What happened to those New Years resolutions…? 3 Simple steps to getting back on track

So we are nearly at the end of the first 3 months of the year and quite often by this point in the year a lot of people have forgotten that they even set a New Year’s resolution… Are you one of them?  A New Year always feels like a good time to set some pretty major goals for the up-coming year - a fresh start, a chance to ‘finally’ stop that bad habit or maybe start a new good one.  Does that sound like you at the start of this year?

If you haven’t kept up with the resolution don’t worry about it (you’re certainly not going to be the only one)! There is a quote I’d like to share with you that is actually the reason for writing this post:

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” – Harold Stephen

If your lack of action on your goal fits into the 'concern' category then maybe I can help?  As a professional coach I am very lucky to get to spend my time working with clients on how to set and achieve great goals that make a real difference in their lives and would like to share some tips with you that can either help you get back on track with the ones you set for yourself 3 months ago, or maybe to set new ones which are even more powerful – ones that you want to stick with until they have been achieved.

(1) A Goal is a dream with a date on it!

Setting effective goals requires more than just wanting something to change.  Unless a goal is setup correctly we make it too easy to fail.  There are lots of different approaches to take when setting goals, far too many to cover in this short post, so I will just cover some of the key ones that I would encourage you to think about.

Firstly make sure your goal is written in a positive way – i.e. make it about something you want rather than something you don’t want (for example, rather than saying “I want to lose weight” think about what you would gain in a positive way instead – for some people this could be to wear a particular outfit again or to have more energy to do things with your kids).  Secondly ensure it is something you can measure (this will help you when you get to the second step below) because if you can’t measure it how will you know when you have achieved it? Finally put a date on it, as without a deadline it will just stay as a dream or a wish.  When would you like to achieve this by?  What would achieving it by that date mean to you?  Make sure though that the date you set is achievable!  I am all for pushing yourself to achieve what you want but avoid the trap of setting yourself up to fail.

(2) Reward each small success along the way

Think of the journey to achieving your goal as a road stretching out into the future. Now imagine that road is pretty long (further than you could travel on a single tank of fuel). If you were to try driving a car along that road without stopping to top-up your fuel along the way you would eventually run out of fuel and stop.  The way you’d likely make the journey more manageable is to break it up into stages and plan for stops at various points along the road to re-fuel.  Now also imagine each time you stop that you stand at the side of the road and you take a moment to look back at where you came from and recognise just how far you have come since the last stop, then you turn to face the direction you're headed and appreciate that you have made another stop along that journey, and that as a result the “destination” is now that one step closer.

Think of your goals in the same way… plan for “stops” along the journey where you can recognise the progress that you have made, how far you have come and how much closer you are to achieving the goal as a result. Even better, plan something as a reward for getting to this point – think of it as refuelling your motivation to continue.  Only you will know what an appropriate reward is for you at each stage but make sure it is something that you feel is deserving of the progress you have made.  For some people this could be treating themselves to a new item of clothing, for others it may be a meal out, some would be happiest with a promise of time to themselves to spend guilt-free on a hobby they really enjoy… Find what will work for you, if you are feeling excited at the prospect of getting that reward then you have probably come up with a good one!

(3) Get your head around “why” you want this in the first place

Is it something you really want or is it something others want for you (or tell you that you need to do it)?  Is it something you think you 'should' do or stop doing (should is a word that is banned from my coaching sessions – but I’ll leave that one to a future blog post)?

Our motivation works in one of two ways… We can be motivated towards achieving what we want OR we can be motivated to get away from something we don’t want.  The majority of people will do more to avoid the bad than they will to get the good!  So what does this mean for our goal? Well unfortunately, unless the goal is big enough and our motivation to achieve it is high enough we are more likely to put our efforts into continuing to avoid other “bad” things from happening instead.  So what can you do to change this?  Could you change the goal in some way that keeps the original intention but makes it more exciting?  Think about all the differences that achieving this goal could have on the rest of your life, how could it also affect the people you care about (that’s another interesting point – we will often do more to help other people than we will for ourselves)?  Make the goal something that is just a little bit “scary”, something that you know you will have to put effort into achieving.

I am confident from my experience of working as a professional coach over the past 6 years that everyone could take something useful away from this post – think about the difference it could make to your life if you were to start setting goals that you not only wanted to achieve, but could make a significant difference to you and the ones you love and care about.

If you’ve enjoyed my post please feel free to leave a comment below – or even better share it so that others can enjoy it too – thanks for reading.

Best wishes