January is usually a time for setting resolutions, identifying the changes we want to make, working out the things we want to achieve and making a plan to get there.
Sometimes however, by the time we get to the middle of the month, we have given the whole thing up. We either found it too hard, tried a couple of times and ran out of steam, or just forgot about it altogether.
Should we be concerned?
Well, if you have spent any time at all making a resolution for the year, to have given up on it by the middle of January really is a little bit unfortunate.
We all have things in life we wish to improve upon, that is human nature. We are consistently looking for ways to be fitter, feel happier, achieve more. This is a good thing (within reason of course) and it spurs many new inventions and creative pursuits.
So, we need to work out a way to keep us on track so that we can make those changes we say we want.
Here is the problem with what we are currently doing…
The problem with making resolutions is that they are often not specific enough and don’t let us know exactly what we need to do in order to achieve them.
We might say “I want to lose weight” or, “I want to get fit” but that does not give us a very clear picture of what that looks like or the steps we need to take to make it a reality.
What we need instead are very clear goals that tell us exactly what we want to achieve, by when we want to achieve it and the actions we need to put in place to do so.
We need to do the following to make goals that can be achieved:
- Decide upon the big goals.
- Break them into actionable steps.
- Connect the new action with an old established habit if possible.
- Put a date on the goal and create urgency.
- Work towards the goal every day. Develop momentum and keep that momentum.
What is the first step you will take towards achieving yours goals this year?
Often we believe that we fail to work towards our goals because we just don’t feel motivated on a particular day.
It’s not about motivation!
I am here to tell you that it is not about motivation, it’s about the decisions you make and then the systems and processes you put in place to make the final outcome achievable.
A friend recently shared that she was having trouble with her feet. The physiotherapist recommended a course of treatment that involved doing exercises twice a day: once in the morning and once at night.
Even though she knew the importance of doing these exercises and the difference they would make in her life (reduced pain, ability to stand and walk without fatigue etc.) she struggled to implement them into her life. What she had failed to do was to set up her systems and processes to make it a no brainer to do those exercises.
Habit creation is the key.
The solution was to link this new habit she needed to implement (exercise twice per day) with an old habit she was already doing (brushing her teeth). Once she realised that she could do these both at the same time, or at least one immediately after the other, finding the time or making the decision to take action became very easy. It was no longer about finding the motivation to take action, it was just something that she did each day without question.
Her goal looks like this:
- Decide upon the big goals. (Reduce pain in the feet and legs)
- Identify the actionable steps needed. (Complete exercises 2x per day)
- Connect the new action with an old established habit if possible. (Complete exercises when brushing teeth)
- Put a date on the goal and create urgency. (Not necessary here)
- Work towards the goal every day. Develop momentum and keep that momentum. (Mark off on record sheet when completed each day)
Now, we all know that starting something new takes work. We need to be convinced that this new thing we want to do is worth the time, effort and sometimes pain it will take to achieve it.
If you want to achieve success, you make some decisions before you begin.
You need to decide:
What am I willing to give up?
Perhaps you will need to give up your evening dose of Netflix or that chocolate bar or glass of wine. When we establish a new habit, we are usually at the same time doing away with an old one that contradicts the new. For example, we can’t expect to lose weight if we simply add salads to our diet whilst still eating chocolate and ice-cream every night after dinner.
What am I willing to do?
It is easy to say that we want to do something but if we are not willing to take the steps that are required, we will be unsuccessful. Perhaps I want to compete in a triathlon. If however, I hate getting up early in the morning to train and don’t have the time in the evening, it is unlikely that I will be able to do what is required in order to succeed.
What will I do in the next 24 hours?
It’s no good saying that we will begin in January, next month or even on Monday. We will probably have forgotten all about our resolution by then. The best way to develop momentum for a new habit is to begin as soon as possible. Even if it is simply taking the time to schedule the tasks on the calendar, every small step leads in the direction of a goal achieved.
Celebrate your successes along the way.
One of the most important actions we need to take is to celebrate our successes during the process, rather than waiting until we reach the end. If we always focus on what is still left to be done and don’t take the time to celebrate how far we have come, even if that is only a few short steps, we will find it much harder to continue.
One final tip:
Never try to find the time to work on your goals, make the time instead.