Making Your Goals and Resolutions Stick

By Terry Schmidt, Strategic Consultant and Founder

Tom Brokaw reports that the top three New Year’s resolutions for Americans are to lose weight, save money, and get organized. Unfortunately, most resolutions don’t last past the first week. The first time we gorge on pumpkin pie, skip the workout, or let our coworker drive us crazy again, we tend to say, “Whoops, I blew it!”. Then we feel a momentary sense of guilt and forget about the goal until next year rolls around.

Are you a resolution set for and goal setter? That’s a good start. If so, here are some tips to maximize your chances of success.

Choose Just a Few
First, decide what life categories need the greatest attention – career, financial, relationships, health, personal, spiritual, and community are useful groupings. Set not more than one or two goals in each category you consider important. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too long of a list. Make each one specific and as measurable as possible using quantitative and time targets when appropriate. Rather than “get my body in great shape,” make it “reduce my body fat from 25% to 15% and lose 15-20 pounds before my July class reunion.” Rather than “be outstanding in my career” make it “be a CEO by age 45.”

Come Up with Compelling Reasons
Without good reasons to turn goals into reality, you probably won’t take action. Generate high internal psychological voltage to kick you into action by listing all of the benefits you’ll get by achieving the goal. Losing weight may seem dreary, but becoming a vibrant, healthy person is exciting. See yourself as trim, sexy, strong, and agile. Notice the admiring gaze of others. Imagine what it feels like to stay mentally and physically healthy for the rest of your life. Associate with the reasons behind your goals and get excited about them. Creating a vivid picture in your mind of what success looks and feels like gives your brain a blueprint to work from.

Identify Specific Behaviors
Be specific and write down all the behaviors that support your goals. “Manage my money better” may begin with setting up a Quicken budget, tracking out-of-pocket expenditures, updating accounts monthly, and reading some on-line articles about investing in uncertain times. Moving from broad generalities to specific behaviors turns goal-achievement into a winnable game.

Associate the Benefits with the Behaviors
Good intentions aren’t enough. Goal-getting requires behavior change; but it’s tough to overcome inertia. Change is easier if you mentally associate the necessary behaviors with the benefits you will enjoy. My plump friend Keith found a magazine picture of the body of his dreams; and with some Photoshop wizardry, he pasted his face over his ideal body. Putting this picture in his Daytimer motivated him to eat smart and workout daily. My business colleague Cindy had her picture put on a Fortune Magazine cover at a mall kiosk to remind her she’s on the way to the executive suite. What strong visual image can you create?

Set Up Your Environment to Support You
Five years ago, when organizational chaos was creeping into my office, I resolved to upgrade my paper-handling and information organizing habits. Despite solid motivation, I made little progress until I took a systems approach totally redesigned my work area. I purged old files, put key desk tools within easy reach, and added aromatherapy. Having a supportive environment is key. What environmental changes would support your goals?

Start At the New Week, Not the New Year
Rather than waiting for a symbolic start on New Years Day, begin your program any Sunday or Monday. Launching new goals at the beginning of the week means you can cycle in new over goals whenever you wish. And it eliminates the syndrome of waiting until next New Year to begin again after you mess up. Renew yourself and start fresh each week.

Share Goals with People Who Are Important to You
If you are sure that other people will support and assist with your goals, share them. Discuss work-related improvement goals with your manager and ask for any assistance you may need. If your goals require changes in your home routine or pattern of interaction with family members, let them know how they can support and assist you.

Track and Review
Keep a journal and review your progress weekly. If you are off track, ask why. Are you really committed? Do you have a competing inner need? Is it too ambitious and in need of downscaling? Is it a goal you really want, or is it one you think you should want?

Celebrate Small Victories
To drop 50 pounds in a year, drop a pound a week. But don’t just feel proud when the scale readings changes, commend yourself each time you eat the carrot instead of the carrot cake. Congratulate yourself for taking the necessary actions as well as achieving the outcomes. Recognizing small victories reinforces the sense that you are on track.

All leaders and high achievers use goals and resolutions to move them forward. As the Buddha once said, “Only two things can cause you to fail: Stopping and never starting.”

Contact Terry or call 206.433.0700 today for a confidential discussion of your issues and objectives.