About this time of the year, people are already backing down from the resolutions they made at the beginning of the year. If this happened to you, did you have a good strategy in place before you began? I like to view life and business planning as a multi-step process that requires some strategic thinking. To help improve the likelihood that you will make the changes and stick with your resolve beyond February, here is a 3-step method to try.
Step One: Set Your Clear And Definable Goals
Often people want changes in their life. And they wish and hope that things will change. But if you don’t specify exactly what you want to accomplish, you might make changes, but then again, you might not. I always say, “If you don’t know where you are going, that’s where you will end up.” In other words, although the world changes around you and you are dealt circumstances, you will stay in the same place and not make changes that you want in your life if you don’t first identify what you want. So pull out a pad of paper and start by asking yourself, what is working and what isn’t working and what would I like to change? Consider different aspects of your life:
- Relationship with spouse/Significant other
- Relationship with friends
- Relationship with family
- Self-development, spiritual development and learning
- Fun and play (Yes—planning to have fun is an important goal!)
- Health and well-being
- Money and finances
- Work in the world
- Physical surroundings/living and working spaces
Maybe you have a goal in all of these areas, or maybe just a few. Remember that you can’t change everything at once—no one can—so pick the ones that are most important for you now and leave the lower priority goals for down the line. Make sure that each goal is clear and defined in your head and on paper. For instance, having a goal of getting a new house isn’t enough. Decide what type of house you want, where you want it to be located, and how much you are budgeting for it. Try visioning as a technique to increase your clarity. Imagine your new house in your head or look at photos on the web. What style will it be? What color is it? What does the neighborhood look and feel like? What is your realistic time frame? The more detail the better.
Step Two: Get Motivated And Committed
Often the reason why we don’t follow through with changes in our life is lack of motivation. Therefore, it is critical to understand why you want to make the change in the first place. Having a goal because someone else told you to do it is not motivating. The goal must be internally motivating to you or you will have trouble reaching it. Here is a technique to get really clear on why you want something and then get excited about reaching that goal. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I want this goal?
- What will it look and feel like when I reach this goal?
- How will reaching this goal impact all of my life?
- What will happen if I don’t reach this goal?
- What will happen if I do reach this goal?
You might find that your goal isn’t that important so you cross it off your goal list. But if you realize that this goal is worth anything it takes to reach, you are ready to commit.
When you set your intention and commitment to reaching your goal, a mental shift takes place that supports you along the way. Think of it this way, if you have been saying for a long time that you are going to do something but you never reach that goal, something is in your way. It could be that you are unclear about the goal (See Step 1) or don’t have a strategy (see Step 3) or don’t want to do the work that is outlined in your strategy. And let’s acknowledge that there is effort involved in making changes. If it were easy, you would have already accomplished the goal. If you don’t want to do the work it probably means that you are not sufficiently motivated and committed.
Many people skip this important step and never reach their goal. So now ask yourself, “Am I committed to do the work it takes to reach this goal?” If you are, say it aloud, tell everyone, write it down. Lock it in and make it real. I even create goal cards that say, “I am so happy and grateful now that I…insert goal here.” I read my goal cards everyday to remind me and motivate me and make me believe that I can do it!
Step Three: Create a Strategy
Now that you are motivated to reach your goal and committed to take action, it’s time to create your plan. You need to have a strategy with details and aids to help you along your path to your new outcome. This is where the rubber meets the road because if you don’t have a clear method to reach your goal, you will probably flounder.
- Break down your goal into sub goals: It is always best to not bite off more than you can chew. In other words, break down your goal into sub-goals. A good rule of thumb is to break down big goals into 90-day windows. If the goal is to get 8 clients by the end of the year, target getting 2 in the next three months. Break that down into monthly goals, then weekly goals, then even daily goals. Write them all down and review them often.
- Plan actions based on what has worked for you before: Use your past successes to help you. Ask yourself, how did I reach goals in the past? For instance, if in the past you were successful at losing weight when you weighed in each Friday and kept a food journal, then do that again. List all the actions you will take to get to each sub-goal that gets you to your big goal.
- Get the support you need: Although you might know how to get from Point A to Point B on your own, it is always easier to accomplish goals when you have support. Support can be in so many different forms and it is helpful to have multiple sources of support. You can hire experts to assist (coach, marketing expert, Personal trainer, financial adviser, etc.). You can join a structured program for help (in person, on-line, book format). You can ask for support from family and friends. Just don’t do it alone.
- Keep yourself accountable: Do you have someone or something to help keep on your progress towards your goal? Consider asking someone to be your accountability buddy and check in with a short chat or email at regular intervals. You can also join a group of people who are trying for similar goals. An organizer app or day-planner book is very helpful for keeping track of the actions you will take each day that take you closer to each of your sub-goals. The point is that you need an accountability strategy to lean on that is always available to you. Being accountable will help you with the ups and downs you will encounter while on the path of implementing changes to your life.
Don’t wait to reach your goal to enjoy life
Because your life doesn’t begin when you finally reach your goal—your life IS now—find ways to enjoy it now or at the very least make it manageable if you are having a really difficult time. What I am suggesting is that you live in the moment while at the same time setting plans for your future. That is really what life and business planning is all about. You have an end in mind—your dream career, your newly redecorated office, your healthy body, your wonderful relationship—and you have steps to get yourself to that reality at some point in the future. Make it a priority to be enjoying the steps and life along the way and before you know it you will have accomplished so much and you will have a more fulfilling life no matter what the outcome.
And if you don’t reach your goal, don’t beat yourself up
Be kind to yourself and explore why you didn’t reach your goal. Did you do the work that was needed to reach that goal? And if not, why didn’t you. Did you really want that goal? If you weren’t motivated to reach the goal, perhaps the goal is worth letting go of. Or maybe you need to revise the goal slightly. But if you really want the goal, perhaps your strategy wasn’t working for you. Try something else. Get a new accountability buddy who will help remind you why it is so important to you. Or maybe join a group for extra support this time around. Just know that it will take time and effort and flexibility to reach your goals when you are thrown everyday challenges of life in the mix.
If you are thinking about make big changes in your life like leaving your corporate role and want to explore working with a coach, contact me to see how I might be able to help you on your path. I wish you great success at reaching your goals and finding the way in your life that brings you greater fulfillment and joy.