Why do some succeed at reaching their goals and others don't? This is a question that has plagued the less fortunate for centuries.
After watching some succeed and others fail for most of my life, including more than 20 years in the Navy and now nearly 3 years as a Business Coach, I've put together some simple steps to help you reach your goals - Seven to be Exact!
1. Set SMART goals and write them down. Be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Timely. “Working out more” is not a good resolution. Nor are “lose 20 lbs”, “spend more time with my kids” or even “make my wife happy” - as much as she will tell you that it's the best one there is.
What are you going to do to work out more? How are you going to measure it? By when do you want to lose 20 lbs? How much time do you want to spend with you kids? How often?
As important as it is to set goals, they need to be goals that you can measure, you can reach and ones that have a time line – a call to action.
Instead of “working out more” you might set the goal to create a habit of exercising at least 30 minutes every day by April. Or instead of “losing 20 lbs”, you might set the goal of changing your daily eating habits to only eat 2000 calories per day on the average while burning 2500 calories by March 1st.
Will these goals result in what you are trying to do? Absolutely. But more importantly, they call you to action right now and give you something realistic every day that you can shoot for to get to where you want to be.
And once you set your goals, never waiver! It's too easy to compromise and it costs too much. Once you gone done the path of compromise, you might as well start all over.
2. Be brutally honest with yourself. There are two things that you need to keep in your mind at all times – first is your goal or vision (step one). The other is the truth about “what is” – an honest assessment of the current situation.
For many, this can be the hardest thing – not because they don't look at current reality – but because they don't see it truthfully, and because they don't take responsibility for their participation in it.
You see, what drives you to reach your goals is the tension (stress) created from the gap between your current situation and your goals. The bigger the gap, the more stress on you, the harder you try to shrink that gap. But if you aren't truthful about the current situation, then you lessen the tension and stress that is the driving force for you to take action. And you reduce the likelihood to do what is necessary to reach your goals.
Tell me if you have ever heard this voice inside your head before, “I've done really well this week. I worked out a couple of times – not as much as I had planned, but better than I used to do. Eating one more spoonful of pasta isn't going to break me. I'll just make it up tomorrow.” To be brutally honest, I've heard it many times. And it was usually the beginning of the end of my commitment. It's not that I was intentionally lying to myself, but I certainly wasn't facing reality.
And I certainly didn't make up for it the next day.
3. Create a game plan that includes small measurable steps that you can take every day. Most resolutions are life-changing – and life changing habits don't happen overnight for most of us. They start as small changes to your daily lifestyle, that create huge changes over time.
So, the best thing you can do is to start small – something you can do every day and don't expect miracles from yourself. It can't be so grand that you burn yourself out the very first week, but keeps you moving forward. The key is building momentum. And even if all you can manage is a small improvement, if you do it every day, it will make a huge change in your life. Take that extra small thing you do every day and then multiply it by 365 days a year. You may be surprised at the results.
Carrying the “work out” goal forward. Don't try to start working out every day from the very beginning. You are setting yourself up for failure and you know you will quit in no time. Instead, throttle back your exuberance the first week. Plan to work out twice a week. But on the days that you aren't working out, give yourself five additional minutes when you go to work in the morning. Park the car in the furthest parking spot available and commit to walking into the office, then walk up the stairs instead of using the elevator. It doesn't sound like much, but if you do something everyday you are teaching yourself commitment that will carry forward in the weeks and months ahead.
4. Figure out why you haven't done so well in accomplishing your goals in the past
and plan a way to avoid those same mistakes. Most people think they learn from their mistakes – but few actually do. If they did, they would all eat better, work-out regularly, have no relationship problems and probably make a whole lot more money. So, how good are you at honestly and objectively assessing your past mistakes?
You don't have to be great, you just have to be honest with yourself. And believe it or not, it always comes back to one thing – You.
Look at what you wanted last time and try to see exactly when you stopped taking responsibility for making it happen.
Life will get in the way of your goals – ALWAYS! There will be one or more reasons everyday not to do what you committed to do – those reasons are very real. But it is your choice to overcome them or allow them to become excuses. Expect everything to go wrong in the process. And commit yourself to do whatever it takes to continue anyway.
The best way to overcome this is to list the potential life problems you have had in the past and figure out a way to empower yourself to overcome them. By facing the problems that could arise, you will be armed to preempt them as the come up.
5. Find an accountability partner who will be more committed to your goal than you will. When you enlist someone else to commit to helping you reach your goal or live within your resolution – everyday – you’ll feel accountable to that person. That accountability to someone else, having to report daily progress, will drive you in ways that you haven't felt before.
That person shouldn't be your spouse, or another close loved one whose help may turn into nagging, because of the personal nature of your relationship. Because there will be days when you need their support to be brutal and forthright. Even in the best relationships, this can cause tension that doesn't need to be there. Take a lesson from the mistakes of hundreds, if not thousands before you, and enroll someone whom you trust, but don't have an exceptionally close relationship with.
Your accountability partner should expect a daily report. And you should feel obliged to give it. That person should be able to call you to action, when you are at your lowest motivational point, and cheer you on when you are on top of your game. Marshall Goldsmith, an Executive Coach who has helped hundreds of Senior Executives in Fortune 500 companies, talks about a friend of his that he calls every night. No matter where he is in the world on business, his friend listens to what he got done that day, how well it went and what he intends to do the next day. And he does the same for his friend.
6. Don’t make excuses, except in truly rare circumstances. As I said before, in the real world, life gets in the way. Life is the reason we are where we are today – have the health and wealth we have today. Life is the reason we give ourselves for not sticking with our commitments. But remember,
If you want different results than those you have always gotten,
then you have to do something that you've NEVER done before.
then you have to do something that you've NEVER done before.
There will be days that you won’t be able to meet your daily goal – whether its walking for 30 minutes, eating less than 2000 calories or spending at least 30 minutes of alone time with your kids. There will be exceptional situations, but the key is to make sure they really are exceptional.
Don’t make excuses for reneging on your resolution or goals. There are no excuses, only facts. And the fact is that you keep your resolution, because it’s part of who you are.
7. Have a reward picked out for reaching your goal – even for small steps along the way. One of the biggest reasons people fail to change the way they do things is that they fail to “reward” themselves for actually accomplishing new things or creating a new behavior.
As complicated as our personality make-up can be, we are really very simple creatures in many respects. When it comes to learning new behaviors, we like to be rewarded when we do good!
Most people set goals like “Lose 15 lbs by June so that I don't feel like a fat slob when I go on vacation.” This type of reward, avoidance of the negative outcome, is rarely successful. In fact, it often creates the undesirable state, because it is what your mind focuses on.
Instead, change your goals to be “Lose 15 lbs by June so that I look hot in my new bathing suit – that I'm gonna buy for myself, when, and only when I reach my goal. Price is no issue - the sky's the limit.”
Think about it, how do you respond better to your wife or to your boss – praise every time you do something good or yelling every time you do something wrong? Which makes you want to do the right thing more next time? Doing things for yourself is no different.