People who explicitly make New Year's resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions, according to the grim statistics on resolutions from Statistic Brain. And, most people don't regularly make resolutions.
Without resolutions, the probability of achieving goals is clearly lower.
First, focus on goals rather than resolutions.
Resolutions rely on will power, and will power is usually more effective at the beginning of change, which is more of a marathon than a sprint. Instead: setting goals, creating an action plan, neutralizing the fear and resulting negativity that often accompany change, getting support, and setting up structures like tracking your progress will help you go the distance.
A respected and effective method for setting goals and tracking your progress is the S.M.A.R.T. model. Set goals that are:
When setting goals: focus on what you do want rather than what you don’t want.
For example: rather than "I’m going to stop spending all my time applying for jobs online," get as clear as you can on what you want. Depending on what you want, this might be "I’m going to spend four days a week updating my skills, developing my personal brand online, and networking; and one day applying for jobs."
Then, begin to answer the following questions, taking time to contemplate your career satisfaction, your job search, and also your level of satisfaction with the different areas of your personal life: your health, your relationships, finances, personal and spiritual growth, fun and recreation, etc. They are all connected. Write the answers as they come to you. Grammar and spelling don’t count!
What did you accomplish? Think about when you were proud of yourself, when you made a change, did something well, had a positive impact on someone else’s life, or solved a problem.
Remember when you disappointed yourself, or were disappointed by others; when your expectations weren’t met, when you met rejection, when your dreams weren’t fulfilled.
Or perhaps there are dreams you had for yourself earlier in life that weren’t fulfilled. What are you regretting?
Looking at your answers to the first two questions, ask yourself what worked, and what would you like to do differently.
What would you like to do differently?
One of the biggest obstacles to success are negative thoughts and feelings you may hold about your ability to succeed and your worthiness in getting what you want.
At this stage of life it’s particularly important to look at negative assumptions you may hold about change and aging. To get clearer about how you do that, answer these questions.
How do you limit yourself?
What do you say to yourself to explain these limitations?
Negative self talk is the voice of your fear and not the truth about you. Pick one of your toughest limiting beliefs and ask yourself – is that true? Really, really, 100% true?
You’ll find that even if there’s some truth in these limitations – there still isn’t a reason for not getting what you want. Over time, you can make huge strides in changing your negative beliefs. Start with one of the toughest ones, and see the difference.
Make a list. If your values aren’t clear to you, it can be helpful to think about how you’d like to be remembered. What would you like to be admired for – or who do you admire – and for what?
How well are you living your values?
What would you like to be remembered for? Who do you admire – and for what? These questions contain clues that will help you begin to think about this important question.
If you could put one problem behind you, what would it be? Where do you want a breakthrough? What would make the biggest difference in your life?
Whether or not you answered every question in detail, allowing yourself time to reflect is a rejuvenating process that will help you have a deeper sense of who you are and your purpose. From that place of clarity, you will find it much easier to create a future that is uniquely rewarding for you.
Most people know the steps to take to succeed at common challenges. If you want to lose weight, you know you need to eat less and focus on nutritionally dense fools, and exercise. Or to find a new job: get clear on what you want, and present yourself to employers as willing and able to solve their problems. This site is full of articles that explain, in detail, how to conduct an effective job search.
For most people the problem isn’t in knowing what to do, but in doing it. Where people get stuck is in knowing how to customize general advice to your needs, make doable plans, overcome inner obstacles, and accept and learn to work with your own style for implementing change.
Start your step-by-step action plan by identifying as many steps toward your goal as you can and then put them in time order.
For example if your goal involves becoming effective at job search networking your list might look something like:
Next, add more and more small steps the closer you get to present time is key.
Based on past research scientists assumed that people learn more slowly as they age.
Recent research finds that when older people break up tasks into smaller bits, and work incrementally, step-by-step, they accomplish much more..
For example, can you compile a database of everyone you know right now? If not, what do you need to do first? Choose a database? What do you need to know or do to choose a database? And so on, until the steps are specific and small enough that you can take action without resistance.
Then, schedule the steps in your calendar. When you are feeling resistant - which you will - taking the smallest action toward your goal will build your confidence.
When you begin working toward your goals motivation and will power tends to be highest. You think thoughts like, ‘I’ve started! I can do this’ and brush aside fears and negative thoughts.
But as time goes on and you’re tired, or bored, when you’re stressed or dealing with rejection, it becomes harder to stay motivated. That’s when the 3 S’s: self-understanding, support, and structure come in to help you stay the course.
Write a list of all of the ways reaching your goal will benefit you (and the people you care about). Include concrete results, "I’ll be able to pay off the mortgage" and also how you’ll feel. Post the list where you can see it frequently, and also make the list portable for on-the-go doses of motivation. You could write the list on 3X5 cards or input it into an online daily reminder.
Whether or not it is true that change becomes harder as you get older, you’ve certainly lived longer and had more opportunity to try and fail and grow scar tissue.
Experience can become a stumbling block if it means looking back and dwelling on what didn’t work in the past.
Trying something new, or a new approach to something you’ve been unsuccessful at in the past, means opening yourself up and experiencing vulnerability. One method to help you prepare is to answer the following questions:
More small steps!
This article focused on how to lay the ground for success. These are all actions you can do on your own to clarify your goals, develop an action plan and motivate yourself to move into action.
Phyllis Mufson is a career / business consultant and a certified life coach with over 25 years of experience. She has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate career transitions. You can learn more about Phyllis and her practice at PhyllisMufson and follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMufson and Google+.