New Year’s is one of the busiest times for goal-setting–for envisioning a new path, for choosing to grow. And if you’re choosing to grow, you’ve come to the right place; I literally wrote the book on it (haha!). One thing I learned through writing This is How We Grow is one of the hardest parts of personal growth is knowing HOW to do it. That’s why I’m here writing this today–to show YOU how to grow, how to set goals that will lead you to personal growth success.
3 Reasons New Year’s Goals & Personal Growth Fail
There are many ways to choose to grow (and of course, growth doesn’t just have to start on January first). Whether you write New Year’s Resolutions, or set goals, or whether you instead use a yearly (or monthly or bi-annual) theme, like I do, there is one thing that can make or break your success: goal-setting skills. See, that’s one of the problems with Resolutions–too many of us write them down without any real plan of attack. In fact, resolutions, and even goals, tend to fail because:
1) We try to do too much at once. It’s great to set 10 resolutions, but you can’t really work on them all at once. You’re better off to try one or two and then add more as the year goes by.
2) We expect change to come quickly. We set a goal and say, “I’m starting tomorrow,” and then dive in. While that can sometimes work, more often we’re frustrated because we find ourselves slipping, by day three. Instead, we need to realize that change is a process that can take longer than we’d like. There is much more to making change that lasts than we think. (Read this–How to Make Lasting Change: 5 Lessons from the Transtheoretical Model of Change–and you’ll see what I mean.)
3) We quit if we “fail.” But the only true failure is quitting. Lasting change and growth usually takes several tries, and readjusting our goals as we make mistakes is part of success. (Again, read this article–it really will help! How to Make Lasting Change)
5 Steps to Goal-Setting Success
So, how can we set goals that will lead to success?
1) Create a vision of success. Stephen Covey said it best: “Begin with the end in mind.” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) Too often, we set a goal without a clear vision of what a “successful” outcome might look like. We know
we need to lose weight, for instance, but does that mean we can fit in our jeans or does it mean we are shooting for an overall healthier lifestyle? Before you set a goal, get clear on your best-case end result. Close your eyes and envision what you would be like after your goal is reached. Write it down. Then, write down what “success” for each goal would look like to you. Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s much easier to achieve it.
2) Take the time to create a solid plan. Don’t jump in to the “action” phase of a goal before you’ve taken the time to contemplate and prepare properly. As I explain in my article on the “Spiral of Change,” there are actually six stages of change, and skipping steps won’t help you get to where you want to be any sooner. Instead, think about your vision and the steps it will take to get there. What might get in your way or prevent success? What challenges do you anticipate and how might you overcome them? What time frame is best for this goal, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Write all of this down, creating a plan you can follow to achieve your goal.
3) Write goals in the positive and use the active present tense. Instead of saying, “I am not going to be negative,” say, “Today, I am acting cheerfully.” Instead of, “I will not eat junk food,” write, “I am eating whole foods because I am a healthy person.” Instead of telling yourself what NOT to do, tell yourself what TO do. It helps you feel more empowered and focused on how to achieve your goal. And speaking in the present helps your mind act as if you have already achieved your goal. It helps you believe in yourself, reminding you of what you are capable.
4) Create a way to measure your goal and evaluate your progress. Most goals fail because there is no system of measurement and evaluation. Some are easier than others–losing 5 pounds is pretty specific, while “being kinder” is harder to measure. Instead, create a way to tell how much progress you are making. You might check in with yourself each day to evaluate your progress–“How kind have I been today, from 1-10?” Or you might evaluate once a week by writing about your ups and downs in a journal. Whatever works for you is great, as long as it helps you measure and evaluate where you are. Only in knowing where you are can you get to where you are headed.
5) Make yourself accountable and stick with it. Another key to successful goal-setting is accountability. If we have no accountability, it’s going to be hard to stay the course when things get tough. Some of us are great with holding ourselves accountable–checking in, reevaluating, encouraging, and sticking with it on your own–but many are not. According to research, most people do best by having a “partner” to help achieve goals. Consider setting up a “buddy system” with a friend or family member, where you check in and encourage each other regularly. Or, involve your partner or even the whole family by helping everyone set one or two goals and then working to achieve them together. Or, post a goal on Facebook and encourage friends to ask about it. Or, join my This is How We Grow Personal Growth Group for a built in support system. However you do it, make yourself accountable–to yourself and/or to someone else–and you’re more likely to stick with and eventually achieve your goals.
Here’s to a year of goal-setting success and personal growth! Happy New Year, everyone!
What are your New Year’s Resolutions or Personal Growth Goals? What helps you achieve your goals? What stands in your way? Leave a comment, below!
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