Happy New Year! Each year 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions yet only 8% are actually successful in achieving their goal. The most popular resolutions are related to weight, finances, relationships and self-improvement. Often these goals become only a wish because there is no clear plan to achieve them. A successful plan needs to take into account how to manage obstacles and setbacks, and where to find support. In addition, a successful plan must be flexible to avoid the “all or nothing” feeling that sabotages many resolutions.
Start With a Clear Goal
There are many factors involved in creating a plan to reach your goal. Commitment to the goal is a first step. When committing to making a change it is helpful to ask these questions.
• If I achieve this goal, how will I benefit? Be as specific as possible – better health, appearance, less stress, improved relationships, financial benefit.
• Why now? Many people use external deadlines to start making a change. This might work but be clear why this is the right time to start.
• What are the pros and cons of making the change? For example, if I stop drinking I will feel better but I will not be able to meet my friends for happy hour.
The next step is to become very clear about defining your goal. One technique created by St Louis University Professor Robert Rubin is called SMART goals:
• Specific – What do I want to accomplish?
• Measurable – How will I know I have accomplished my goal?
• Achievable – How realistic is this goal?
• Relevant – Why does this goal matter? ( look at your commitment responses above)
• Time related – What is the deadline or target date?
To illustrate, here are two examples:
Unclear goal: I want my house to be less cluttered.
Clear goal: I want my house to be well organized by March 31. I will clear out 2 closets each week. I will work 30 minutes 3x a week and take what I remove to donate every Sunday. My family supports this goal and will help to accomplish it. This is important because we are planning a family reunion in April and want to be done by March 31st so we can enjoy the party.
In the second example it is clear what you want, why you want it, who will help and when it will take place and be completed.
Create a Plan
Once the goal is clear you can begin to make a plan. A plan will include small steps towards the larger goal. The plan should include how you will make the change, what resources you will need to accomplish it, who will be involved, and how you will deal with obstacles that arise. The plan should take into account how you will celebrate success along the way and how to deal with setbacks.
Support is Critical– Coaching Will Help!
Many times one of the biggest obstacles to reaching even a very clear goal is lack of support. I work with many clients who became frustrated with failed attempts to make changes on their own. We work together to clarify the goal, create insight and awareness about the obstacles. We then create an action plan with attainable steps. Support becomes critical when you feel ambivalent about staying with your plan or when it becomes challenging. As a coach I provide encouragement when you doubt your ability to succeed and I help you celebrate each step. Setbacks are a common part of any change process and good support will help you to get back on course.