Eighty-six percent of people over fifty broke their New Year's resolutions last year vs. sxty-one percent of people in their twenties according to the grim statistics on resolutions from Statistic Brain.
Neither statistic is encouraging, but do they also indicate that old dogs can’t learn new tricks? That older people can’t change?
I encourage you to think instead; older people learn and change somewhat differently than younger people.
This article outlines methods adapted to help you effectively reach your personal and professional objectives this year.
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.
Begin with reflecting on your life and what you’ll find fulfilling by answering the questions in Part 1 of this success plan, Personal Retreat. Those activities will lead naturally into creating goals that represent what you really want.
A respected and effective method for setting goals and tracking your progress is the S.M.A.R.T. model. Set goals that are:
5) Time Bound
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."
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, adding 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, however, that the gap closes significantly when older people break up tasks into smaller bits, and work incrementally, step-by-step.
For example, can you compile a data base 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.
In Part 3, you’ll learn how to embed yourself in a network of structure and support. Making yourself accountable to other people and structuring support into your days will multiply your chances of reaching your goals.
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+.