Thirty day challenges are all the rage in November, particularly in Australia. The weather is warming up and party season is about to hit… perhaps making it the last chance we have this year to finally achieve those new years goals. You know, the same goals we made last year. And the year before.
Why do we make new year resolutions again and again?
For that matter, why do we make ANY goals again and again?
It’s because we don’t keep them!
There are a million reasons (read: excuses) for not achieving our goals. To be honest, those reasons aren’t the problem. The real problem is our level of commitment. Successful achievers are so dedicated to their goals that they do whatever it takes to achieve them. Come rain, hail, or shine, there is nothing that stops them in their pursuit of what they want. And we can do the same. We can maximise our chances of success by strengthening our resolve and commitment to our goals, using this simple technique.
The G.O.A.L.S. technique of goal achievement
SMART goals are out. While this method has it’s merits, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. If you’ve been following the SMART strategy (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound), and you’re not achieving your goals, this could be the reason.
The critical first step is to have a global vision. Make your vision of what you want so compelling – that you must accomplish it, no matter what. Have clear and well-defined reasons for why you want to achieve this. If your goal is to exercise more, then your compelling vision might be to have a fit and healthy body, boundless energy, and strong muscles. Also think about the consequences of NOT following through with your goal. If you don’t exercise more, what will happen? Perhaps you won’t be able to keep up with the kids, or you’ll struggle to climb the stairs at work, or you’ll feel too embarrassed to wear a swimsuit in public.
What makes your vision compelling is the emotion attached to it. What will achieving your goal bring you? Is it confidence? Connection? Contentment?
By visualising our outcome, and really feeling the emotions associated with having that outcome, we become compelled to achieve it. There is no willpower required – our vision of what we want becomes so powerful that we must achieve it. In the words of Walt Disney “if you can dream it, you can do it”.
Operationalise means that we deconstruct the global vision into measurable targets. It’s the difference between the vision of “being fitter” and the goal of “being able to run 5K in X number of minutes”. Operationalised goals are big targets that we can objectively measure to track our progress over a long time scale – usually yearly or quarterly, or in some cases, monthly.
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of being able to measure goals. Judging by instinct or emotions sounds good, but is unreliable. Saying “oh, I’m pretty sure I’ve achieved this” is subjective. Instincts and emotions can lead us astray, due to fear or worry that arises when move out of our comfort zone. Make things easy for yourself and set yourself measurable goals.
Here’s where stuff gets real. At this level of goal setting, we determine the day to day steps that we need to achieve our target. Things like: each day doing 30 minutes of exercise or eating five serving of vegetables or drinking 8 glasses of water. It’s these small daily actions, done consistently, that yield the big results.
By the way, most people start here when setting goals. They focus on the action steps and the “how to” without considering their purpose (grand vision) or how they plan to measure their progress. And that’s why motivation fades or we lose momentum or we fall off the wagon – because we don’t have clarity around our reasons for taking the action steps in the first place. So to remain inspired, we must review our goals as often as possible. At least daily, if not more often. Put them everywhere – on the bathroom mirror, wallet, work station, etc. Brian Tracy suggests writing them out each day, so that they become entrenched in our subconscious mind. Regularly reviewing our goals makes us more likely to remain on track.
It’s said that we become like those we spend the most time with. So we want to make sure we’re surrounded by a lineup of supporters, people who are going to champion our pursuit of our goals. Not everyone will understand our goals, and not everyone will be supportive (sometimes people can feel threatened by change). And that’s fine. We can take charge of our own social circle and make sure we fill it with like-minded people. I’m not saying that we need to avoid our unsupportive friends and family, we may simply need to expand our group. If you want to ditch the cigarettes and all your friends are smokers, you’d be wise to hang out with some non-smokers from time to time.
Consider whether you need to enlist people with specific skills, like a personal trainer or a business mentor. Experts who have helped others achieve your goals and who can help get you there faster or more efficiently than if you try and go it alone.
The final step is to consider who we need to be, in order to reach our goals. Achieving goals requires a shift in our self-perception. If you start viewing yourself as an athlete, you’re far more likely to achieve fitness and exercise goals than if you view yourself as a couch potato. We always act in accordance with who we believe we are. When we identify as an athlete, our thoughts and actions will be different to the person who identifies as a couch potato. By shifting our identity, we automatically change the things we do. And if we raise our expectations of ourself and set the bar high enough, then our behaviour follows. I always encourage my clients to think carefully about the words that follow “I am…” because those words will dictate our actions and our results.
Ultimately, achieving goals isn’t about our actions. It isn’t about the latest juice cleanse or exercise bootcamp. It’s about something far more important – changing the way that we think, which automatically changes what we do. No willpower required. By having a compelling global vision, a way to operationalise our goals, taking action, having a supportive lineup of people around us, and shifting our self perception, we are primed to create personal success. We don’t even need to wait for January 1 or the next 30 day challenge to start. We can start the new year today, starting right now, and give ourselves the gift of the life we’ve always wanted.