It’s hard to believe, but the new year is upon us! Soon we will be sitting down with family and friends celebrating all the promise and excitement a new year brings. We get a new start based on the hope that our life can change for the better and even the most cynical among us believe on some level that next year is going to bring something special. Some of us will even create a set of New Year’s resolutions that are supposed to guide us into the beauty of a new life full of the happiness that flows from personal growth and change. You might want to finally start an exercise program or to make a change professionally. Others want to lose weight or work on building a better marriage. There’s one problem with our plan: despite our good intentions, the research on our follow through with New Year’s resolutions is pretty grim. Even though 40% of people think through what they would like to change next year, only 8% of people actually execute a strategy that allows them to meet their goals. Basically, our heart is in the right place. We want to change. But our strategy for making these changes is severely lacking. If you want 2019 to be the year you actually live the life you’ve always wanted, it’s important to implement the following principles into your strategy for change.
While it might be very tempting to tackle a top 10 list of goals for 2019 starting January 1st, we will all be better off if we start by focusing on one goal at a time. When we try to address goals in every area of our life all at once, we tend to spread our energy and focus too thin. We need to be laser focused on one goal at a time so that we have the energy necessary to sustain our motivation over time. If you have 10 goals you want to achieve next year, pick one to focus on first. Work on executing a behavior or action that will yield progress on that goal every day. It’s only when goal one is complete that you should move on to the next. I know this might not seem as sexy as working on a whole new life from the beginning of the year, but I cannot overstate the value of going all in with change, on one goal at a time. Some people gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of simply choosing one word that they will focus on all year long as definitive and transformative. For instance, they might choose the word “gratitude” or “excellence” and then use that word as a guiding principle that provides a focus for multiple areas of their life. Whatever your strategy for meeting your goals next year, the key is to focus. One goal, one guiding principle at a time.
2.Make it Tangible
Good goals should always be bound by tangible, rational, achievable metrics. It’s one thing to say, “I want to lose weight,” it’s another thing to say, “I’m going to follow a low-carb diet that completely cuts out sugar for 2 months with the goal of dropping 2 pounds a week.” “I’m going to start going to the gym” is different than “I’m working out 4 days a week in the morning before work Monday through Thursday”. For years, research on goal setting and execution has demonstrated that vague goals typically yield frustration and lack follow through. Specific tangible goals give us a structure in which to focus our efforts and greatly increase the likelihood we follow through.
3.Write it Down
Although the discipline involved in charting your goals is difficult, it is almost universally accepted that writing your goals down is necessary for long term execution. For some people, making a clear “to-do” list is enough of a reminder, others rely on personal diaries or logs that outline their progress and their next steps. I’d like to recommend a variation of this strategy that integrates social media and personal accountability. Try to share your goals with your friends and family via a Facebook post or a group text. It’s another way to write down your resolutions, build accountability, and invite supportive people into your journey. Once people know what you’re up to next year, your social media account or mobile phone can be used as a motivator that helps you keep up the good fight to execute in 2019.
4.Create a Daily Routine
It’s so simple but creating a daily routine for yourself can make a big difference in your ability to execute on your resolutions. The best routines come at the start and end of the day — both your workday and your day in general. We should all develop a plan to work towards our goals when we wake up, when we first start working, when we finish our workday, and at the end of the evening. While we might not be able to actually physically emit a behavior that helps us progress, we can make sure that we carve out a routine during these critical moments in our day when we, at the very least, think healthy thoughts about our desire and motivation to meet our goals. For instance, your daily routine might include working out after work 4 days a week, but you should be fostering positive thoughts about your workout when you wake up and when you start work and then affirm yourself for a good workout before you go to bed.