Everyone’s been there – it’s mid-summer, over 6 months since you set those New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, focus more on family and friends, create an audience of raving fans for your business. You know – the usual suspects.
The fact is, whether you set a resolution goal at the beginning of the year, or a business goal just last week – they both have the same problem: how do you improve your chances of success?
You need a clearly stated goal, with a few extra elements that guarantee action. What I call a SMARTEA (smarty) goal. Here’s why.
Resolutions Have a 92% Failure Rate
Research from the University of Scranton suggests that only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution goal. To get some idea why this would happen, let’s look at some of the most common New Year’s resolutions: health and fitness.
According to The Nielsen Company, 69% of the New Years’ resolutions made in 2015 were about losing weight or staying fit/healthy. However, 76% of surveyed consumers indicated that they didn’t follow a weight loss or diet program in 2014.
The problem here isn’t one of intention or desire. Just look at what the surveyed consumers said they didn’t do: follow a program.
Without a system or support structure in place for you to pursue and achieve your goals, you might as well be trying to cross the Sahara desert with a 20 oz plastic bottle of water, and a broken compass.
So how do you solve this problem? How do you develop a goal success plan quickly?
People who write down goals are more likely to achieve them.
In 2008, a study held at Dominican University determined that people who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals.
Here are a few steps, and a helpful worksheet that will set you up for success with personal and business goals. Who knows? You might even keep that New Years resolution next time around.
1. Choose only one or two primary goals to pursue at a time.
Whenever I sit down with a prospect or client I tend to take them through a goal definition exercise. This helps me learn about their needs but it also gives them a chance to just ‘dump everything on the table’ – and prioritize. Sometimes I’ll see a few statements that cluster around a shared over-all direction: ‘do more business’, or ‘make more money.’
But goals are funny things – sometimes the most briefly stated goal can be crushingly complex to achieve. It’s easy to say ‘my goal is to make more money.’ But the next steps required to make that happen?Let’s just say that those can take a little more work.
So, don’t overwhelm yourself. Depending on the complexity of your goals, focus on only one or two at a time.
2. Set SMART goals
You’ve probably seen some variation on the SMART goal, so I’ll be brief. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and setting a Time-frame. For more details, check out my post about Setting SMART Goals.
For now, at the very least, write down a first person statement of your goal – a powerful action statement that defines important details:
Who (typically you, but it could be a specific business or department), What, Where, When, and How of your Goal. Think of it as making a powerful action statement. The example goal mentioned above to ‘make more money’ becomes, “By the end of 2015 (the when), my business (the who) is grossing an additional 70,000 dollars a year (the what) by selling HVAC systems to new clients (the how) within a 20 mile radius of my place of business (the where)”.
3. What will you gain?/What will you lose?
Want to supercharge your desire to achieve your goal? Add an emotion to it. This will help you move from ‘should’ goals (I should lose weight), which typically carry self-judgmental baggage, to ‘want’ goals (I want to lost weight) that spur desire and motivation.
The brain is wired to seek rewards and avoid pain or discomfort. You either move towards a reward, or away from a pain. For each person, one or the other may be a stronger motivator.
Define a few end benefits you will enjoy by reaching your goal – end results that you deeply, strongly desire. These benefits may be self-evident, but a few questions that can help you with this include: How will achieving this goal make me feel? What will reaching this goal allow me to do that I can’t do now?
Then define a few consequences or ‘pains’ you will experience by not completing your goal. Some questions that can help you define these include: How will not reaching this goal make my life more difficult? How will my physical or financial health be negatively impacted if I don’t reach this goal? How badly will I feel, how much self-esteem and shame, is tied to this goal?
Again, you may be more motivated by moving towards a benefit or moving away from a negative consequence, but defining both can provide balanced motivators.
4. How will you stay accountable?
Writing down your goal is an important part of making it real. Stating it out-loud to another person, however, raises the stakes even higher.
Public accountability has been shown to improve the chances of goal completion. If we’re the only ones who know we have a goal, well, who’s going to know if we don’t take an action this week to help complete it? No harm, no foul. Right?
Whether it’s a work deadline commitment to a boss or client, telling a close friend, or even posting it on social media – stating a goal makes it more real and increases the motivation to take action. Maybe it’s a shame thing – once you tell someone you’re moving towards a goal, they’re likely to ask you how it’s going. And typically it doesn’t feel good when we have to say we’ve taken no action in pursuing a self-stated goal.
Social statements and updates can bring some valuable support from your social network. There are also numerous apps that can help you set goals, track completion, and even provide social support/accountability with either your direct network or complete strangers.
Want to take accountability to the next level? Consider working with a friend, or a coach like myself, who you check in with on a regular basis on the status of your goal. It’s amazing how productive we get when someone else helps keep track of our effort and impact.