Ah, New Year’s resolutions! How we love to make ‘em and break ‘em!
It’s cliché to talk about broken resolutions at the end of the year. Despite our high expectations on January 1, we often arrive at the end of the year still carrying around an excess 40 pounds, eating junk food, sleeping in, neglecting our families, working our dead-end job, and wondering why in the world we couldn't carry through with our resolutions. Each year we dutifully and hopefully make our resolutions, then shrug them off before we even realize it’s February 1st. Each year, we try; we fail.
Can this year be — truly, really, actually, honestly — the year of change?
Yes it can, and you’re about to find out how. This article will explain how you can absolutely dominate all your New Year’s goals.
TeamGantt is committed to helping you meet your goals. That’s what our highly-developed software is all about. To branch out from that a bit, we’re sharing a plan that will help you finally achieve your New Year’s goals, and enjoy the success and satisfaction that comes from such an accomplishment.
As you read, you'll gain rock-solid advice that will help you get from where you are, to where you want to go — whether you’re leading a company, beginning your career, a stay-at-home parent, a student, or even if you’re not sure where you’re at.
You’ll discover how to make your goals, how to craft your lifestyle in a goal-oriented way, how to achieve those goals, and then how to stay encouraged for the long haul.
The worst mistake you can make when setting goals is setting the wrong ones. It’s easy to blame yourself for breaking resolutions and failing to meet goals. But the problem might not be with you at all! Very often, the problem with broken New Year’s goals is the goals themselves.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you (and 60% of Americans) want to lose weight. So you resolve to do something about it. Here’s your goal:
“I resolve to lose weight.”
That is not a goal. That is a statement of truth or untruth, depending on how far your moral resolve will carry you. And — let’s face it — your moral resolve won’t take you very far.
If you’re familiar at all with goal setting, you’ve probably heard of a guide for setting goals — the SMART acronym. Millions of project managers all over the world have been trained using this guide. It’s familiar, but worth explaining again. Herein is the ultimate criterion for goal-setting.
How will you know know whether you’ve achieved your goal or not? You make it specific. A specific goal has an end point. It’s not simply a pie-in-the-sky platitude. “Become more organized” is not a specific goal. “Organize the top drawer of my desk this Saturday from 1p-3p” is specific. “Lose weight” is the most common goal of all. But it’s also the most commonly abandoned goal because it’s too vague. “Join the Neighborhood Couch to 5k Program, and participate three days a week from 7:30-8:30am” is specific. The key to making a specific goal is knowing what you want to achieve generally, and then breaking it down to what you can achieve specifically. (Read that again.) Maybe you want to “be a better project manager.” That’s nice, but that’s not a goal. Break it down into an actionable point. Instead, your goal should be “Resolved: During the month of January, to refrain from angrily raising my voice with employees to the point where people in the next cubicle can hear me.” Yeah, it sounds a bit awkward, but you’re far more likely to achieve that goal than to achieve the vague “be a better project manager.” The “be a better project manager” goal can be accomplished only when you understand what a better project manager is and does. Only then can you make specific goals that will help you do just that.
In order to make a goal measurable, you must know whether and how you are attaining your goal. This doesn’t need to be strictly scientific. You just need to know if you’re on track. With losing weight, it’s not hard. You have access to a set of scales. You get on. You look at the number. You get off. You know. With other goals — the fuzzy, but important ones — it’s harder to know. However, if you’ve made specific goals, you should be able to measure them, because you know if you’ve completed it or not. Measuring these goals will be easy. You just check it off the list. The tenth most popular New Year’s resolution is to “spend more time with the kids and the family.” If you break this down into a set of specific goals, it’s possible to measure it. You decide to “take the kids to Franklin Family Fun Park at noon on Friday. Have pizza together, and buy them each ten tokens.” Accomplishing this subgoal is a measurable way to determine whether you’re meeting your goal of spending more time with the family. The best question to ask yourself when creating a measurable goal is — how will I know when it is accomplished? If you can’t measure it, you won’t know whether you’ve reached it. Make your goals measurable.
Every goal is an action. So when you write down your goal, use action verbs. “Be” and “have” are not action verbs. Action verbs are “gain,” “run,” “write,” “work,” “create,” “build,” and “play.” It sounds simple, but you can’t achieve a goal unless you actually do something. That’s why every goal that you create should have a specific action attached to it.
The best way to set yourself up for failure is to set a goal you cannot attain. Think of this as the common-sense factor to your goal setting. “Make a million bucks by May” is a pretty cool goal, but is it realistic if you have no money, no job and are $35,000 in debt?” “Lose 95 pounds by January 30” is also very awesome, but is it healthy, wise and safe? Probably not. But don’t let the need to be “realistic” tie you down. Some of the best goals might sound crazy at first, but are actually quite doable. If you want to make a million bucks, go for it, but first make resolutions that will spur you on to getting a great job and eliminating your debt. A realistic goal is one that you are passionate about. Remember that you will carry this goal for months, probably longer. It’s going to be an uphill battle most of the way. Unless this is something you feel deeply about, you’re going to bail out when the going gets tough. Whatever your “realistic” level is today, you can raise it tomorrow. As you achieve your goals, your definition of “realistic” will begin to change. You begin to realize that you can achieve more and do better than you ever thought possible.
When it gets right down to it, every goal has an expiration date. Every goal you write down should have a date attached to it. “Write the first draft of my novel by June 1.” “Run the Cooper County Marathon on April 25.” “Give $250 to Hope for Africa charity by March 30.” The key to totally nailing your resolutions is making the right ones. That doesn’t mean you need to lower the bar, or make fewer goals. Instead, you should make goals that align with the SMART matrix. Once you’ve done this, you’re on the highway to resolution success.
As you create goals, do so with your entire life in view.
You can’t separate who you are personally from who you are professionally. The two are connected. Making and achieving a goal in your personal life will impact your professional performance. Achieving your financial goals will create a change in your social life and family life. You are a whole being — not a composite of different parts.
Understanding yourself as a unified whole should affect your goal setting. You should make goals that affect all of life. It’s not enough merely to make a work-related goal, and to neglect the area of personal development. You should make goals that touch each area of your life.
When we achieve goals in one area, that achievement affects our total happiness. In other words, when you make progress on a work-related goal, you become energized, motivated, and inspired to achieve more in every area of life. To sustain this energy and momentum, you should have a network of goals that encompasses your entire life. Every bit of progress in one area will help spur you on in another area. It all works together.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, discusses “keystone habits.” He writes, “keystone habits explain….why some people, after years of trying, suddenly lose 40 pounds while becoming more productive at work and still getting home in time for dinner with their kids.”
What is a keystone habit? A keystone habit is a small yet important life change with ripples that transform one’s entire life. Duhigg offers the example of weight loss. In one study, in order to address the obesity condition of 1,600 people, doctors assigned a simple goal: patients should write down in a food journal everything that they ate. Those who recorded their food choices lost twice as much weight as the control group which was assigned a regimen of workouts and weight loss exercise. The simple act of writing down one’s food intake was the catalyst for eating less and exercising more. A small habit, one that required no exercise and no changes, made a huge difference.
Author Gretchen Rubin describes how a keystone habit, making her bed each day, changed her life and improved her happiness. Rubin’s readers have discovered that this simple habit has inspired power and energy for their entire life. Rubin explains, “Sticking to any resolution – no matter what it is – brings satisfaction.”
Making a goal and achieving it helps you make more goals and achieve them. Progress begets progress. Winning little goals helps you win bigger goals.
What areas of life should you work on? You don’t need to make a goal for every single area of life, but you should pick a few that overlap. The broadest two divisions are personal and professional. Make at least one goal for each category.
Here are some other areas of life in which you would do well to create goals:
Goal setting is an entire life exercise, not something that you can confine to just one little section of life. So open your entire life to change, and enjoy the positive impact of goal setting.
Everything you’ve read so far has been about making goals. The theory is good, but is it really going to work? Now that you’ve made a couple goals, it’s time to dig in and make a difference. This is where the rubber meets the road--when you actually perform your goals.
When life gets crazy, and you feel out of control, here’s how you can still dominate your goals.
Create a plan for each of your goals. Looking at the raw declaration of resolution can shock us into inactivity. When we break it down into little achievable chunks, it’s not that bad.
Maybe you want to run a marathon. You’ve even created a SMART goal: “Run the Magic Valley Marathon on September 17.” Now, you need a plan. You’re not going to wake up the morning of September 17 and run 26.2 miles unless you do some training.
So you break down your marathon goal into a marathon training plan. Your plan includes six phases, in which you run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon, then full marathon training, and so on. You schedule your long runs, and create time in your schedule for your daily training. You set aside hour-long workouts five days a week, and put them into your calendar. In essence, you distill your big goal into hundreds of little goals, and sprinkle them across your life.
Traveling is a popular New Year’s resolution. Perhaps your goal is to “Visit Machu Picchu in 2014.” This goal has a lot of subgoals. You’ll need to plan it out, step-by-step, and date-by-date. You won’t get to Machu Picchu unless you plan for it.
Even goals as prosaic as “organize the house” require planning. To organize the house, you’ve got to start somewhere, like your closet. In order to organize your closet, you need to find a box or trash bags to collect your old clothes to donate. You may need to purchase and install a closet organization system. You’ll need to research which one is best for your closet space. There’s a lot involved, and you’ve got to have a plan.
The problem with creating New Year’s resolutions is that whole year thing. A year is a long time. Many of us have trouble knowing what a day holds in store, let alone a week, or a month, or a year! One strategic way to set goals is to do so on a monthly basis. A month is a manageable chunk of time that allow us to build momentum and accomplish something realistic.
With goals, the saying rings true: “Out of sight, out of mind.” In order to accomplish your goals, you need to be reminded of your goals. Thankfully, with high-tech tools or old-fashioned calendars, it’s not hard. TeamGantt automatically sends you emails every day to keep your projects top of mind as you enter each day. It’s simply part of the entire goal-setting process — keeping your goals visible.
Here are some apps that you can use to help you track your goals:
As an iPhone user user, I use the native app, Reminders, to help me remember my goals. I also use health-tracking apps such as Up, RunKeeper, and GymPact, each of which gives me a reminder to work out, and pursue my health and well-being goals.
Make reminders that work for you. Spread them throughout your life.
Whatever it takes, blanket your life with reminders, and you’ll be more successful at achieving your goals.
Goals require time. One of the core principles of time management is that we make time for things that are important to us. That’s why you need to make sure, at the very beginning, that you’ve set the right goals.
When it comes right down to it, setting goals is about controlling your schedule. You eventually come to the point where you’re not aiming for a goal itself. Instead, you’re scheduling time and managing your schedule. Make time to meet your goals. They won’t get accomplished unless you do.
You probably realize that sheer grit and determination do not accomplish goals. In conclusion, here are two tips that will seal the deal for dominating your goals.
Set goals, and then tell others about it. When you share your goals with others, you form a social network of accountability. Motivational speaker and author Michael Hyatt advises selective sharing of one’s goals. The point is that goals aren’t simply a private effort. Enlist the help of trusted people, and gain valuable community support.
You will become disappointed as you pursue your goals. That’s okay. Just expect it, and get through the discouragement. One of the best ways to sidestep major depression is to score small wins. Making progress on a measurable goal gives you a surge of dopamine, which can bump you out of a funk. Don’t let little setbacks derail you from achieving major goals.
This year you can change. You can create goals that are achievable, shape a lifestyle that supports your achievement, and then watch the change take place in your life. The encouragement and empowerment that comes from crafting and accomplishing goals is a remarkable thing. Let’s get it started!
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