With each new year, we are given new challenges and new opportunities to make a difference and pursue our purpose. With 2015 underway, we face these same decisions. Goal setting, creating effective habits and making the right daily choices are practices that should not just be a thought on New Year’s Day, but all year round. However, with the percentage of Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions at about 45%, there is an undeniably strong focus on goals at this time of year.
The reality is that only 8% of people are successful in actually achieving their New Year’s Resolutions, according to a study by the University of Scranton. Why is that? What’s not surprising is that I’ve found that the 8% of people who are successful in achieving their resolutions are almost always the same people who are highly goal-oriented all year round (and are also successful in achieving those other goals all year round) and they share a similar set of characteristics, habits and disciplines that most people neglect. So whether you have not set New Year’s resolutions in the past and want to start or have set them but were unable to achieve them, here are some of the principles that successful goal-setters practice regularly and if you practice too, will make a difference in your success rate.
1. Write your goals. The starting point, and by far the most important piece of advice in this article, is to physically write down your goals on a piece of paper. If you follow only one tip in this article, this is it. Even if you only follow this first point and discard the rest of the article, you will still have a fairly decent shot of hitting somewhere close to your targets—much closer than you would without writing them down. It seems like obvious advice, but perhaps it’s so obvious that most people fail to see the significance of it and therefore overlook it. It has been found that only 3% of adults have written goals. But research has proved that people who specifically write out their goals are 10x more likely to achieve them than people who don’t. So why would you not want to be in the 3%? What are the top 5-10 things that if they were to come to pass this year, would make 2014 your best year ever? Preferably, you want to distribute your list of goals as evenly as possible across all the major areas of your life such as career, finance, health, relationships, etc. If your goals go out of balance, you will not get the results you are looking for. Darren Hardy, the publisher of SUCCESS Magazine, created a fantastic worksheet that will help you design the ideal structure for your goals so that you have the greatest chance of attaining them. Luckily his resource is available for free download. You can get that here. I strongly recommend using it.
2. Plan your daily habits. Goals are achieved step by step in small daily increments—sometimes increments that are so small you barely notice any difference on a day to day basis– not by one or two large sweeps or quantum leaps. This is where a lot of people get stuck and fail to achieve their resolutions. They come up with a game plan, they implement it for a few weeks (or in many cases, a few days) and when they don’t see any changes, they throw in the towel. Visit a gym on January 1 and then go back on January 10 and you will see what I mean. The fact is that goals are achieved in very tiny pieces day by day. Like the effects of compound interest, they slowly add up to a massive sum. The key is in choosing the right habits and eliminating any of the wrongs ones that may already be ingrained in your lifestyle, and then committing to these habits day in and day out until your goal is reached. The smallest of daily habits will accrue to make or break your year (or your life). Successful goal-setters are extremely conscious of their daily choices and habits, no matter how small they may be. Your attention to your smallest daily choices is what will set you apart from the 92% who do not achieve their resolutions and the 8% who do.
Determining which daily habits you need to develop or eliminate depends upon your specific goals. Since habits and goals are so closely intertwined, Darren Hardy also offers a worksheet for determining your daily habits, and that, too, can be downloaded for free here.
3. Do it. There is no substitute for action. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to do something. If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Making the decision to do something is very easy, but managing that decision by following through on it every day is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Consistency is key. You are going to fall off the wagon a few times, so stay focused and get right back to work. Do it even when you don’t feel like doing it. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. And the reality is that successful people don’t like doing them any more than unsuccessful people do, but the difference is they do them anyway. There is a price to be paid for everything in life. You can choose to pay now or pay later (with interest), but sooner or later you have to pay.
One of the tools I use for following through on implementing the right habits each day is an app called Touch Goal. The app allows you to program in your daily habits and check them off as you complete them each day and then track your progress over the course of time.
4. Reflect. Daily reflection is a powerful tool for keeping you on target with your goals and allowing you to make daily course corrections where needed to stay on the path to achieving them. Take some time each evening to reflect on the events of the past 24 hours. What were your wins and what were your losses? What tasks did you complete that took you closer to your goal and what tasks did you spend time on that took you further way from your goals? How can you spend more time tomorrow on the tasks that are getting you to where you want to be? Hold yourself accountable for how your time and energy was invested that day and the outcome that resulted and determine how you can use those retrospective insights to plan a more effective day for tomorrow.