The beginning of a new year often inspires people to think about important changes they want to make: Eat healthier; lose weight; get more sleep; read more; get certified; expand my network; become more visible at work—aspirations and goals run the gamut from the personal to the professional. And statistically, many of us will fail to pursue them.
Especially if our aspirations are formed in the context of a New Year’s resolution, a U.S. News & World Report puts the failure rate around 80 percent, with most of us losing staying power by mid-February.
To keep your goals from expiring by Valentine’s Day, try the following:
1. Break them down into actionable (and observable) chunks:
Vague intentions like “get more sleep” rarely translate into the desired results. Instead, “be in bed by 10 pm—lights out” is the sort of concrete goal post that’s harder to move without having to question one’s resolve. Similarly, “getting certified” in something may stay on your aspirational to-do list, unless you break it down into actionable steps such as, “check dates for programs”, “secure funding”, “sign up for program” and “book travel to certification city”. And then all you have to do is “show up”.
2. Create a support system:
Whether you call them stakeholders, accountability partners, personal board of directors, or close family members—the idea is to create a reliable group of people with whom you’ll feel comfortable sharing your goals and confident that they’ll show up for you. You’ll ask them to give you regular and timely feedback on how they feel you’re progressing in your quest. Since most of us are biased when it comes to our intentions vs. our impact and short on sufficient amounts of self-awareness, we benefit greatly from ongoing observer feedback. It helps us stay accountable to our commitments and enables us to correct course in case we veer off our designated path. This network of supporters can also be a terrific source of fresh ideas on how to stay the course and succeed at your goal. People love giving advice. Tap into their creativity when you find yourself wavering.
3. Refine your goal as you go:
To keep your goals from growing stale and you from losing steam in their pursuit, keep an open mind as to any changes you may need to make along the way. Think of yourself as an artist whose inspiration along the way to creating a masterpiece leads to different iterations and dimensions. You may set out to lose a certain (specific) amount of weight and may find that you love running, swimming and cycling to the point where you refine your goal to train for an Ironman contest. Or if your goal is to expand your network and become more visible in your organization, you may find that instead of just scheduling coffees and lunches with colleagues and key stakeholders (an excellent idea), you’re inspired to start a mentoring program or mastermind group where you bring others together for mutual benefit. Like the composer who rewrites a score to better match his vision for a piece of music, or the painter who discovers that a new perspective influences her choice of colors for a portrait, stay playful, keep an open mind and adapt your approach as needed to fuel your desire of achieving your goals and dreams.