First of all, let me congratulate you on your decision to stick to this year's resolution. It takes strength to tell yourself that you have a challenge you would like to overcome, to stay on track, and to meet your desired results. It also takes strength and wisdom to know that you will face challenges but can overcome those road blocks.
There is no one-fits-all solution for keeping your new year's resolution, and I certainly realize that. The fact is that each of us are unique and face different experiences in our life. For some these 7 secrets will be the perfect game plan for achieving their goal and for others, a few good ideas. My goal is for this article to give you the necessary drive to keep you going with your resolution and help you plan your success along the way.
I'm a planner and it was in November 2013 that I set some goals for myself, come the new year. One of my goals, which I have sadly been neglecting for some time, is to express my thoughts through writing. I've got a head start on some of my goals and found that there are 7 secrets to help you reach your new year's goal. Here's how it works:
Write it Down
The first step is to write down your goal. We've all heard somebody say this at some point in our lives. I'm here to reiterate the truth in that statement. If you write your goal somewhere that you can read it often, you make your goal more realistic. You can start by describing a generic goal, such as “I want to learn to speak French”. Additionally you will need to account for any expected challenges you might face, such as “I do not know how to pronounce some of the letters in the French alphabet”. Don't worry about getting specific just yet, that will come shortly.
This includes looking at your goal from the big picture, then narrowing in on certain areas. Think of this as setting milestones. In our learning French example, you already know that this will not come overnight and it can seem like a daunting task. However, if you break it down, you will meet mini goals, working toward the goal of learning French. Continuing my example, you can say that you want to memorize 3 useful French phrases by the end of the week. When you meet that mini goal, you are already seeing successful results. You can then move on to learning the alphabet by the end of the next week, increasing your vocabulary with 50 common words by the next week, learning to conjugate verbs in the present tense by the end of the month, and so on. I must emphasize, you need specify your major goals and set realistic deadlines. This is very important to focus on. From there you can decide a reasonable outcome, such as how proficiency expectation is in a sensible amount of time. Again, with the French language example, you can set a goal of having an intermediate skill level by the end of the year.
There are many uncertainties with your resolution. What will the path be like to reach your goal? When will you be satisfied with your goal? Only time can tell. There is also something that is very certain, you will run across obstacles along the way. These barriers will try to distract you from attaining your goal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. The best part about this certainty is that you can plan for how you will address potential road blocks. Write down any obstacles that you foresee. In the learning French example you could write the following: not being able to study during designated study times, misplacing a French book, not being able to download the latest French podcast, losing your note cards, etc. The solutions to those obstacles could be setting up a way to make up lost study time, keeping alternate study resources in various locations (in the car, at home, on your phone, etc), keeping a copy of some of your note cards in another safe place.
Visualize Your Success
Imagine if you didn't plan ahead and set mini goals, you told yourself that you would like to learn French by the end of the year. That's nothing that is far-fetched. In fact, it's completely possible. Now, compare that to the game plan and mini goals you set out. The point here is that it's not just about saying, “I believe in myself”. Don't get me wrong, that is a crucial aspect of you achieving your goal. The point is that it is far easier to believe yourself after you've mapped out a course to get you moving toward your goal. There is the comfort of knowing that you are at point A, want to get to point C, and you know that you have to travel to point B to get there. So, visualize you success. How will it make you feel? Better yet, how would that change how you feel about yourself?
The question to ask yourself is, how can I keep myself accountable to meet my goal? You might be the type of person that, everyday, can look at the goal you wrote down and know you will achieve that goal. That begs the question: is that be simply enough? Many times it is important to rely on external sources to hold you accountable for your actions. For example, I can count on my wife to keep me accountable to help her out around the house because I know that would be something she would hold me accountable to. Now, if I told her I want to learn French this year, would she hold me accountable? I would say that it's not as likely. Let's look at this from another angle. If I told my academic mentor (I don't actually have one but let's say that I did) that I was going to help my wife around the house, I wouldn't expect that person to keep me as accountable to that goal. Now, if I told my mentor about my goal to learn French, that is an action that would be easier to hold me accountable to. These are simple examples but they only show ways to hold yourself accountable for achieving your goal. It is sometimes harder to have somebody to hold you accountable but it will only benefit you in the long run.
What happens most of the time when people set goals for themselves but don't reach their goals? Quite frankly, they fall by the wayside. The simple solution to this is to take small steps to make a routine out of your goal. Again, with the French example, you can say that you will listen to your language learning podcast on the way to and from work, every week day. Eventually you will get to the point to where you would feel as if you were missing out if you were to miss a day of listening to your podcast. Building a habit will give longevity to your goal. It will make it a goal you can stick with.
This is where you write what has worked and what hasn't. You can then use this information to make improvements to help you along your path. Maybe you find that you are doing well with listing to a French language learning podcast on your way to and from work, but are struggling with reading the news in French. Then you can focus on what works and replace what doesn't with something that might. Not only is this keeping track of what you have done to reach your goal but this is an improvement process.
Last but certainly not least, is to keep a positive outlook. Again there will be temptations and difficulties along the way – that's only expected. Know this, you can only make your goal knowing that you can and will make it past the challenges. It goes back to the old saying, “if there's a will, there's a way”. Let me quote myself saying, “your mind is only as strong as you let it be”.
Now, A Call to Action
Here is your call to action: Go get your pen and paper, if you haven't already. Seriously, go now and physically write your goal. Come back to finish reading this article then plan ahead, visualize yourself achieving your goal, hold yourself accountable, develop you goal into a positive habit, keep track of your progress, and stay positive. I challenge you to spend more than just a few minutes on this. In fact, I challenge you to really think about this and get yourself to understand how you will meet your goal.
Remember, you can – and will - achieve anything you put your mind to. It sounds a bit cliché, but it's entirely true. You just have to understand that there will be barriers and challenges but be ready to face and overcome those challenges. That's exactly what will define your success. I sincerely wish you the best in your 2014 endeavors. I must also thank you for reading this article. Why? Because you are now a part of me achieving one of my 2014 new year's resolution. Here's to a fantastic new year...
You will succeed!