Last Sunday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his 2016 personal challenge. He plans to build an artificial intelligence system to run his house. In past years, he’s challenged himself to learn Mandarin, read a new book every two weeks, and to meet a new person face-to-face, every day.
While most of us don’t have the resources available to set a goal as aggressive as building a robot butler, it does make sense to set some type of personal goals for improvement. Whether you call them New Year’s resolutions or personal challenges is irrelevant. What matters is that you identify a goal to improve yourself and set out to accomplish it.
Of course, setting a goal isn’t all that difficult. You just pick some aspect of your life that you want to be better and decide to work on it. The hard part comes when the rubber meets the road – that is, when you actually have to make some kind of change in order to achieve your goal. You can’t just set a goal. You have to create a plan for success.
Last week, I presented seven different areas of your life that Career Coach Dan Miller suggests setting goals for. I also promised to share with you my personal goals/resolutions and some of my plans to achieve them. After considering all the categories and paring the list down, here’s what I came up with:
- Get in better shape physically.
- Spend more time on spiritual and mental growth.
- Get more organized and manage my time better.
Now these statements probably look a lot like the resolutions most people make every year. That’s understandable. The problem is that resolutions like these just don’t work. Did you know that 25% of resolutions are abandoned after just one week? By July 1st, six months into the year, 60% of the people who made resolutions will have quit. That’s because making a resolution isn’t good enough. You have to have a plan to accomplish the goal. A New Year’s resolution without a plan is just a wish. It’s a pipe-dream. But a resolution with a well-thought out plan of action becomes a mission.
Here are five things I’ve done to give my resolutions a more-than-fair shot at actually becoming reality.
I wrote my goals down. On reason most resolutions fail is that they never make it past the stage of conception. Simply voicing a desire to improve does little to change your mindset. But there’s magic in writing down your goals. Seeing your goals in writing gives them weight. It makes them real.
I actually wrote down several versions of my 2016. What you see above is just the initial, vague concept behind those I settled on. Keep reading to see how I refined my thoughts into concrete strategies.
I thought small. Another reason resolutions fail is because people bite off more than they can chew. They set too many goals. They shoot for too much improvement too quickly. As a result, they reach too far, wind up falling short, and give up. The secret to making change stick is actually small moves. Small moves are easier to accomplish, allowing you to complete more of them and giving you the confidence to attempt something just a bit harder.
Knowing how full my plate is, and how difficult it is for me to stick to any particular routine, I first decided to whittle my list of resolutions to three. Furthermore, I chose to approach each goal using small, easy-to-accomplish steps. For instance, I know (from experience) that a gym membership is a waste of time for me. I simply don’t have the discipline or time to travel in order to work out. So I decided to focus on bodyweight exercises that I can complete at home in just a few minutes a day.
I got very specific. In order for a goal to be actionable, it has to be specific. The best way to ensure a goal is a good one, is to use the SMART Goal filter. SMART Goals are specific, measureable, attainable, time-based, and realistic. If your goal can pass this simple test, you now have a strategy. Rewrite your goals, getting more and more specific, until you can pass each of the five parts to the SMART Goal filter.
There are two parts to my fitness goal. Part one involves taking 10,000 steps daily. That number is generally regarded as a minimum target for adults. I bought a Fitbit tracker last year that keeps tabs on my progress and experience shows that with just a little extra effort, I can reach that number each day. I also found a free 90-day exercise plan that features short bodyweight movements. I created a tracking sheet and have been marking my progress as I complete each day’s routine. Now I have two fitness strategies that, based on what I know about myself, meet the SMART Goal criteria.
I’m working smarter, not harder. Change is difficult. Huge changes, such as starting a daily routine that hasn’t existed before, are even harder. In order to make it stick, you have to make it as easy as possible to engage in the new behavior. Take steps to make it almost impossible to fail by designing systems that use your natural inclinations to propel you forward.
I moved my elliptical machine into my bedroom. It doesn’t fit with my wife’s decorating, but it’s an in-my-face reminder of my goal – and it removes my excuse for walking when inclement weather keeps me inside. I also identified a series of business and spiritual audio podcasts that I can listen to while walking. This allows me to tackle two goals at the same time. I don’t have to find extra time or expend extra effort to accomplish that goal, so it becomes almost automatic for me.
I started immediately. Your biggest enemy is tomorrow, and there are a thousand reasons to wait. Ignore them. Start now. Inertia is a powerful enemy, but it can also be a powerful friend. Get moving and get inertia on your side.
One of my favorite quotes is from Karen Lamb. “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.” Make the commitment and get moving. Taking the first step is usually the hardest part of any new project for me. Once I take that first step, though, the next one becomes easier. Each successive step becomes easier still. The sooner you get started, the better. As of last night, I’ve got 1 days under my belt. According to my tracking sheet, I’ve hit my target each day. Some days I barely made it, but I did it. Had I waited until this week to get going, odds are I’d just keep waiting.
Obviously, I didn’t share everything about my 2016 plan – this article is already longer than I intended. If you’re interested in more details about my goals and strategies, feel free t ask. That will help keep me accountable – a topic I’ll cover next week.
Have you given up on your resolutions already, or are you still committed? It’s not too late to take charge of 2016. All you have to do is settle on a few small changes and then massage those goals into workable strategies. Let’s make this our best year so far!