New Year Resolutions

Have you made a New Year's Resolution? I've been listening to people lately talk about this as if it's just an exercise in futility... Why? The old adage goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!". Just because lots of people drop their resolutions in the February or March timeframe doesn't mean they should not set goals for self-improvement or that resolutions on the whole are useless. What it means is that *some* people don't do well at keeping to their goals or plans, and that *most* of us could use a little help in this arena. I just read a great op-ed about this very subject by Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Center.

Start with the End in Mind - Find Your End Game

One of the ways to start is to think of the underlying reason for your goals - why do you want to achieve these improvements, such as losing weight or getting out of debt? A technique I use with clients is the "Why, Why, Why" technique: for each goal statement you write, ask yourself "Why?" -- why do I want to achieve this? Then, look at your answer, and ask "Why?" of it, again. And again. Like an onion, if you peel back enough layers with each recurring "why" question, you will arrive at an answer to which you can no longer ask "why" again -- the only answer is "Just because". That becomes your "End Game" -- your ultimate outcome that you would achieve in pursuing that goal.

Why should you do this? Because people a do much better job at sticking to a goal when they can connect it to an end outcome they care about. They have a highly meaningful motive for working through the inevitable obstacles that come their way as they pursue their goal.

Make a Plan and Plan to Stick to it

One of the most common reasons people fail in reaching their goals is because even if they have clarity of purpose they don't have a strong plan of action. Their goal becomes a mere 'wish' unless it is followed by exacting plans that detail the "What", "How", "Who", and "How much/many". A plan needs to include specific actions and supports that are required to achieve a goal. Look at your goal statement and ask yourself: "What do I need to do to achieve this - to make this a reality?". You should come up with 3-5 main activities that you need to engage in (or stop engaging in) to accomplish your goal.

For each of those activities, ask: "What do I need to do to make this activity a reality?" and again, list those 'tasks' under each activity.

Also ask yourself, "How will I get these activities/tasks done?" and figure out scheduling, funding, or other supports and resources that you will need to accomplish your tasks, activities, and ultimately achieve your goals. Do you have everything you need? If not, what do you need to do to get it? Is there research you need to do or books to read first? Are there people you need to talk to or whose support and/or help you need to secure to make these things happen? Is there money or equipment that will be required to achieve your plan? What are some potential obstacles that you may anticipate will come up and try to divert you from achieving these tasks, activities, and/or goals? Are there ways in which you can set up alternative plans for various 'if, then' scenarios? Planning for obstacles is one of the best ways of taking back control and moving from passive to active and in control of your plan and your life.

So: what are your important goals this year? And what's your plan for not becoming part of the 'cynical' masses who deride New Year's Resolutions and one of those triumphant few who live their dreams?