Welcome to February! Just over a month has gone by since the start of a brand-new year. Do you know what this means? It means that a whopping 80% of you have already failed to achieve your New Year’s resolutions.
If you are one of the few individuals left who is managing to stick to your goals then I applaud you. You can carry on with your novel writing / marathon training / electric guitar practice, there is nothing to see here.
But, if by chance, you are part of the vast majority of people that set New Year’s resolutions that have gone nowhere OR didn’t bother setting them in the first place (“as they never work anyway”) then read on.
The problem isn’t you. It is not about any lack of willpower. Your resolutions were not too ambitious. You just haven’t adopted the right goal-setting strategy.
Here are three simple steps to setting goals that stick…
1) Write Down ONE Goal
You may have a bunch of things you want to get done this year. Or you maybe you can’t think of anything at all. By concentrating on only ONE goal it helps the overwhelmed people to focus and the stuck people to quickly come up with something. If you like this exercise you can repeat it and create more goals, but just create ONE goal for now.
Decide on or select from your wishlist ONE goal that speaks to you – that gives you butterflies in your stomach because it seems a little too ambitious but would also impact your life in an exciting or meaningful way. If you can’t think of anything that significant then just answer this question: what do you really want?
Get out a new piece of paper and write your goal in this way:
It is (future date) and I am/ I have (end step). I am feeling…
For example – It is October and I have just completed my first half marathon in less than three hours with my support team cheering me on to the finish line. I am feeling proud and grateful.
This way of writing your goal combines elements that will make it stick: powerful language, a vivid description and an emotional connection weaved in. The goal is written in the positive with action words and a deadline. It describes an exact situation that can be pictured and states how you will be feeling.
Step number one – write down ONE goal.
2) Schedule Your Goal
Okay, I admit it. Organization and time management don’t seem fun. But consistently choosing in favor of what you really want and feeling energized with a new purpose is very fulfilling. Don’t run away now!
First, it doesn’t matter what sort of calendar or diary system you use—digital or traditional, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Just get your goal in there.
Decide on when you will devote time to your goal and block out those times. You may want to block out 15 minutes each weekday or a half-day each weekend, for example. Don’t worry if you are not sure what the exact action steps are or how long the tasks will take to achieve your goal. Just shade out time. Treat it like another appointment and make yourself unavailable.
Then try to stick to your schedule. Yes, you may not get that task done in the time you have available, but you have started. And yes, life can take over—your child gets sick or you have an emergency dental appointment—but if you don’t schedule it, it definitely won’t happen.
Step number two – schedule the goal.
3) Use Deadlines, Accountability and Rewards to Make Your Goal Happen
Even with the most appealing goals, the most focused commitment and the best scheduling structure for taking action, you will encounter problems. To stick to your New Year’s resolutions or any goal you set, putting in place external obligations and restraints keeps you on track to achieve. You really do have a lot of power to make your goal happen.
Set a deadline. It can be artificial—a date you have plucked out that seems like a reasonable time by which to get your goal done. Or it can be imposed from the outside—a triathlon race date for example. The most important thing to remember with deadlines is to not beat yourself up too much if you don’t hit them. Don’t give yourself a pass to let them fly by every single time, but if you have to move the goal posts, it is not usually the end of the world.
Telling the right kind of accountability partner – someone who will cheer you on and not let you give up on a whim – makes an enormous difference. I had not one but two fantastic accountability partners when writing my first book and I still, to this day, am not sure I would have finished it without them. If you don’t want to tell people what you are doing, you can find other ways to hold yourself accountable. Use a journal or calendar to log your progress. Or keep an anonymous profile on a site like stickk.com, which provides accountability options including making a donation of your own money to a charity you don’t like if you don’t reach your goal!
Sure, the goal itself is a reward but sometimes it is a long time coming. A reward is not ‘cheating’. Especially after you achieve a challenging milestone, you need to pause and celebrate. Go out for dinner, buy some flowers or indulge in that latest binge-watching sensation. Do something nice for yourself.
Step number three – utilize deadlines, accountability and rewards to achieve the goal.
Set Up for Success
So you failed at achieving your New Year’s resolutions? You didn’t set any goals at all? Don’t worry. In fact, get excited!
With these three simple steps to setting goals that stick – writing down the powerful, vivid and emotionally-connected goal, scheduling in the action steps needed to achieve it and employing deadlines, accountability and rewards – you have set yourself up to succeed.
There are still 11 months left in the year, so take action towards an exciting and meaningful goal today.
If you would like more help setting and sticking to goals, check out my book, Super Sexy Goal Setting.
I love setting realistic goals, journaling helps me stay on track and setting daily to-do lists all Help me to stay on track. So far, I’m not doing too shabby with my goals. Your tips were some extra cheering that I needed to remind myself ’I got this!’
Julie Gorges says
Great advice. Us writers know that setting deadlines works like magic, right? And loved your tip of writing your goal with “powerful language, a vivid description and an emotional connection weaved in.” Envisioning how you’ll feel when you accomplish your goal is a great incentive!
Rosie Russell says
Great post, Julie. I’m a big note taker and love crossing off what’s been accomplished. Baby steps on the big projects is another thing I have to remind myself.
Cat Michaels says
Hey, Julie. I love how you break down things in easy-to-follow steps. I’m a great project manager, but tbh, I get a headache just thinking about setting goals for my personal life. It’s more of having a lot ideas in my head and managing to get there through osmosis. I’d be willing give your tips a go -:D