CAUTION!! You are about to enter the time-to-take-action zone. It’s an annual sojourn that usually starts right after the Thanksgiving holidays. We refer to them as resolutions. But resolutions do not equal intentions. The journey between now and the New Year is a bit treacherous. There are psychological obstacles and optical illusions that need to be avoided.
Let me take the time to assist you by providing a roadmap that will help. You have a healthy desire to improve on your life. You would like to delete some behaviors and add others. So let’s start by defining some terms.
Resolutions = a decision as to future action. It gives you an idea of what you would like to accomplish. But don’t forget to read the fine print. There is a large stretch on the highway between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Yes, we have great things in mind come January 1st. But the gap sets us up for failure. Whether the resolution is to get in shape, learn a new skill, start a new business, or develop a positive habit, the gap enables us to postpone the new behavior for several weeks. And what do we do during this gap? We indulge in certain counter-productive behaviors with the idea that we will change come January 1.
We put on those extra pounds, postpone those business decisions, develop more obstacles to learning new skills and habits. The result? We start the New Year with an even greater deficit. That in turn lowers our motivation to achieve our desired goal.
But there’s more fine print! A resolution gives you an idea of what you want to accomplish, but it doesn’t provide the roadmap to get there. Without this roadmap you will not be able to overcome the forces that work to slow you down or even stop your progress. Like anchors thrown overboard, old habits drag bottom and make the journey even more difficult.
The good news is that good habits can be developed. Good habits beget positive attitudes, which in turn beget new and satisfying lifestyles. As you become more proficient with your new behaviors you’ll joyfully discover that they take less energy and effort. To quote organizational guru Max Dupree, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
For starters, here are 7 tips.
(1) Be clear on your intention.
What is it you want to create? What’s the big picture? What will it look like when it’s achieved? Don’t rush this. What is your intention for 2012? What would you like to accomplish? Is it vocational? Is it health related? Does it have a spiritual dimension?
(2) Write down specific goals.
Research has shown that written down goals have a 35%-40% better chance of becoming reality. Consider this: only 5% of Americans have written down goals. Write Them Down. Maybe it has to do with joining a gym, or eating nutritionally, or scheduling exercise, or enrolling in a course.
(3) Make them realistically time-bound.
Establish a realistic timeframe with a little bit of margin built in and your intention will not quickly die. Fail to do this and your resolution will be D.O.A. (dead on arrival). You want to lose 15 pounds…….by next week? I don’t think so. How about 4-5 pounds per week for 3 weeks.
You can always evaluate your plans and determine whether or not they were aggressive enough. Mid-course adjustments are permissible and welcomed. You are in control of the process. Goals without deadlines are dreams, not reality.
(4) Get accountable.
Who are your allies? One of the missing factors in resolutions is the lack of a partner, teammate, or mutual supporter. Get an action partner—someone committed to their own intentional plan. It doesn’t have to be the same plan to become accountable to one another. Accountability energizes behavior.
(5) List the barriers to achieving this goal.
This is both important and powerful. Once you’ve identified the barriers, you’ve eliminated 50% of their power. Demystifying barriers by listing them gives you power to manage them successfully. It will still take work to face them, but there is a lower chance of derailment when you understand them. Is it a habit you can’t seem to shake? A skill you need to develop? A fear that grips your soul? List them honestly and clearly.
(6) What’s your next step?
You vision is in place. So what’s your next step? If your goal is to get in shape, then one action plan might be to run. So a good/next step might be as simple as putting on your running shoes at a predetermined time. I have a friend that says 90% is just showing up. What will you do today, and when will you do it? What next step will get you closer to your goal? Take action today. Drive that stake in the ground.
(7) Celebrate your accomplishment.
This one is usually missed! Stop long enough to acknowledge your progress—and then appreciate it. If you don’t appreciate your accomplishments, nobody else will. Our tendency is to live in a state of deficit. It is easy in this fast-paced world to live as though we are always behind. The system is set up to make us feel this lack in our lives. If you will take stock in your accomplishments, you will discover a surprising amount of progress.
This action also has an invaluable side effect. What’s that effect? A renewed motivation that comes from appreciating your progress.
So beware of the gap between what you want and when you start. Without this most resolutions will be left on the cutting floor. They don’t make it to the big screen of your life. This chasm between the goal and real time—just like gravity—is working against you. The bigger the gap, the tougher the leap to the other side.
And beware of the lack of a game plan with regard to resolutions.
When your dreams collide with reality, reality wins.
When dreams combine with a plan, dreams become reality.
Put these 7 steps in practice today and get a head start on 2012.
[Share some of your dreams for the New Year. The accountability will serve you well, and we could use the encouragment.]
(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life)