If you’re like most people, your new year will start with a fervor. As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, people will raise their glass, bid a bittersweet farewell to the year before, and stridently promise that this year will be the best one yet. They’ll eat healthier, exercise more, and finally lose weight. Gym memberships will spike. And then some time in March the gyms will become noticeably quieter, with more parking and elliptical machines available.
Why do so many people struggle to live up to their New Year’s resolutions? Why do people lose momentum? It’s all in the approach…to goal-setting, that is.
Examining data from 9,654 who took our Goal-Setting Test, we analyzed the attitudes, personality, and behaviors of three distinct groups: Those who tend to achieve most/all goals they set, those who achieve a few goals, and those who don’t achieve any. Here’s where they differed:
- As wonderfully carefree as it may be to simply go with the flow, 65% of goal-achievers recognize the importance of making solid plans for the future. They’re clear about what they want to achieve, when, and how (compared to 52% of moderate achievers and 33% of non-achievers).
- 77% of goal-achievers (vs. 49% of moderate achievers and 14% of non-achievers) set appropriate goals. This means establishing aspirations that are challenging yet reasonable. Successful goal-achievers will know, for example, that a “30-pounds-in-30-days” type of objective is downright ridiculous and doomed to fail.
- At the same time, 78% goal-achievers refuse to short-change themselves. They won’t set their sights unreasonably high, but they also won’t set them too low. They want a goal that will push them and encourage growth and self-improvement (compared to 54% of moderate achievers and 32% of non-achievers).
- Once they set their sights on a goal, 79% of goal-achievers will get started on it right away. Thus, if their objective is to lose weight, they will immediately get started on, perhaps, a new diet plan, join a gym, hire a personal trainer, etc. (compared to 54% of moderate achievers and 29% of non-achievers). Like a vampire in cheesy teen movies, procrastination sucks the life out of your goals. Period.
- One of the most important aspects of the goal-setting process is the planning. The majority of goal-achievers (65%, vs. 52% of moderate achievers and 39% of non-achievers) plan out exactly how they will accomplish their goal. They also include a very crucial step: Planning for potential obstacles they may run into and how to overcome them (for example, how to continue to eat healthy even when your friends are scarfing down burgers with goat cheese, bacon, avocado, and a spicy mayo sauce).
- Just like climbing stairs, goals should not be taken on in one large leap (one word: Ouchy). Case in point: 74% of goal-achievers break down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps (compared to 52% of moderate achievers and 28% of non-achievers). So for example, rather than setting a weight loss goal in grand terms (lose 40 pounds), they take it one week at a time and one pound at a time. Or they cut out unhealthy foods bit by bit rather than immediately going cold turkey (which can prove to be much more difficult to stick to in the long-term).
- 78% of goal-achievers (compared to 63% of moderate achievers and 43% of non-achievers) keep themselves motivated with small rewards after reaching certain milestones (e.g. losing the first 5 pounds). In addition, 81% of goal-achievers (compared to 56% of moderate achievers and 26% of non-achievers) have a protocol set up to keep them motivated, either through pep talks, support from family and friends, a personal trainer, life coach, etc.
- 68% of goal-achievers (compared to 49% of moderate achievers and 35% of non-achievers) evaluate the progress of their goal at set intervals (e.g. every week or once a month). These regular “pit stops” allow them to determine if they need to make modifications to their approach or goal (e.g. change exercise routine, push the deadline a little further because they were too sick to exercise for a few days, etc.).
- 75% of goal-achievers (compared to 52% of moderate achievers and 21% of non-achievers) recognize the importance of being patient. They accept that some goals take time and that they might not see tangible results of their efforts right away.
- 77% of goal-achievers (compared to 51% of moderate achievers and 29% of non-achievers) harness the power of their mind by visualizing themselves completing their goal successfully.
- 91% of goal-achievers (compared to 77% of moderate achievers and 58% of non-achievers) refuse to allow self-doubt to hinder their efforts. They believe in themselves and in their ability to succeed.
- While being able to achieve goals without help is a noble achievement, 82% of goal-achievers (compared to 72% of moderate achievers and 59% of non-achievers) recognize the importance of being humble, and asking for guidance when necessary. They are not afraid to swallow their pride and accept a helping hand.
If you’re like me and you’ve been reintroducing the same resolutions every year for the past few years and have done zilch in terms of progress, it’s time to take a serious look at your goal-setting approach. Setting goals is a good first step, but you can’t just set a vague goal and leave it at that. Sit down and write out your goal in detail:
- What exactly do I want to accomplish?
- Why do I want to accomplish this goal?
- What steps do I need to take to get the ball rolling?
- What will I do to keep myself motivated?
- How will I reward myself?
These are all important aspects of the goal-achievement process that you need to establish…you need to plan ahead. Goal-achievers are like marathon runners: They realize that while it’s important to have an end goal, it’s the process of getting there that really matters. And if you’re struggling with your weight loss goal, financial goal, or whatever your resolution may be, don’t be afraid to engage the help of a trainer or life coach. They can get you started on the right footing and knock that resolution off your list once and for all.