As we all see in the New Year many of us make resolutions, full of optimism and ambition for what we want to achieve. It gives us a mental line in the sand to restart from. So why then do so many of us then ditch them as fast as we have made them?
In the past I have made a number of resolutions - usually something fluffy around health goals, weight, learning new skills, seeing more, travelling more or even finding that long yearned for job. They are all made in the belief that they will better me, make me grow (not in the waistline department hopefully) and carry me forward on my path to longer term success, fulfilment and happiness - basically the same as everyone else. The problem is through that in the past I have never been that specific about them. Sometimes they have been completely unrealistic and in lala land, and other times probably only said for effect! For example, this New Year I was asked if there were any resolutions I’d made and I responded with the usual fluffy, “well, get fitter, write more, finish my book, travel more, you know, the usual!” but I found myself questioning the last 2 words of that sentence ‘the usual’ and realised that in fact this was my stock response every year when asked. So I decided to be a bit more specific. Why?
I follow a number of speakers and mentors and all of them state that the more specific you are with your goals the better. So, by stating a specific figure, event, and date around these goals - because goals are just more detailed resolutions, (that are also realistic) then we have much more chance of achieving them rather than getting to the second day/ week of January and finding we’ve already failed on at least 3 and then ditching the rest.
Most of us make verbal resolutions. But suggested figures state that only 7-10% of us actually achieve those and then only around 3% of people write them down and achieve them. Reading one of Jack Canfields latest blogs, he also points out that its also no coincidence that those 3% also correlate with the 3% or so of the worlds most successful people and whom own most of (around 97%) the worlds resources. Is this then enough reason to change our habits? Is this the evidence and inspiration we all need?
The point really is that we voice what we want or desire when we make New Years' resolutions, but we have to be passionate and inspired by those wants to be able to follow through on them. Resolutions are often dreams that we never make a reality, only because they are too high-level and don't align or synchronise with our true passions.
Lets look at one example - at this time of year we are overwhelmed by Weightloss commercials and ads for dietary superfoods, exercise gear, gym memberships, and its no real surprise that this occurs, as most of us set some sort of health/ weight or lifestyle resolution. The best programmes though will only take you on if you are really specific about how much you want to achieve this and more specifically WHY? Joining the gym is a start, actually going is the achievement!
What is your WHY?
So this is where it starts boiling down to the crux. If you know your WHY! then you can be more specific.
“I want to lose 5kg by June for my best friends wedding on the 7th as when I saw myself in photos at christmas I couldn’t bear how I looked and I can’t fit my clothes any more.”
The above gives us not only a specific date goal and amount of weight, but also the very strong reason why. It is driven by emotion and necessity and desire, something fully tangible and not a high level fluffy thought, a real reason. When starting on the weight loss regime, again, where most people fail is that if they slip on their targets or on their aim more than a couple of times then they give up thinking that they will never achieve it, and why bother - it was a bit unrealistic anyway. This is why the WHY is so important. By reconnecting to your emotional reaction on seeing that photo, or feeling that annoyance when your favourite clothes don’t fit, it reenergises us again to keep going and not to Quit. Yes in this instance Quitting is failure! We have given up before we have really even started. There are some things that we fail and its growth and guidance for the future, but when we give up so easily on our specific goals we are not giving ourselves the chance to reach our highest possibilities.
The thing is that we will all slip on that diet on the odd occasion, or that training programme, or saving money - but its just a moment in a longer timeframe. We can always start again. A new minute, a new hour, a new day, they are all more chances to restart. If you are able to take a step forward and realise that you can start again and keep going, then you are more likely to keep to it and hence achieve your goal. We all know that eating that chocolate is going to break the diet, but its not an eternal sin. We are the ones who punish ourselves most, and by then abandoning our goals, we are really only letting ourselves down. We don’t go to hell just because we ate the doughnut, but we won’t ultimately feel better if we don’t get up and work it off, refocus and visualise what it will be to feel great, look great and see that magic number on the scales or in the fit of our clothes.
Its the DO don’t TRY approach. But its so much easier to DO it if you know why and what you are doing it for.
The second thing is that we also need to visualise ultimately what it might feel like to actually achieve this goal, whether its fitting the dress/ jeans/ suit etc, seeing your novel in print, traveling to that place and experiencing that view, the bigger number on your payslip - what is it that you really see and feel in that moment when you are achieving it. Visualisation is key to increasing the likelihood of success.
When I was training to climb Kilimanjaro (a supposedly unrealistic goal at the time given I had a mashed up knee), I looked at others' photos from the top, of the sign and the curvature of the earth looking out from the peak, the huge glaciers, and I imagined being there and looking down into the crater. 6 months later I achieved it - somewhat tentatively as it was my back that ended up being the problem and not my knee, but I did it, despite being told categorically by doctors that it wouldn’t be possible for another year! Visualisation was fundamental in getting me there.
So this year I sat down and got REALLY specific about my top 5 goals. The what, the when and the Why - I wrote it all down. I can look at them every day and I can monitor and measure. I know that there will be things, events, circumstances that may throw me off course along the way, but because I know my WHY Im able to pick up and start again. Im done with beating myself up on things, and focusing on what I can give myself.
So to summarise:
What is your goal or resolution this year?
When do you want to do it by? - be specific
WHY do you want to achieve it? - chunk it down as far as you can. Ask why? and then because? and then because that means?
Write it down and put it in your wallet or on your phone where you can read it daily.
Visualise what and how you will feel
Tell people - there is good evidence that if we tell people about specific goals we are also more likely to follow through on them.
(give yourself a reason not to fail - e.g: raising money for charity, or making a commitment to someone often means that we put in that little bit extra effort)
.............And I would also add that if you can mix in a bit of willpower, a heap of stubbornness and a spoon of not giving up, then you will get where you want.
So - Don’t make resolutions that you weren’t going to do anyway. Make goals that you can actually ACT on and DO IT.