It is the second week of January and 25% of the population has given up on their New Year Resolutions. With the other 75%, I’m proud to say, I’m still on track with only 50 more weeks to go. I admit it—I love New Year’s resolutions. I love the process of setting them and tracking them. Just before the ball drops, I take time out to evaluate how I did against my goals and decide which ones I’m going to tackle when the calendar flips over.
Warning: Before reading any further about my New Year Resolution Goal Setting Love Fest, please note that my approach consists of actions that may be considered very high on the dork scale and as such may not be suitable for all audiences:
- I give myself a grade for each target which I write it down in a tattered dollar store notebook along with what went well and what could have been better.
- I refer back through the pages of said tattered notebook to see if there are goals which earned low grades that I am in a better frame of mind to revisit for the coming year.
I am in the minority with my resolution affection and desire to set and achieve specific goals. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 45% of American adults set New Year Resolutions and only 8% are successful in seeing those through. Not surprisingly, most people are determined to lose weight, get organized, and better manage their finances when the calendar flips over.
Here, I am in good company. I have never had a year where I did not resolve to “get more fit” and “spending money less frivolously”. Part of the reason I like to have these resolutions on my list is because they are relatively easy to set. They are easy to say, easy to measure, but hard to stick to (2 out of 3 ain’t bad…).
It is the other types of annual declarations that I find to be the big challenge. While you can step on a scale to measure weight, no such thing exists to know when one has achieved enjoying life to the fullest or being present in every moment. Those are the big game-changers — resolutions that have the power to make us happy with who we are and to positively impact those around us in a way that dropping a dress size cannot.
With a notebook of 15+ years of January personal promise making, I thought I would share what I have learned about setting and achieving big game-changing goals:
- Always have a mix of easy-to-measure and big game goals. I usually go with 5 in total. 3 easy-to-measure and 2 game changers. This mix will help balance the extrinsic rewards of progress (e.g. “hey, you look great, have you been working out?”) with the intrinsic rewards that you have to give yourself, “I really stayed in the zone during that difficult meeting and didn’t let my emotions get the better of me.”
- Be innovative in how you measure the game changers. Feeling like you are making progress with the game changers requires a different view of measurement. For example:
- How many times during a week were you conscious of your objective? Simply being conscious of what you are trying to do will help you get there.
- How did you feel when you thought about working on your big game goals? If you feel positive, you are making progress. Conversely, if you experience a sinking feeling it probably means you need to work harder or try something new.
- Take a risk and expose yourself: Not in a way that will earn you a visit from the local authorities but rather emotionally. Write down your goals and share them out loud with someone. It does not matter whether you chose to visit the dollar store for your own notebook or capture your goals on your preferred digital device. What is important is to start with creating a record. Once you have that, share it with someone you trust. These two things combined are about making a commitment. I can share a personal experience to help drive this home. Although it is as an easy to measure goal, I will never forget the year I added “run a half-marathon” to my list of resolutions. I am certain that I never would have carried that one out if I had not committed to it and told my family and friends that I was going to do it. The more important the goal is to you, the more you may want to think about engaging a coach to help you stay on track.
Above all when it comes to the game changer goals, start with saying yes to setting them and holding yourself accountable. You also need to learn to be kind to yourself. These types of goals do not use the same calendar that drives our daily activities. Take the risk and give yourself an A for the effort.
For more on leading with Yes, see Get a Grip on Leading with Yes.