“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” - Napoleon Hill
You’re sure to have heard something along those lines at some point in your life, quotes just like this are everywhere. Instagram, LinkedIn... your mum’s front room. It’s the work equivalent of ‘Live, Laugh, Love’, but it’s pointless without the tips to back it up. As much as we’d like to believe that motivation alone will get us to our goals, this usually isn’t the case. Lots of dedication and hard work lie along the path to achieving your goals, but luckily we’re about to lay some of the first stepping stones to success.
Let’s rewind 4,000 years, before the novelty glasses and outrageous parties, to the Babylons, who are considered the first to introduce the tradition of celebrating the New Year. It took place in March, as it revolved around the plantation of crops, and was a time for the Babylons to elect their king and promise to repay their debts. It’s the latter that we now recognise as New Year’s resolutions, and is what lay the foundations for Becky from Buckinghamshire to swear (for the last 6 years) that she’ll never touch a custard cream again.
Since then, many a civilisation has had its go at New Year’s resolutions which, until recently, have mostly been promises to a deity. Now, New Year’s resolutions are more often than not a promise to oneself. However, with only 25% of people sticking to their resolutions after a month and only 8% actually achieving their goal (Forbes), it would seem that we’re lying to ourselves. So, what’s the trick when it comes to setting and hitting goals?
First, have a word with yourself
When setting goals, most people neglect to take into account outside forces that might get in the way. Goals are often merely viewed as an outcome, instead of a journey, and the willpower involved in achieving them is hugely underestimated. Sometimes life throws you a curveball, and it’s not uncommon for this to derail plans. This is definitely something to consider when setting goals, but in no way should it stop you from aiming to improve - odds are there to be beaten.
It’s very easy to set a bunch of goals, only to achieve none of them. It’s key to ask yourself what, how, and why to be able to pick a goal that’s important to you. It helps inform you of which goal it is you’re willing to work towards and prevents you from wasting time on ones that don’t meet your criteria for improvement. Pick a goal that matters to you and aligns with your core values; you’ll find it a lot easier to stick with.
Second, put pen to paper
You’ve definitely heard this one before, but it’s not about scribbling it down and hoping for the best. Detailing your goal and the steps to achieving it are key for staying on track, so creating an action plan is essential. In fact, those who write down their goals have been proven to be up to three times more successful in achieving them than those who don’t (Harvard Business Review). There are many ways to put together a plan of action and they mostly involve breaking your goal into smaller pieces. A popular method for doing this is the SMART approach.
Is your goal:
Specific: is your goal clear and defined?
Measurable: can you track your progress?
Attainable: are you being realistic?
Relevant: does it align with your core values?
Timely: do you have a deadline?
Considering and answering these questions will not only reinforce your dedication to the goal but also provide a clearer view of the process you’re about to undergo.
Third, update your calendar accordingly
Updating your calendar with your action plan will not only help you on your journey to implementing change but will also hold you accountable during the process. Dedicate time to your goal throughout the week, and regularly check that you’re making progress and sticking to your plan. This is also great for improving the plan moving forward, as those curveballs we mentioned earlier can come at any time. Understanding what and when works for you is essential in achieving your goals.
Fourth, be held accountable
As important as it is to hold yourself accountable, there’s no denying that willpower can often be a limited source of motivation. Finding an external source to hold you accountable, maybe a family member or friend, could make all the difference. A study found that people are 65% more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Picking an accountability partner, however, is no small task. They need to be someone you trust to motivate you and keep you on track, as well as someone who is non-judgemental and understanding of your journey. Once you’ve picked the perfect person, the next step is setting some guidelines for the relationship. This includes things like check-up frequency, consistency, and respectfulness. Basically, a set of rules to follow in order to avoid hurt feelings and set up a mutually beneficial relationship.
Improvement is important and rewarding, and shouldn’t be avoided just because it involves time and dedication. The most important tip we can give you is to be consistent in your approach and, in tough times, to remember the why. This New Year’s, approach your resolutions head-on and don’t waste time on goals that don’t contribute to your bigger picture. More importantly, don’t avoid making big changes in your life solely because they’re intimidating. We’re very excited to see you in the 8% next year but for now, we’ll leave you with this very famous, very true, Chinese proverb:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”