The beginning of each year affords the opportunity for each of us to do a review and a reset on our lives, at work and at home. Doing a bit of a retrospective on where we have been, with a particular focus on what helped us and what hindered us in achieving our previous and current goals can be helpful in preparing for the next set of things we want to accomplish.
I always come up with a number of ways to tackle the things I want to do: such as carving out a 2 or 3 hour slot once a week and going somewhere where no one can find me, or turning off my phone. I have tried disabling my email notifications, or having an accountability buddy who will be supportive while at the same time challenging me.
But I have realized that none of these work unless I have figured why; making sure that I have the right goals. In doing the retrospective in the past, I have discovered that my goals were really much too big for the reality of my life (way beyond stretch goals), or that I had set out to do something that I actually had little or no control over.
So to help you as you prepare to launch 2019, I have offered some things I have learned, that might help you to increase your chances of success. But before that, a personal story.
I like to cycle. I have cycled my whole life and thought I knew how to cycle until my first trip to Europe where I discovered that hills can be 10 km long vs. the 100 m I am used to. The best cycling advice I think I have ever received was advice on how to tackle the hills. “The way you have to climb these hills is to recognize that this is more like a marathon than a sprint, so you need to adjust your pace to one that you can sustain for an hour, or maybe two. If you try to ride up these hills the way you do at home, you will make it about 100m and then you will be finished.” I made the first hill, and have made many others since.
I have found that this applies to anything I am trying to achieve - knowing the goal, having a plan, and being willing to put up with some discomfort to achieve the goal isn't just about cycling. And just like most challenging goals, even though the path to achievement is sometimes tedious, tiring, challenging and at times may even seem not worth the effort, the reward is often amazing – and sometimes totally unexpected.
Questions to ask yourself....
Looking back: What goals did you have last year?
Were you successful? If so what led to that success? If not, what got in the way? What can you take from that experience to build a greater chance of success into the coming year?
Looking forward: What are your goals for the coming year?
1. Are they focused on things that motivate you? If not, what will you put in place to make them more palatable? (a reward, an accountability buddy, etc.)
2. Can you define a clear and measurable outcome? I other words, how will you know that you have achieved the goal? Does that include a timeline and other parameters you might use to gauge success, such as the quality of the outcome or a quantity (i.e. “I want to run a few races this year” vs. “I want to complete 2 x 5km races by September, and to beat my previous time”).
3. Can you actually achieve the goal? Is it something you have control over? Is it something that can be done in the time you have identified, with the resources available? Have you considered the context of your life? (For example, it might be possible to cook every recipe in the Julia Child cookbook in a year, but if you work until 8pm three nights a week and are looking after your three children the other two nights, and at soccer/hockey/ballet/ swimming/piano lessons/recitals/tournaments all weekend, it may not be possible for YOU to do that.)
4. Do you have a plan? With specific action items and timelines? If you want to run a marathon next fall, it might be a good idea to have a plan for how you are going to first run 5km, and then build over a number of months to the point where you can do the required distance without injury.
- Know your weak spot and plan around it.
- Recognize that a goal is something you are aiming to achieve. It might not happen, but chances are that 70 or 80% of the way there is better than not even starting.
- Also, recognize that not all goals are the same, and some require a very different approach.
- And here is some science on attaining your goals.