Last night I had the pleasure of talking at local digital networking event, Digital People in Peterborough.
I must put my hands-up and admit that while this was my second time talking at the event, I wasn’t meant to be doing a talk, and was, in fact, stepping in for my better half who couldn’t secure childcare. But as we’re both very passionate about the topic of self-development and goal setting, he insisted that I take his place and put my ideas across to the incredible digital professionals we have here in the city.
So, if you didn’t get a chance to listen in last night, or you want to recap yourself on the facts and homework I set then here it is….
Stop the new year, new me bullsh*t.
Let’s face it, the facts are obvious. The majority of us make resolutions and break them – a study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman showed that 88% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail.
Not surprising is it really, and I hold my hands-up to definitely being one of those that would try and try each year to change a habit and end up falling over after a few days of the January blues getting the better of me.
Now I must state that I’ve got nothing personal against new year’s resolutions; it’s just experience has taught me, that we need to be more involved with our goal setting than just writing it in a diary and hoping for the best.
Can you guess the most common new year’s resolutions?
Well, it will come as no surprise that they are predominantly health related.
According to a ComRes poll these are at the top of the list;
- Exercise more (38%)
- Lose weight (33%)
- Eat more healthily (32%)
- Learn a new hobby (15%)
- Drink less alcohol (12%)
- Spend more time with family (12%)
- Stop smoking (9%)
Now personally, I think these resolutions have more to do with the fact that we over-indulge during the Christmas period than the honest fact of wanting to get truly fit and healthy. But I have nothing against you if your goal is health or fitness related, it’s simply an observation that after stuffing our faces for a month, we then want to reign it in the next month.
The Resolution Failure Cycle
For many of those that attempt a ‘resolution’ and fail, I believe we fall into a resolution failure cycle. This is an observation not only my own experience, but also from watching many of those around me fall into a similar trap.
Step 1) It feels like too much hard work, so we become mentally exhausted from battling ourselves.
Step 2) We break the resolution but go into denial that we have done so. Ie you were going to quit sugar but then had a secret midnight snack that nobody else will ever know about.
Step 3) You then decide that resolutions are pointless, you’re fabulous just the way you are and don’t wish to change.
Why do resolutions fail?
To break the cycle and really begin to set goals that are achievable you have to take a step back and look at why resolutions fail in the first place.
After all, you can’t fix something if you don’t know what the issues are to begin with?
We pick too many
I’ve always loved the film Bridget Jones’s Diary, but even more so for her optimism at the beginning when she writes in her diary how she’s going to lose 10lbs, quit smoking and find a ‘sensible boyfriend’.
It’s a brutally honest example of the way many of us look at new year’s resolutions – as if we can re-invent ourselves. But unfortunately, it’s just not possible to do everything at once.
In order to truly achieve something, we need to just pick one as a focus before we can move onto the next.
If we overload ourselves with things to do, we become overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. None of it will get done because the mountain feels like a huge climb. But if we take one task at a time we’d reach the peak.
Why do we try and do everything within one year?
Yes, I admit, I love the new year because to me it’s like writing a new chapter in a story – we can make anything happen, and it’s all rather exciting that we don’t know what’s to come or what we’re going to achieve.
But while I relish in the new year glow, if I were to choose the entire year to get my resolutions completed – I would never get them done.
A year is too long; you need to cut your time down into quarterly goals. Otherwise, you will constantly find excuses to stop you from doing them.
“Oh, I’ve got that big holiday in March so I’ll start my new diet after then” … sound familiar?
If we drag it out over a year, we will never action it.
Instead, give yourself three months to achieve the goal, this is both far more measurable and will motivate you to start taking action because you have an imminent deadline.
We don’t give them meaning
What is the purpose of your resolutions?
Be honest with yourself. Are you doing those things because they mean a lot to you, or because you’re trying to impress someone else or fit in with a lifestyle?
Dig deep on what you’re why is, because it might just be that you’re not actually very passionate about it. And if you’re not passionate about it, you’re never going to do it.
Once you understand your why, you will be more inclined to take action, and will not be easily distracted.
There’s no plan
All great things have a plan, and that means your goals and dreams should have a plan too.
Just writing it down doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You need to take action.
What are the micro-goals that will help you take those steps to the bigger goal?
Just like the mountain analogy, we have to learn to climb, and then get to the smaller ridges before we can reach the peak.
Whatever your goal is, break it down into micro-goals of how you are going to get there.
For example, if you want to run a marathon your micro goals might look like this;
- Book the marathon
- Find some good trainers
- Create a training plan
- Start going to park runs
- Try a 5k or 10k
By creating a plan, you can then take steps and actions consistently to meet that end goal.
A great example that reflects this is the 1911 expedition race to the South Pole by explorers Amundsen and Scott. They split into separate teams and decided to take different strategies to race to the pole.
Scott decided that his team would walk as much as possible during the good weather days, and rest on the bad weather days.
Amundsen took the approach of walking twenty miles with his team every single day, no matter the weather.
Do you know which team got there first?
Amundsen. Because consistency is key.
We’re not productive
Let’s be honest, it’s all too common to become severely unproductive in the first few months of the year, so we lose all motivation and momentum. We can blame this on the January blues all we like, but the reality is we just don’t have a plan to get us moving.
But being unproductive is a perilous road for those resolutions. Without taking action and using your time wisely you won’t have a routine, and you won’t put the steps in place to take action.
Be productive with your time, and you will be amazed at what you can achieve. As the example of the expedition showed, with consistency comes achievement. Even if you do one thing every day to get closer, it’s better than doing nothing at all.
There’s no positive psychology
Having a positive mental attitude is so important to creating an achievement mindset.
Without it, you lack confidence, self-esteem, and your resolutions get dropped because you don’t believe in yourself.
As I like to explain, you can have all the tools and plans for a goal, but without positive psychology, it is never going to rise. Just like baking a cake, you put everything in the tin, but you don’t turn on the oven.
By doing positive mental activities, you will start to change your brain from being a negative naysayer to a positivity ninja that smashes through their goals.
Practising meditation, gratitude journaling and visualisation can all aid in supporting a positive mental attitude.
Now let’s crush a goal
As we are aware of the pitfalls of resolutions we can now work on smashing one of those goals.
I’m going to give you all the deadline of the 10th April to complete one of your resolutions or goals.
Just follow these steps;
Pick only one goal
Write it down and write why that goal means so much to you
Tell someone – make yourself accountable
Now workout your micro goals – what do you need to do every day or every week to get there
I’m afraid this process does come with some homework, but that’s because you need to invest your time into YOU, and understand that without YOUR input it’s not going to go anywhere.
– Become more productive – do something every day that will help you towards that goal no matter how small
– Start positive habits – be it gratitude journaling, meditation or practising visualisation. Whichever habit feels good to you, start one.
– Check in with yourself at the end of every week. I like to do this every Sunday evening whereby I analyse where things didn’t go to plan and what did. By doing this, you will soon start to see areas you need to work on so that you can break any bad habits that keep interrupting you.
Of course, all the plans and action in the world is only so good as the tools you adopt to keep it all organised and planned.
I’m personally obsessed with my Best Self Journal, which I’ve discussed in a previous post here.
But I’m also a fan of the Gratitude Journal App, which is a great little motivator when you’re feeling down. It not only helps you track your grateful moments, but also pings you motivational messages throughout the day. And who doesn’t want to be told they’re amazing?
The trick is to find something that works for you. So where the traditional pen and paper or an app. Get something to keep you organised and productive.
I hope that those of you who watched my talk felt motivated for the new year, and I’d love to know what goals you’re working on for the next three months, so ensure to post them in the comments below if you don’t mind sharing them.