Since people fail at their New Year’s Resolution about 95% of the time, why even bother to make one? In actuality, a New Year’s resolution is nothing more than an intention to meet a goal. So why don’t most people achieve their New Year’s goal?
How Big is Your New Year’s Goal?
Many people like to make a New Year’s resolution because a new year signifies something big. In fact, something huge! It’s a chance to begin something, to start all over, to turn over a new leaf, to do something really hard, or to quit procrastinating.
And that can be a problem! Big goals are hard to accomplish!
Let’s take a common big New Year’s Resolution – losing weight. Attendance was very low this last week of December at my gym. But I can guarantee you that next week the January rush will be on! Folks who want to lose weight and get in shape will pour through the doors. Many of them will have an ambitious New Year’s goal of losing 10, 20, or 30 pounds – perhaps even more. That’s a lot of weight to lose!
To understand if your goal is too big or not, it’s helpful to use a well-established tool called SMART. While there are several interpretations of the acronym’s meaning, the one I like the most is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Limited. Using the SMART tool will help you create a clear and meaningful goal with an action plan and resources to help you succeed.
Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal. Elbert Hubbard
Research has shown that people tend to be unhappy when their expectations exceed reality – when there’s an “expectation gap.” So, don’t choose a goal that’s beyond your reach. Choose a SMART goal.
How Specific and Measurable is Your Goal?
I would like to lose 10 pounds in 2017. I’ve been thinking about it for about a month, and I’ve committed to that goal.
It’s not so much that I want to look different. And I don’t feel bad physically. It’s that I’ve gained a pound per year in recent years. At that rate, I could fall into the “overweight” or even “very overweight” category within a few years. So my main motivation is that I want to be healthy and stay healthy.
To be honest, I’m a little nervous about this goal. The most weight I’ve ever lost in one year is 6 pounds. And that was about 20 years ago. It’s harder to lose weight as you age and your metabolism slows down.
But at least my goal is specific and measurable! There’s not much wiggle room in the definition of what I want to do or the result I want to achieve! The more specific and measurable your goal is, the better the goal!
Patrick Lencioni says that one of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job is when an employee cannot measure his or her accomplishments. There’s just something about having a specific goal and measuring your progress that makes both a job and your New Year’s Resolution goal so much more meaningful!
How Achievable is Your Goal?
The problem with big goals, even if they are specific and measurable, is that they are often not realistic or achievable.
For example, I coached a young woman who desperately wanted to complete her college degree. After dropping out of college twice, she decided to go back to college one last time. She could graduate in just 9 months if she did well in the remaining courses.
Unfortunately, my client decided a few weeks into our work together that she wanted to start a small home-based business. In fact, within a week of coming up with the idea, she purchased some business supplies before I even knew she wanted to start a business!
I asked my client how much time the new business would take. She said that it might take 20 hours per week initially, but within a month or two, it would probably only take 10 hours per week.
We took a look at my client’s shared Google calendar. Counting classes, study time, and other events on her calendar, she realized that she didn’t have 20 extra hours per week to work on her new business. Yet, she had to get sales in order to pay off her new inventory costs.
In short, my client had a big, but achievable, goal of completing college within 9 months. However, it was less achievable once she added on the new business adventure. Within a matter of two or three weeks, she fell behind in her studies. At our last coaching session, she was considering dropping out of college again.
How Relevant is Your Goal?
To be motivated to achieve a goal, the goal must be personally relevant. There needs to be a compelling reason for you to follow through on an Action Plan to achieve your goal.
Even though I’m a bit nervous about committing to my weight loss goal, I’m clear about the reason I want to lose 10 pounds – I want to live a long, healthy life. I don’t want to gain more weight and take the risk of associated health problems. I want to lose 10 pounds and not regain it – ever! So why not do it this year?
There’s no better time than 2017 to achieve my goal! I know that the more weight I gain, and the more years I wait to lose weight, the harder it will be to lose. I know that my current pattern of gaining a pound a year for the last few years is not sustainable.
How relevant is your goal to you personally? Are you super clear about its importance to you? Does the role you play in achieving your goal also impact your team members at work or your family members? If so, is right now the best time for you to pursue your goal? Or would it be best to postpone working on it until there’s a better time for you, your team members, or your family?
How engaged are you in your goal? Have you given it a lot of thought or is it a spur of the moment idea? Are you aware of the changes you will need to make in your daily patterns?
In order to set a SMART goal, you have to have a deep sense of awareness about what’s needed to achieve the goal. A SMART goal is also based on a clear intention to achieve the goal.
Heightened awareness and intention can only happen during mindful moments in which you grasp the extent of the work you will need to do to meet your goal. This is why it’s so important to be mindful throughout the day – every day. Otherwise, your well-intentioned New Year’s goal may land in the 95% failure pile.
What’s Your Action Plan?
Most big goals – and some small goals – involve a considerable sacrifice of time, money, and/or energy. More than likely, you’ll have to give up some things to accomplish your goal. And you’ll need an Action Plan.
Let’s take my weight loss goal as an example. From past experience, I know these things need to be in my Action Plan:
- Adjust eating habits. Plan meals more carefully, reduce carbohydrates, increase proteins, don’t snack late at night, track calories on MyFitnessPal, and update my weight log daily. Whew!
- Get a good night’s sleep. Go to bed earlier. Get more sleep. Resist the temptation to look at one more thing on my computer after 11:00 pm. Research shows that we need to average 7-8 hours of sleep per night to maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise a minimum of 5 days/week. Go to the gym or the jogging trail, even on those days my exercise buddy can’t go with me. Do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio work 5 days/week. Do at least 15 minutes of weight-bearing exercises 5 days/week.
- Limit the amount of time I work. Turn down work that interferes with my primary big goal. If I make work a higher priority than good eating habits, sufficient sleep, and consistent exercise, I’m not going to lose 10 pounds in 2017. It’s time to work less and focus more on health goals!
Now, it’s not that I’m not already working on many of these things. But, for me to lose 10 pounds in one year and keep it off, I have to pick up the pace! I have to do these things consistently, day in and day out, for an entire year and beyond!
How Much Time Will It Take To Achieve Your Goal?
One of the reasons folks get excited about making a New Year’s resolution is that they have a whole year to accomplish their goal! Now, how many other times do you have 365 days to achieve a goal? Not many, right?
Having 365 days to achieve a goal can be a problem! Goals need to be time-limited. So when you have a whole year to accomplish a goal, you don’t feel as much pressure to make quick progress.
We all know that losing weight is hard for most people and that keeping weight off is even harder. So if you have a big, hard goal for 2017 (like I do), be thankful that you have 12 months to make your goal!
One way you can stay on track with achieving a big goal is to set specific, measurable, and realistic sub-goals each month. That will help you achieve the big, hard goal by the end of the year.
What do you think? Can you achieve your goal in the next 12 months? Or do you need to change or adjust your goal?
Do You Need Help With Your New Year’s Goal?
If you have read this far, I suspect that you may have some new ideas about choosing a New Year’s goal that will work for you!
If you have already committed to a New Year’s goal, can you name a few specific actions you need to take in order to achieve your goal? Are they specific, measurable, relevant, and achievable?
We specialize in leadership and conflict coaching and ADHD coaching for college students and other adults. If you would like to chat about your New Year’s goal to find out if coaching might help you achieve your goal, please contact us.
Happy New Year to our readers! And Best Wishes with your 2017 goals!