The new year. That wonderful time where we start fresh. Make goals. Set resolutions. There's nothing like starting with a clean slate.How has that gone for you in the past?
If you're like 92% of the population, chances are you're probably not very successful in achieving your resolutions. But what if the problem isn't your ability to execute? What if your problem is setting better goals in the first place?
Here's eight indications you may not be setting very good goals – plus action items to fix each one.
1. You don't write them down.
Setting goals is great, but if they're only in your head, the chances of you achieving them are pretty slim. This blog post from Michael Hyatt does a great job of outlining why writing goals down can be a great first step toward actually making progress on them.
We ask every single client to start their training/coaching process by writing down goals in each of the Thrive with Five areas (Body, Occupation, Relationships, Spirituality/Passions, Contributions). Once we've gotten them written down on paper or typed out, then we can actually start moving forward.
Action Item: Write your goals down and post them somewhere for you to see every day.
2. Your Goals are Outcome-driven, instead of action-driven.
I got this one from Jess Lively, who hosts one of my favorite personal growth podcasts. I've heard her talk several times about the difference between setting goals based on outcomes vs. actions and I really like her perspective. Consider these two goals:
1. Lose 5 pounds this month.
2. Go to the gym 3x per week every week this month.
Which one do you have more control of? Which are you more likely to achieve?
Sure, going to the gym 3x per week may lead to you losing 5 pounds. But, depending on what you're doing, it could also lead to:
- Building more muscle
- Having more energy
- Being able to lift more weight or run for a longer distance
- Becoming more flexible or having better range of motion
And so on. All of those things are great accomplishments – regardless of whether or not you actually lose those 5 pounds.
Action Item: Review your goals – are they outcome- or action-driven? Consider revising them to be things you have control over.
3. They're too vague.
How many of you have made a goal to lose weight this year? Spend more time with your spouse? Donate more to a charity? Those are great goals but they're too vague.
- How much weight?
- How much time?
- How much money?
Without measurement, it's hard to know what success looks like (what we call Clarity).
Action Item: When you write your goals down (see point #1), make sure they include a form of measurement.
4. You don't actually believe you can achieve them.
Have you ever set a goal that you didn't actually believe in? For example, I've set a New Year's resolution to exercise more several different times. But let's be real – it sounded more like this:
"I will exercise more this year! (Maybe. If I don't have work or other commitments or Netflix to binge or...)"
It's one thing to have Clarity. It's another thing to have Certainty – the belief that you can (and actually want to) achieve your goal.
Action Item: Assess your goals – are you actually invested in achieving them? Do you believe in your ability to make it happen? If yes, proceed! If not, trash it – the only thing you'll feel is disappointed in yourself for not making it happen.
5. You haven't broken the goal down into action items.
This is the HARDEST step for our coaching clients to grasp (and is tightly connected with point #2). They set goals, but they don't break that goal down into actionable next steps. How will you eat healthier? You could:
- Pack your lunch every day
- Have a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal
- Cook dinner at least 3 times per week
- Skip dessert during the week
- Throw some healthy snacks in your purse, just in case
And so on and so forth. The point is, there's lots of ways to achieve a goal. How will you get there?
Action Item: For every goal on your list, create 2-3 action items. Think of these as your "to-do items" that you can check off daily, weekly or monthly.
6. The timeframe for achievement isn't realistic.
If your goal is to make $1 million in the next year and you're only making $60,000 right now, you may need to re-think your timeframe (or create some pretty aggressive action items!). Why is this important? Because, if your timeframe isn't realistic, it's likely that you'll fall back into problem #3 – you won't believe (consciously or subconsciously) that your goals are actually doable.
We recommend that the timeframe for achieving goals is challenging (push yourself to work hard), but realistic (with some effort, you could get there). We work with our clients to create goals in 90-day chunks. Three months seems to be a good length to avoid getting complacent while also seeing real, measurable progress.
Action Item: Set a timeframe for achieving each of your goals and action items. Remember, even if the goal is longer term (a year or more), you can create intermittent progress goals that are based on your action items.
So, items 1-6 are primarily related to setting better goals and that was technically the point of this post. But there are a few ways you may be sabotaging yourself in the process of execution as well. So, think of these as a bonus :)
7. You don't do regular check-in's.
Have you ever written really good goals and then, six months later, think, "Oh yeah...I was going to do something with that..."? I know I have.
If you're not regularly checking back in on your goals, measuring progress and either continuing or adjusting your plan to achieve them, you'll never reach success.
Action Item: Schedule time on your calendar regularly (at least once a month) to gauge your progress and plan next steps.
8. You don't hold yourself accountable.
Finally, the one thing most of us are terrible at – holding ourselves accountable. For most New Year's resolutions, there's probably very little consequence if you don't achieve your goals. After all, you're the one who's most invested in them, right? And if you don't care, chances are no one else will either.
That's why it can be incredibly helpful to find some outside resources to help you with accountability. This could be:
- A personal trainer
- A mentor
- An accountability group/partner, either in person or online (there are some great accountability Facebook groups out there)
- A coach
You can also create incentives and/or consequences for yourself (the trick is just holding yourself to them). Find what works best for you and run with it.
Action Item: Evaluate your goals and see if there are any you're really struggling with. Identify what sort of accountability would help you make progress and get it set up.
Goals are great – but only if you bring them to life. By addressing the eight items above, I'm positive that you'll be able to make progress faster and more effectively than you ever thought possible.