Yep. We all know that feeling all too well. That overwhelming feeling of“this is my year” that is so prevalent in early January is long gone and you find yourself feeling lazy, unmotivated, fat, or (insert self-loathing statement here) and It’s not even March yet!
Like most, you come up with your own version of, ‘Is my will power that pathetic?’ or “Am I even capable of making and achieving goals to begin with?” only to arrive to the universal conclusion that there must be something wrong with you. You know, because not following through on things that are clearly good for you just doesn’t make sense. This case definitely feels like a, "it's not you, it's me" scenario.
Well my dear friend, while there may very well be something wrong with you, the good news is that it’s probably unrelated to your inability to follow through on your New Year’s Resolution. Why? Because strategic goal setting and achievement is a learnable skill, not a reflection of who you are as a human being. So relax. You’re not a failure. As a matter of fact, most goals that remain unachieved do so because of one or a combination of the following 4 factors:
UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS*: We set goals because we like the feeling of achievement. Nothing can kill our goal achievement modjo more than setting unrealistic goals for ourselves. The key to setting realistic goals lies in a truthful examination of what you want to achieve and whether you have the tools to execute and are in the position to do so. Was your new year’s resolution to go on a three week European vacation over the summer when you’re $10k in debt, job hopping, and having a hard time paying your bills? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.
Perhaps your goals are reasonable but you're trying to tackle too many at the same time. Sure, losing weight, finding the right partner, cultivating your spirituality, and learning guitar are all doable under pretty much any circumstances but can you successfully do them all simultaneously? Long term achievement requires enough time for you to gain some traction and teach your brain a new way of doing things. Achievement also requires focus. This brings us to factor #2.
LACK OF CLARITY: When you formulate a goal it’s vital that you make your result as specific as possible because it will help you develop an actionable game plan to achieve it. Saying something like “I want to get in shape by summer” is too vague because it provides no measurable outcome or clear road map for you to follow. A better goal? “I want to work out 4 days a week for the next 4 months.” While the end result is the same, (you will be in better shape), focusing your intentions on what you actually have to do every day to achieve it will help you stay on track and eventually determine whether you succeeded or not.
NO/ BAD PLAN: While embracing clarity is key to the creation of a solid resolution or goal, having a plan is the only thing that will ensure it actually works. Using our gym example above, you could easily say that you will work out 4 days a week for the next 4 months and watch yourself not following through because you didn’t give yourself the time or space for that in your life. Having a plan is the easiest way to set yourself up for success because it forces you to think of all the factors in achieving your goal that can become potential obstacles. For example, having a plan in this scenario would mean: A) putting your workout days on the calendar to see any scheduling conflicts B) Deciding what workouts you would actually do to avoid feeling unmotivated and directionless at the gym C) Figuring out transportation to your gym and D) Finding a good gym buddy to go with you and hold you accountable for achieving your goal.
LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY: Speaking of accountability, most of us make resolutions in an informal way and hold ourselves responsible for making them happen. At the end of the day, we have nothing to lose because we're only 'failing' ourselves! Interestingly enough, what makes accountability so effective is also the reason why people resist it in the first place. As humans we are taught to promise only what we can deliver on so we tend to be weary of what we commit to.
So how can you hold yourself accountable? Telling other people, be it your friends or the world on social media that you are committed to something means your word is on the line. If that’s worth anything to you, it’s worth protecting and therefore following through on. Plus, you also get to celebrate your achievement publicly if you achieve your goal!
Now that we’ve discussed the 4 areas where resolutions can either thrive or nosedive, I would like to re-vamp and share with you my own new New Year’s resolution in the spirit of goal setting with serious accountability:
You see, I am intent on reviving my romance with the French language. I started taking courses in mid January and have progressed but not to the level that I had anticipated for myself because other than class time and homework time, very little of my energy is spent on practicing French. Looks like 2 days a week isn't enough for me to be fluent by Burning Man (my vaguely defined goal), so back to the drawing board I go and present you this:
I, Jenniffer Green, will practice my French using Duolingo for 20 minutes every weekday morning as soon as I finish meditating, for the next 6 months.
I have picked a friend to hold me accountable during this process, put it on the calendar, shared it with you so you can shame me into doing it, and am ready to go. Now before you wish me luck though, get crackin on yours! ;)
*As a coach I felt a bit strange writing the words 'unrealistic expectations' because I operate largely under the premise that just about everything is possible. To be clear though, effecting serious change requires strong will, work, and a good understanding of where you stand.