely what we will regret at the end of the year. There are several ways to hold yourself accountable. The easiest is to find someone in your life who can act as your "coach." This can be a business partner, a friend or even your spouse. Share your goal and action plan with them, and ask them to simply check in with you weekly to make sure you are on track. Another way to do it is to tell people about your goal. That way, you are more likely to follow through.
Don't be discouraged if you fall off the wagon and let your action plan go for a week or two. Consistency is the key to achieving our goals, but we don't have to be perfect either. If you fall off the wagon, just get back on.
The next columns in this series will give you tools to stick to your goals and make them happen. The starting point, as it is with anything in life, is getting clarity on what you want. So, take the time to do work up front. The pay off will be more than you expected.