Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Ready, Set, Goal

How to start a new resolution.
Christmas has been and gone and suddenly we’re in 2012; New Year being that time to reflect on what has gone and make resolutions for the year ahead. Never mind that they were the same goals for the previous year or two, this year is going to be different, right?  You may be the exception, though most of us although well intentioned at the start of the year, fall short after the first obstacle comes along.  In fact, only 5% of us see them through, a bit like me trying to give up chocolate- it was never going to happen!  

What makes the difference with the 5% that do fulfil their aims, do they have extraordinary willpower or is it that they are just better at taking action? If you have failed to follow through on your goals in the past, it will give you little faith in the power of goal setting and your own motivation.  This can also run parallel to experiencing a fear of failure or even success (yes success!); if I do achieve that, what will it mean to me or to others?  Most of us are scared of change and getting out of our comfort zone.  Excuses can be a shield to keep us feeling ‘safe’, even if they keep us stuck, it is familiar territory.  

Sam, a client of mine came to see me wanted to lose a stone in weight.  Although she had lost 3 stone in the past, she was worried about how much attention she would get from others and wanted to remain ‘invisible’.  Getting to the root of the issue- her fear and self esteem issues, she was able to begin making the changes in her life that enabled her to begin losing the weight.  Asking yourself the right questions can also prevent you from going into the trap of staying in your comfort zone as well as ensuring they are realistic and not just lofty aspirations.
Tips to create Goals that are motivating:

  1. Write down your goals: Might sound obvious though only 10% of us do- remember to put it somewhere visible where you can read it everyday.
  2. Phrase them in the Positive: ‘I want to walk each Saturday’, rather than ‘I want to stop lazing around the house at weekends’.
  3. Make them Specific and contextualised: What exactly do you want to achieve and where?  Is it in a specific context like work or in any situation? E.g. ‘To lose 8Ibs by going to the gym twice a week.’
  4.  Ensure they are Achievable:  How can the goal(s) be attained?  What skills or support do I need?
  5. Make them time bound: When will you achieve this by?
  6.  Get Sensory:  Create a vision of what you want to achieve in terms of what you will see, feel, hear, touch, taste as an end goal in 6 months or a year’s time. Write it in the present first person tense, as if you have already achieved it now.  Keep visualising what it would feel and be like to have this goal- do you still want it?  If no, make it more appealing or change your goal! As Stephen Covey said: ‘Begin with the end in mind’.

How to stick to your goals:
·         Set short, medium and long term goals: Include some goals that will bring quick results to give you some confidence to move forward with more challenging goals.  For example, going somewhere more adventurous on holiday or starting that French class.  Set one or two goals you could achieve in the next 6 months and one that is more challenging for the next 6-12 months.

·         Check Ecology: Make a list of all the obstacles that are currently stopping you or that you can forsee in the future.  E.g. In Sam’s case, the fear of being noticed by others, having to give up favourite foods, the time involved.  The look at ways of overcoming these- for instance, taking all the ‘bad’ foods out of the house or taking action to overcome your fears.

·         Get Leverage:  Once you’ve made a goal, ask yourself the following questions:
o   Is it within my control?
o   Why is it important that I achieve this goal?
o   What will I get if I achieve it?
o   What will it cost me if I don’t?

·         Get Support:

o   Online support: If you spend a lot of time online or are busy and like social networking, this could be good for you to have some accountability.  Try 43things.com, mysomeday.com and habitforge.com
o   Local Group: Teaming up with a group of people with the same aims is much more fun than doing it on your own.  For example, starting an art group or travel club.  Try meetup.com for existing groups in your area, or to start your own.
o   Mentor or peer support: A mentor such as a friend or colleague can act as someone who you can be accountable to, or share your ups and downs with.  They may be able to share your goal with you, for example, having a running buddy who can keep you motivated.
o   Life Coach: Having a professional who is objective and helps to motivate you when you’ve already made a commitment to a goal can be really valuable.  It needs to be someone who you can trust and build a good relationship with- ensure to ask them what their experience has been with other clients, do they have testimonials of previous successes?

·         Adjust goals: Don’t be afraid to move the goal posts (pun intended) if you need to.  Having flexibility in your goal setting is essential and enables you to be clear on what you do really want.  For example, I may want to go to the gym three times a week though if I find that boring and I want to do something else, I can change my goal to go swimming or running instead.  Take responsibility for being your own change maker and don’t be scared to dream big. Ask yourself, ‘if I knew I was going to be successful what would I be doing with my life?’  According to Brian Tracy, ‘An average person with average talent, ambition and education, can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society, if that person has clear, focused goals.’ 

·          Take action daily: Ask yourself each day ‘what’s one thing I can do to move me forward with my goal today?’  It might be to walk a different route to work or replace the chocolate bar on your break with some fruit.  You need to make goals into daily habits, otherwise they won’t stick.  Setting mini goals for yourself will also give you the motivation and confidence to move forward with the bigger goals and help create momentum. Make your goals daily actions and you will see long term results!