Millions of Americans will welcome 2017 with a handful of New Year’s resolutions. Great ideas born from dreams of improvement and growth, but for most of us, they are completely worthless.
25 percent of us won’t make it past the first week, and only 8 percent will put check marks on our list by the end of the year.
I’ve been there. The number of recurring items on past lists is embarrassing. You’ve been there too. It’s easy to start strong with lots of enthusiasm and motivation only to fizzle out when life gets busy and demanding. Before you know it, the year is gone.
The thing is, our resolutions tend to focus on things that are important to us: faith, relationships, health, and long-term dreams. Are we really willing to let those things slide year-after-year?
A Plan That Works
I kissed resolutions goodbye a few years ago and picked up the practice of setting specific goals. It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows since then, but I’ve built some real momentum and there sure are more check marks than there used to be.
My annual planning process starts with reflecting on the last year. There’s coffee, my journal, and my favorite pen. I love it. (You can read all about it here.) But the real work is in the actual goal setting. We’re talking about the things that matter most, right? So vague ideas, dreams, or wishes don’t cut. Without a big dose of intention, we are doomed to be part of the 92% who let all these important things go untended to.
A plan that works requires the following:
- Realistic Expectations. Count the cost of time, energy, and follow-through required for your ideas. (e.g. If you haven’t started your business yet, replacing your current full-time income may not be possible in the next year, but what is?) Unless you are a goal setting machine, 15 goals are way too many. Stick with a small handful, or you want to really make a lot of traction, spread more throughout the year. I use the “7-F’s” as inspiration, but if I start trying to improve every one of them in January, I will burnout quick.
- Specific Goals. Your goals must capture exactly what you are trying to accomplish with as much detail as possible. Stay away from vague ideas like “lose weight,” “read more,” “spend more time with my family,” or “look at my phone less.” Get super specific and measurable so at the end of the year it’s crystal clear if you accomplished your goal. Answer both “What” and “How.” Our tendency is to stop with the what (i.e. Lose 20lbs.) but skip the how (work out 45 minutes at the gym 3 times per week; track my food intake in the Lose It app; eat a paleo diet).
- Deadlines. Every commitment needs a deadline, or in some cases a frequency. Using the weight loss example from above, the what needs a deadline - “Lose 20 lbs by March 31,” while the how needs frequency built in - “work out 45 minutes at the gym 3 times per week; track my food intake daily in the Loose It app; eat a Paleo Diet with one cheat meal per week.”
- Dedicated Time. This process should trigger some things to land on your calendar. If monthly date nights with your spouse land on your list, block the time in advance. When your priorities land on your calendar, they become a filter through which you consider other opportunities. When something conflicts with your gym time or those date nights, you have permission to legitimately say, “No, I have another commitment at that time.”
- Review. While you are calendaring things, schedule a monthly meeting with yourself to review your progress. Invite a friend, spouse, or mentor to the conversation if you want. Unless these goals stay in front of you consistently, they will be forgotten. If you get off track, don’t quit, just figure out how to get moving in the right direction again.
Skip the depressing statistics, kiss traditional New Year’s resolutions goodbye, and don’t leave what’s most important to chance.
Join the conversation by commenting below: How would adopting a goal setting process that works transform your 2017? What is one goal you plan to accomplish in 2017?