Do you feel a sort of panic setting in around this time of year? An inner dialogue that goes something like this: “Yikes!…. The holidays are nearly here……… Time to set New Year’s resolutions…. BUT I haven’t even accomplish this year’s goals…….. I’m such a failure… Maybe if I set brand-new goals, I’ll be successful…. That one thing everyone tells me I must do, surely I can accomplish just THAT….”
Resolutions are, simply put, the commitment you make to reach a goal. Yet most of us make resolutions based on wishful thinking and dreams. Occasionally we cling to big, hairy goals we have absolutely no chance of reaching. Or worse, we grasp onto someone else’s suggestion of what we should do. So before rushing headlong into a list of New Year’s resolutions, I urge you to STOP!
Take time to be thoughtful about what you want to accomplish in 2017. If you make a resolution to go on a diet, the overall goal might be to lose weight. Or better still, to be healthier. Ask yourself what will be possible when you are healthier? How will your life be different? Will you feel more attractive? Will you be able to wear different clothes? Will you be able to do a job you’ve always wanted to do or have the confidence to be in a relationship?
Whatever your resolution is, be very clear on the trade-offs required. What will you need to say “yes” and “no” to? Most importantly, ask yourself how committed you are to keeping these promises. If you’re not willing to give up Monday night football to take a class at college, you may not succeed in your larger goal of changing careers.
Review and learn from your achievements, disappointments and failures this year, and the behaviors that have helped you succeed or fail. Asking for feedback from others is a vital part of this process. So often, we are not aware of how we operate and create our own roadblocks. Regular feedback from unbiased sources is critical for “course correction.” Interim steps are also a good way the way to achieve larger goals, keep your resolutions and achieve lasting change.
In 2002 I left my job at a large software company to accommodate my need to take better care of my health and do less computer work. At that time I didn’t realize I was also choosing a more fulfilling life -because I was only focused on one aspect of my life. I hadn’t yet realized at my core what was really important for me to feel I was living a meaningful life. Deciding to become an executive coach was an easy decision taking into account my experience and skills. It then took another two years to find the best market niche which would utilize my strengths and interest. And I used to be in marketing! Initially I focused on people with disabilities, and then on attorneys. Neither was quite right although I made headway in both areas.
At this point, I had to be open to reviewing the data from my “experiments”, ask for feedback, and be willing to make the necessary changes to meet my larger goal. I now work with nonprofit organizations and individuals who want to make a difference in people’s lives every day. The work is hard, but when you do something because it is deeply important to you, it gives you motivation every day to continue.
One of my former clients, Martin, wanted to expand his chiropractic business. The first thing he had to do was set clear goals. And most importantly, decide what he wanted his role to be. Did he want to work in his business, or on his business? Accounts, administration and marketing all had to be handled. If he didn’t want to do this, who would do this? Martin could be the best chiropractor in the world, but if no one knew about him, his business would fail. What had to be done to generate more clients, and what was he personally willing to do in this area? Like many of us, Martin did not like business development. Our discussions led to personal development goals, and a business plan with long-term goals and interim steps in each area to keep him motivated. Without clear goals, and a plan for managing the business, most of us get caught doing more than we ever did before. How can you work smarter, not harder?
Another client, “Liz”, had ongoing back and knee issues. She wanted to be healthier. We identified measurable exercise and diet goals. She quickly realized she could not meet these goals without committing to changes in her work schedule. She asked her husband and family to keep her on track. Soon she realized this was only the first layer of the real change she wanted to see in her life; a career change. Nineteen months later – with lots of interim steps along the way -Liz quit her job to focus on more creative pursuits. And I became one of her first clients, purchasing two pieces of her extraordinary artwork.
To make sure you successfully climb the mountain in 2017, set realistic but challenging short and long-term goals which are specific and measurable in outcome and time. Work in those all-important interim steps to boost your sense of accomplishment and keep you moving forward. And don’t forget the reward system to ensure the journey to reaching your goals is a fun one!
Six Ways to Set and Reach your 2017 Goals:
- Appreciate and understand what you’ve accomplished this year.
- Name the three lessons you’ve learned from your successes.
- List your top three areas of challenge in 2016. What did you learn from these challenges? For example, how or where do you self-sabotage? When you encounter a roadblock, what could you do differently in 2017?
- Set goals for the coming year which are attainable and yet will challenge you. If this seems overwhelming, consider hiring a coach to help you identify goals, move forward and hold you accountable.
- Write down your goals, the interim steps and how you will celebrate small and the big successes. Who will you do this with?
- “Go public with your goals.” Tell your significant other, friends or business colleagues about your goals and ask them to support and hold you accountable.