The way most people approach New Year's resolutions is deeply flawed. So it's no surprise that according to research just 8% reach their New Year's goals. I have a lot of experience in setting and reaching goals, and getting things done. Having founded the women's network that focuses on setting and reaching personal goals and I have sat through hundreds of DrivenWoman group meetings and seen hundreds of women set and reach their goals successfully. I have also seen them moving from goals to meaningful goals.
My intent here is to share all this experience with you so that this year you don't find yourself amongst those 92% who will never reach their New Year's promises.
1. Pick themes rather than goals
My New Year routine starts by creating a vision board. I then pick three themes to focus on for the year. My previous themes have included words such as Add Value, Connect, Accept or Think Big.
This combination of a longer term vision and one year focus areas really works for me. On my vision board are the ambitious (and scary) long term things I'd like to do, be or learn. The three concepts help me focus on the right things during the year and move towards my long term vision. If I get side tracked I remind myself of my big themes and quickly to get back on track.
2. Don't start with the negative
Most New Year's resolutions aim to fix something negative: "I want to lose 10 kg." or "I want to stop drinking wine." or "I will be a better mother." This way of goal setting is very negative and is based on an assumption that you are faulty and not enough the way you are today.
Brene Brown talks about this in her book 'Daring Greatly'. She writes:
"Scarcity is the never enough problem. People very quickly fill the blank 'Never ______ Enough' with their own tapes. Never good enough. Never perfect enough. Never thin enough. Never successful enough. Never smart enough."
Focusing on 'lacking' will make your attempt to get to your goal a very negative experience and you are likely to give it up. Every time you try to focus on the goal you are reminded of this 'lacking'. (When in fact, you are enough, even if you occasionally drink a bit too much wine!)
Dr Steve Peters recommends in his book 'The Chimp Paradox' to wipe the slate clean. Imagine a positive future rather than try to fix things. Most people are limited by their past mistakes and struggle.
3. Accept your stating point
Many people would like to jump ahead to their ideal existence but refuse to accept the realities they face right now. There may be various obstacles standing in your way and setting ambitious goals is not going to make them go away.
Positive psychologist and International success coach Niyc Pidgeon says you can usually divide these obstacles into two types. In this video she explains that you may be facing a 'skills gap' or a 'mindset gap'. The first one is much easier to fix than the latter, and often more obvious to spot. If you want to start a business you soon realise you have to learn new skills. But it can be much harder to become aware of the mindset gap, yet it is what will keep you from reaching your New Year's goals!
4. Make your goals deeply personal
We all have to find a way to trust our own path. What ever it is you set out to achieve or experience or improve this year, you have to be deeply committed to it. Setting goals is relatively easy, committing to them is a completely different ball game!
Tony Robbins uses a technique where he asks his audience to pick a goal they want to reach. He then asks them to imagine the worst possible outcome if they do nothing to reach that goal. For instance, if they want to quit smoking, they will imagine lung cancer and death. If they want to quit their job and travel the world, they will imagine a person who suffers deeply regretting the life they never lived.
Projecting the future into the present moment can be a powerful tool!
5. Internal vs external goals
Most goals tend to be driven from external definitions of success. Why do you want to lose 10kg? Because you want to look prettier and appear more lovable to others? Why do you want to start your own business? Because you want to show the world that you can do it or make money? There's nothing wrong with this, but if you want to create sustainable change in yourself it is worth looking a little deeper and focusing on goals derived from the inside.
Tara Mohr talks about an 'inner mentor' in her book 'Playing Big' (by the way, this book is compulsory DrivenWoman reading and coming to our Reading List soon!) Inner mentor is who you want to be in 20 years. She's your wiser, older self. She knows what you really want in life, the woman you want to become. It's the woman you already are but may be hidden underneath layers of fear and self doubt.
"The inner mentor is the part of you that is whole, centered and loved."
We normally hear our 'inner critic' loud and clear, but she comes up with goals based on what is supposedly wrong with us (see point 2.) The inner critic is reflecting everything to the external expectations of how we are supposed to be. The inner mentor on the other hand comes up with positive goals which are related to becoming more who you really are and letting go of things that don't serve that authentic self.
Evaluate your goals and see if they are driven by internal or external validation.
6. Goals are only signposts
Goals are not necessarily there to be reached. The whole point of goal setting is to give you a direction so that you can start walking.
Imagine you are on a holiday and you decide to visit a famous temple. Google gives you the address and directions but if you go straight to the temple and pay no attention to things you experience along the way you are completely missing out. When you start walking you may find a different temple that is more to your liking and never actually make your way to the address you set out in the first place.
Is that a failure? Of course not.
You have discovered something much more meaningful along the way! But if you didn't have the goal to visit the famous temple that day you may have stayed by the pool and never left the hotel to explore.
Deepak Chopra has never set himself long term goals. In one of his mediations he talks about dreams and goals as signposts, giving you a direction. Hearing this was a fundamental turning point for me as I realised that my dream of being featured on Inc. magazine is not actually a goal, it's a signpost to lead me to do innovative work that will make a difference. I used to be embarrassed about this vision and would have not shared it with you in fear that you'll judge me as a failure if I don't reach my goal.
This leads me to the next, very important point.
7. Pursue excellence, ignore success
Check out Deepak Chopra's goals for 2016. He talked about wanting to live in peace with himself and the world and eliminating all toxic feelings. A great example on focusing on how you want to live, not what you want to achieve. It's best not to scorn on this sort of 'enlightened' goal setting. Striving for excellence has served Deepak pretty well and his net worth is estimated at $80 million.
I use these kind of 'process goals' regularly. For example, you can find images of healthy and fit women on my vision board = goal: stay healthy and fit = process goal: do 20 minutes of yoga every morning.
8. Write down your goals
Research proves that people who regularly write down their goals and are specific about when and how they are going to put their plans into action double their chances of success. And what's more, according to the legendary study about goals at Harvard MBA program 1979, the 3% of students who had clear, written goals were earning 10 times what the other 97% earned combined!
Well, at DrivenWoman we know this, because it is what we do every month. Members soon realise that they become much more aware of the things they write down in their action sheets at the end of each session and become specific on how they are going to put those goals into action.
It's the combined effect of writing things down, talking them through and doing it regularly that dramatically impacts your behaviour on the long term.
9. Share your goals with others
We all like to tell our friends on the 1st of January what our New Year's goals are, but then it all falls flat. To make it effective you must ask your friends to get together once a month to check on each others progress. Do this if you are serious about your goals as accountability increases your chances of keeping your promises. (And if your friends are not up for such a systematic approach, join DrivenWoman!)
Sharing with other people makes you feel accountable, but it will also help you evaluate your goals and their relevance. It is possible that you want to change your goals during the year and talking things through with a friend is an effective way to help you process your choices.
10. Big dreams, small steps
It's important to understand the difference between a vision or a dream and a goal or a task. Many people easily give up their dreams because they mistake them for a short term goal.
Vision or a dream is something you want to pursue long term, simply being on that path makes you happy. You are not attached to the outcome but you are committed continuously taking steps towards this greater vision.
When you are setting your goals for the New Year try to focus on the small steps you need to establish in order to make steady progress. If you want to be fitter, perhaps your vision is to run a marathon but your goal is to go for a 5km run twice a week.
To set SMART goals, you want them to be: Specific - Measurable - Actionable - Relevant - Timely
If your vision is to change career, your goal for January should not be 'research job opportunities'. It should be: 'Every Sunday evening from 4 pm to 6 pm I'll research opportunities from LinkedIn and I'll write down minimum three names I will contact the following week.'
11. Take a break
It's one thing to set goals, or to even reach them, but what if you've set the wrong goals altogether!
Ha! Now we have a dilemma.
Many people will refuse to admit that they've been on a 'wrong' path and rather stick to it than admit their 'failure'. They are missing a great learning opportunity and a chance to take their lives to the next level. Every path is full of wrong turns and as we say at DrivenWoman:
"One step to a wrong direction is better than no steps at all."
When I realised that building a fashion tech business wasn't really what I wanted, and after investing a lot of money and 1.5 years to it, it was a bitter pill to swallow. But this experience gave me some deeply invaluable lessons and a huge insight into myself.
Most of my goals had been very much 'external' until then, but after letting go of the start-up I'm now able to set 'internal' goals. I feel connected to my purpose and I can see things happening with much greater ease and better flow.
Was going 1.5 years into a 'wrong' direction a failure? Definitely not. From where I'm standing today I say it was a triumph!
When you focus on improving your life as a whole, becoming more aware, happier and healthier person, everything else will follow. Focusing on a specific outcome goal may lead you to feeling unfulfilled and disappointed as reaching the goal will not guarantee happiness.
It's not difficult to fill your days pursuing goals, but it's much more difficult to do things that are really meaningful to you and aligned with your true purpose.
This is why you must take a break from chasing what ever it is you now set out to do in 2017, and evaluate how those goals are making you feel and if they are truly serving you.
Wishing you an ass-kicking, abundant and meaningful New Year!
DrivenWoman is a social platform connecting women who want to achieve their goals and dreams. Thousands of women around the world have joined our program and are achieving their life goals supported by one another. Join our FREE community the Doers Tribe.