In my last post I talked about change as it related to New Years resolutions, in this post, I am going to discuss some tips that you can use to make sure you are successful. You may be saying that we are already part way through January, why are you telling me this now? – I already did my resolutions. This provides a chance to look at how you’re doing so far, make some course corrections if necessary and keep you motivated to follow your resolutions. The fact of the matter is any time we ‘resolve’ to make a change we are making a resolution, so resolutions can happen any time of year not just at New Year’s. If you want or need to make changes in your life – don’t wait until next December 31st – make them now. No matter when you make them, January, February, June or July, do it in such a way that you will succeed by thinking, planning and then executing your plan wisely and consistently. Whether you have started off on New Year’s resolutions or just change in general any time of the year consider the following tips to help you resolve to change.
Ways to be successful:
- Know yourself
- Limit resolutions
- Use SMART Goals
- Get Help
You know yourself better than anyone, you know whether you are a morning or a night person, what you enjoy doing, what you hate doing, what motivates you, and what things distract you – many of these things others may not even know about you. When setting your resolutions, think about these various personal traits as they may be keys to your future success and to reasons for past failings. For instance, if you know your not a morning person, are you going to set a resolution to be at the gym at 5:30am three days a week? You may be able to change some old habits, but some are just not so easy to change. By resolving to go to the gym at 5:30am you are now trying to change two things at once that are not normal habits; getting up early and going to workout – your setting this one up for failure. If you believe that getting up early and hitting the gym is necessary because it is the only time you have free in your schedule, then start out by breaking the early morning issue first. Get up 15 minutes earlier each day for a couple of weeks then, 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, etc. until you have reached your required time to get to and work out at the gym. Maybe for the first couple of months while you’re getting up earlier each day, use this time to do a brief walk in your neighborhood. Eventually you will be up early enough to hit the gym and you will have already started conditioning your body for exercise. Keep in mind – you do not get fit and lose weight in a couple of weeks, if your goal is to lose weight, get fit, and stay fit it will take some time to establish these new habits. Do not rush and do not give up – use slow and steady.
Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
If you’re like me, you have a long list of things you want to accomplish, but most of these are “To Do” type items and are not actually “Resolution” list worthy. If you add too many things to your resolutions list or add things that are not resolution worthy, you minimize the importance of the things that really need to be your focus and create what feels like an huge burden. When you set too many goals, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and crack under the pressure. It’s pretty easy to say “I’m in over my head, I’ll never accomplish this resolution – because I have too many other things to do!” So the first step is to limit what resolutions you really can accomplish and then determine the order of importance. This is where realistic time planning and prioritization come in. Start by making a list of things you want to accomplish and split them in to what you believe are realistic time frames. It may be that not all the things we want to accomplish can be done in one year, but don’t let that stop you from setting up a long-term plan. More of this is covered in the SMART goals section below. Sort your list of desired accomplishments into immediate (short-term goals), annual or bi-annual (mid-term), and future (long-term) use increments that best fit your goal’s realistic time lines.
Once you have a list of real resolutions with realistic time frames, you need to put them in order of importance or priority. This may reduce your list down to an even more manageable load. The important thing is to move forward – accomplishing a few things is far better than accomplishing nothing because your load is too great. Think about what is most critical in your life over the next couple weeks, months and year and put them in that order. Keep in mind that some things that you feel are very important might need a year to accomplish whereas less important things can be accomplished in a couple of months. You can do the shorter time frame items now as long as you do what it takes to keep the longer term, more important items moving forward as well – work concurrently on both.
Use SMART Goals:
One way you can pull these previous ideas together is to utilize SMART goals. Putting your resolutions in to practice requires a plan and a good way to set your plan in motion is to create solid goals. Everyone will have slightly different goals as to what they want to achieve so everyone will have a slightly different plan. SMART is an acronym used to define how to set up goals in order to give you a better chance of following through. When setting goals, there are some basic principles that should be used, these principles are referred to by the SMART acronym which means that your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
The following is a SMART definition that was found on the “Goal Setting Guide Website”.
Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.
Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model.
- WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build etc.
- WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?
- HOW are you going to do it? (By…)
Ensure the goals you set is very specific, clear and easy. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2cm off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at an aerobically challenging pace.
M = Measurable
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, then it is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.
Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. What will you see when you reach your goal? Be specific! “I want to read 3 books of 100 pages on my own before my birthday” shows the specific target to be measure. “I want to be a good reader” is not as measurable.
Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.
A = Attainable
When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop that attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it’s too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.
A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 20 lbs in one week, we all know that isn’t achievable. But setting a goal to lose 1 lb and when you’ve achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1 lb, will keep it achievable for you.
The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated.
R = Realistic
This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able.” It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the person/organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn’t break them.
Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of never again eating sweets, cakes, crisps and chocolate may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys these foods.
For instance, it may be more realistic to set a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one sweet item. You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of sweet products gradually as and when this feels realistic for you.
Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!
T = Timely
Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by fifth grade. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.
If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now.
Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.
Everyone will benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART. SMART, is the instrument to apply in setting your goals and objectives.
Evaluate your list of goals and do a basic fine tuning of them based on whether or not they are “SMART”. Once you have evaluated your goals based on the SMART principles, you will be able to put together a plan that has a much better chance of success.
If you make resolutions every year and it seems you rarely or never actually accomplish them, it may be time to get some help. As previously mentioned, you know yourself better than most, and if you are truly honest with yourself you may come to the conclusion that you cannot do it alone. Sometimes we just need a little push or we work better when we know we will be held accountable for what we say we are going to do. For health and fitness type resolutions, sometimes a work-out buddy or a personal trainer will be what it takes to push you or keep you on track. I know that for me personally, having a personal trainer has helped me get on track when starting a new exercise program. Keep in mind that your accountability partner or trainer, if you go that route needs to know that you need to be pushed – good ones will do that. If your resolutions are more personal, spiritual or business orientated, maybe a Life coach, Business Coach or mentor is what you need. There are lots of coaches out there, and there are probably many individuals in your industry that would be honored to mentor you. Sometimes outside accountability is not needed as you may be the type that beats yourself enough to keep you on point, but what you lack is the initial motivation to get going. There are numerous books, videos, and websites that can be used to light the fire you need. Whether its motivation, inspiration or accountability that you need to get your resolutions from paper in to practice, stop talking about it and as the famous foot wear company says – Just Do It!
When the year rolls around, you will look back and see the progress you made over the course of the previous year which will provide the motivation you need for the next year’s resolutions.
After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done. ~Author Unknown
This is the Year of change, so I will be discussing a lot about it over the course of the year. If change is hard for you, stick around, as we have a lot more to cover.