By Candace Yaeger, Career & Business Success Coach
Let me start by saying you didn’t fail; rather, you were set up for failure!
As motivated as we all want to be when it comes to creating a “New Year – New You” we tend to flop before we even turn the calendars to February. Why is this? And what can we do to set ourselves up for success when creating a new goal? Here is how to get back on track using smarter goals.
Resolutions are BAD
For those who know me, especially my clients, know about my list of “bad words.” Surprisingly, the list doesn’t include words you tend to scream when you stub your toe. Rather, these are words that we should avoid using because of how they shape our mindset.
A resolution by definition is the decision to do or not to do something. That is it – all or nothing! That is the first step to setting yourself up for failure. If something is all or nothing, the first time we slip up, we view it as a failure and give up.
Speaking of the importance of words, ever notice how so many resolutions are negatively worded? When your resolution is to ‘never eat pasta again’ (since Pasta Fridays have become a ritual that gets you through the week but also the cause of weight gain), don’t you sort of cringe thinking about the negativity of that statement? You are much more likely to succeed in dedicating yourself to ‘Finding a new veggie noodle recipe each week to enjoy on Friday nights.’ Wow, which of those two sounds more likely to succeed?
Another reason the word ‘resolution’ needs to be removed from your vocabulary is because of the negative connotation around the word. Think about it – you hear jokes about resolutions failing, even commercials play on the fact that most people toss their resolutions out the window in only a matter of weeks. Our culture has associated “New Year’s Resolutions” with failure; whether you realize it or not, that impacts your likelihood of failure.
Goals are SMARTER
Now that I have hopefully brought you over to the anti-resolution revolution, let’s discuss how to properly set a goal to ensure success!
The new year is just as good a time as ever to set a new goal; however, you don’t need any particular date or season to set a goal and ensure you achieve it. You can pick a random day in February, you can pick your birthday, you can pick today. What matters is how you create the goal. To be successful, a goal should be a smart goal, literally! Using the acronym SMARTER, we are going to go through a checklist when we set a goal in order to set ourselves up for success. Got your goal in mind? As you are reading these steps, write your goals down on a piece of paper. Your goal will go from a resolution-like statement, to a well-formulated goal. Okay, let’s do this.
Be as specific as possible when creating your goal. A good place to start is the good old ‘who, when, where, how, why.’ So let’s take “losing weight” and make it more specific: I am going to lose 10 pounds by July 1st by taking spin class 3 days a week because I deserve to feel fabulous in a bathing suit for my summer vacation. Don’t forget your ‘why.’ Reflect on your why often. Why are you making this goal? Is it to achieve something else by a set time? Is it because you love yourself and you deserve to feel confident? Remind yourself of your why each day.
How will you know if you are on track with your goal? What does progress look like? Make your goal quantifiable. Let’s use the example of “I will get more clients in 2018.” We can make that a measurable goal by changing it to “I will gain 60 new clients in 2018” so we know that each month, we should be obtaining 5 new clients in order to stay on track and ultimately reach 60. This helps you stay on track but also helps you see the progress you’ve made over time
A goal without action is just a dream. Create action oriented steps towards your goal. Let’s use that last example of gaining more clients. What actions are we going to take to gain those new clients? Are we going to increase our networking, increase our advertising, expand our referral program? Okay – now each of those 3 actions should be broken down into something measurable (hint: put these in your calendar to review each week.) Suddenly “gain more clients” becomes a checklist to achieve each week. We review it on Monday and check in on Friday: spend 1 hour every Monday finding new networking groups; attend 2 networking events each week; spend 1 hour each week finding new leads on social media; sponsor 1 event each quarter where the audience is my target market; contact 5 current or past clients each month and incentivize them to refer new clients. Remember action is imperative to success.
It might seem obvious that the goals we set should be realistic. However, when we use simple resolution-type statements, we are ignoring how realistic they may or may not be. This is especially important to consider after we’ve created our action steps. If we are breaking down our goals into actions, we might notice that that one statement is going to take significantly more time that we had noticed. We need to ensure that it is possible to consider the time, energy and resources our goals are going to require. The example above, reaching the goal of “adding 60 more clients in 2018” might take so much time and energy, that you begin to neglect your current clients. If a goal is too lofty, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Often, we don’t realize a goal is unrealistic until we really break it down into a SMART goal.
It is imperative that goal have a timeline associated with them. Every goal should have a target date. In fact, for an even greater success-trajectory, a goal should have multiple check-in points along a timeline. This creates a sense of urgency, keeps us from procrastinating, and keeps the goal in the forefront of our minds. Your calendar is your best friend. Each action associated with your goal should have its own date of completion. A goal that isn’t broken down into action steps and put into your calendar might as well be dismissed.
More people have heard of SMART goals than SMARTER goals, but I argue that these last two are essential to achieving a goal. Your goals need to be evaluated and reflected upon often throughout the timeline. Things change in life. Each goal should be evaluated often and perhaps even adjusted. Our goal of gaining 60 clients might have to be readjusted because we secured a significantly larger client who takes up much more time and resources (but results in more pay) than our other clients. Depending on your goal, its action steps, and its timeline, also add to your calendar certain times to evaluate your goal and progress. Is the goal still realistic given the current situation? When measuring progress, have you stayed on track? Will you be able to achieve each milestone in your calendar? When evaluating, we might find that we have been making significantly more progress and can even get more aggressive with our goals.
You need to reward yourself. This is where the ‘all or nothing’ nature of resolutions sets us up for failure. When we are finishing our action steps on time, and making significant progress towards our goal, we need to reward ourselves! This doesn’t necessarily mean treating yourself to a giant chocolate cupcake each week that you went to the gym 3 times a week. We don’t want our reward to impede our progress. Hit the gym 3 times a week for the whole month? Sounds like someone deserves a deep tissue massage! Rewards will not only help keep you motivated through the tough points, but also help you recharge and reflect on why you are going after this goal and the progress you’ve made so far.
So the reason your resolution failed was because it was only a resolution. Now, put that failure behind you. And forget the word ‘resolution’ exists. You deserve to upgrade to SMARTER goals from this point on! From now on, your goals are going to be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-bound, evaluated, and rewarded…. You are going to attack those goals!