According to the statistic brain research institute, just 8% of people actually achieve their new years resolution. But why is that?
Do people just not have enough will power, or maybe they just don’t care enough?
Actually, the problem isn’t will-power or care, the problem is the resolutions themselves. There’s a lot to be said for will-power, but no amount of it can overcome poorly set resolutions.
Today I’m outlining exactly why you should never set a resolution again and instead follow my 7 step process for setting goals you’ll actually achieve.
Stop Setting Resolutions
Resolutions are made on a whim. Most people are at a new year’s party with lots of other people around eating, drinking, and having a good time. Or you’re at home watching the ball drop from your own couch in your bunny rabbit footy pajamas, with a bowl of popcorn, and some Hershey kisses.
Either way, that’s not the place you want to be when you’re thinking about what you want to accomplish next year. But nevertheless, most people make the same new year’s resolutions just like that, year after year.
And then they wonder why they never complete them.
It’s because they make them in places where their mind isn’t clear and they can’t really think it through.
Which brings me to the other problem with resolutions: most people don’t make a plan or think them through.
New years resolutions are typically something like “I’m gonna lose weight this year”, or “I’m going to stop spending so much money”. The problem is that these resolutions aren’t measurable and they don’t have a plan attached to them.
Some people will get as far as “I want to lose 30 pounds” or “I want to save $100 extra a month”. But if your resolution stops there, you’re just as likely to fail. You’ve got to put in more effort than just a statement if you actually want to achieve something.
Finally, the word resolution just isn’t a good word for actually accomplishing anything. The definition of resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something”.
The problem is that all a resolution does is help you decide what you’re going to do. It doesn’t help you decide how or why. And without a solid why, you’re not going to stick to it.
Start Setting Goals Instead
Unlike resolutions, goals give you direction. The definition of a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”.
The difference may be subtle, but it’s important.
Goals help you define the outcome, not just the decision. People who set goals correctly are much more likely to accomplish them than if they make a resolution.
So this year, instead of making a new year’s resolution, set a new year’s goal.
But you can’t just set any goal, there’s a specific way to go about it, so keep reading to learn the steps for setting goals that you will actually achieve.
Step 1: Give Yourself a Solid “Why”
This is the first and most important step to setting goals you’ll actually complete. You’ve got to start with your “why.”
Simon Sinek gives a great Ted talk on the importance of starting with “why.” He discusses how all of the most successful people in the world start with “why,” and if you want to accomplish something, you better start with “why” too.
This is what I mean.
Before you start setting a goal to lose weight, save money, go on a dream vacation, get a new job, or start a business, you’ve got to really consider why you want that. Sit down and ask yourself not what you want to achieve, but why you want to achieve it.
Your goals need to be something that your truly passionate about doing. Your why needs to be deep. It needs to have a real meaning and a great impact.
If you want to make more money this year because “I want to buy a really fast car so people think I’m cool,” you’ve already failed. But if your reason for wanting to make more money is so that you can create freedom that allows you to spend more time with friends and family, you’ll probably stick it through.
You’ve got to come up with a reason that is strong enough to keep you going. And it’s got to keep you motivated through the really hard times when it seems like you’ll never make it.
If you’re planning to make arbitrary goals that don’t have a good reason attached to them, don’t even bother reading the rest of this article.
Seriously, just stop.
It’s not going to help you. You’re going to fail unless you get super clear on your “why.” You absolutely must get this part right if you want to actually accomplish your goals this year.
You’re going to fail unless you get super clear on your “why.” You absolutely must get this part right if you want to accomplish your goals this year.
So go ahead and come up with your “why,” then come back to this post after that.
Don’t worry, the next 6 steps will still be here when you get back.
Step 2: Set Goals That Are Realistic and Measurable
Alright, got your “why”?
Good. Let’s keep going.
The next step is to get really honest with yourself about what’s realistic. If you want to start working out regularly, but you currently don’t work out at all, don’t plan a 5 day per week workout routine to start with.
You’re just setting yourself up to fail.
You’ll start off strong on Monday, keep going Tuesday, get through it on Wednesday, but something will come up and you’ll have too much work or an unexpected assignment and you’ll miss Thursday. Then you’ll be bummed that you didn’t even make 4 days, so you won’t work out Friday either because, well, it’s Friday, and after all, you’ve already missed one day this week.
Be honest. If you’re starting from scratch, just start by working out 1 day per week. Heck, that’s still 100% better than you were doing! It’s all about making forward progress, so start small.
Along with setting realistic goals, you’ve got to make them measurable.
You need to have a specific goal that you can easily see whether or not you’ve achieved it. If you’re trying to pay down your student loans or credit card bill, don’t just set a goal to “pay more of your debt.”
Get specific and set a goal to pay an extra $100 per month towards that debt. That’s measurable. And that’s what you need.
Step 3: Give Yourself an Actual Date: Not Just “this year”
This is where a lot of people mess up. They say they want to lose weight “this year,” or make more money “this year.” That doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t give you anything to aim at.
Remember, the point of a goal is that it gives you a target to aim at.
So set a specific date that you plan to accomplish your goal by and then stick to it. Whether it’s a short 2-week goal or a longer 12-month goal, you need to set a date.
Step 4: Be Honest About The Consequences
Can you see a theme here? Lot’s of getting honest with yourself.
And this part is no different. Ask yourself what the consequences are if you fail. If you can’t make more money does that mean you won’t be able to get a house as soon as you wanted?
Ask yourself what the consequences are if you fail. If you can’t make more money does that mean you won’t be able to get a house as soon as you wanted?
If you fail to start a business, maybe it means you will be stuck at a job you hate. Or if you don’t lose weight, you’ll still just continue feeling like garbage all of the time.
Some people are motivated by the positive outcomes of a possible goal. Others are more motivated by avoiding the consequences of failure. Whichever one works for you is fine. But you ought to consider what will happen if you fail.
Come up with 2 – 3 consequences that will happen if you don’t achieve your goal this year.
Step 5: Make a Plan
Although steps 1 – 4 help you get clear on the goal itself, now it’s time to take some action. One of my favorite quotes is “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and that couldn’t be truer than in goal setting.
Based on when you want to complete your goal, you need to come up with a timeline and a plan. How are you going to do it? If you want to save an extra $100 per month, that money has to come from somewhere. You’ve either got to make an extra $100 or cut an extra $100.
If you want to make an extra $100, figure out how to do it. Will you pick up a second job? Start a small business on the side? Do freelance work on the weekends? Maybe work some overtime if your current job allows it?
If making more money seems like a pain, you need to look at cutting your spending. If you’re not already tracking your spending using something like Quicken or Mint, then the first thing to do would be to figure out where your money is going. Then look at your spending and slice it down until you can carve out an extra $100.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Not only do you need to come up with a plan, you need to decide whether or not you need help.
Let me answer that for you.
Find at least one person who understands your “why” and get them to keep you accountable. It could be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a coworker. It just needs to be someone who will ask you every week “hey how’s your (insert goal here) coming along?”
By making a plan and getting some accountability, you will dramatically increase your chances of actually achieving it.
Step 6: Write It Down
Surprisingly enough, this is an easy step that most people just never do. Create a sticky note on your smartphone and set it as your screen background. Or type it up and print it out. Or just get a pencil and some scrap paper to write it down on. For the sake of your future, just write. it. down.
Here’s an example:
Goal: I want to start making an extra $100 per month.
Time: I want to be making a consistent $100 per month within 2 months.
Why: An extra $100 per month will allow me to save for a snowboarding trip with my family next winter that normally I can’t afford.
Consequence: If I don’t, I won’t be able to go snowboarding with my family and will be left out again this year.
How: I will tutor with an after-school program at a local elementary school for $10 per hour. I plan to start by working 1 hour per week and eventually get up to 2.5 hours per week for a total of 10 hours per month.
Accountability: I will ask my brother to call me once per week to see if I’ve been tutoring and remind me of how awesome the trip will be and how it would suck if I miss out.
Granted, this is a simple example and for some people that “why” may not be strong enough.
But that’s why goals are personal. If you know me at all, you know that a snowboarding trip is more than enough to get me working extra hard. So come up with your reasoning and then write all of this down!
Step 7: Put It Somewhere You’ll See It Every Day
This step is crucial. You might think it’s goofy or cheesy to print this off and use it as motivation, but you’d be surprised how that constant reminder will help keep you focused.
Write down your goal outline just like I did above and put it where you will always see it. I actually have a few of copies of my current goals. I keep one in my laptop bag, one on my desk, and one hung on the wall in my apartment. It keeps me focused and reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
So print it off and find a place that works for you to see it often. Peter Voogd actually laminates his goal sheet and puts a copy in the shower so that he can focus on his goals as he gets ready for the day.
Hey, whatever works right? 🙂
What Are You Waiting For?
I can’t 100% guarantee that this process will work for you. That’s because you’ve still got to put in the hard work and discipline required to make it happen.
But I can promise by following this 7 step process, you will set yourself up for success. Now it’s just a matter of getting to work!
So what are you waiting for?
Leave a comment below, or shoot me an email with a new goal you’re setting this year!