Food for Thought: New Beginnings
It’s a new year and we are all just returning to work and school in my household.
Day one generally goes something like this: the night before, bags are packed for all three of my sons, lunches are prepared ahead and in the fridge. Uniforms are laid out and sports kits are ready to go. My work clothes are ironed, bag ready, laptop charges… and so on. We get up, at the first alarm, and all eat breakfast together in a civilised manner, having already walked the dog. We have time for a hug before the eldest goes to catch his bus and the rest of us leave in a relaxed fashion. We are winning at 2017!
By day two: the lunches are being made on the morning, I’ve pressed snooze a couple of times, I get a text from the eldest by 9.15 saying he’s forgotten his homework, the youngest has forgotten he has swimming, and I have no idea where my laptop is. By day three… you get the idea!
Okay, I may be exaggerating (a little), but most of us are familiar with this pattern. We start of with good intentions and, well, life gets in the way and we are back into the old familiar grooves before we know it. By this state we think we may as well wait until the next year before we try again.
I love setting goals. I like to set targets for my business, and also for self-improvement. We actually sit and do this as a family every January. But I, like many of us, don’t always meet them. I could tell you the depressing fact that around 90% of goals made aren’t achieved, but perhaps you’ve already guessed this. The question still remains: why do some goals get met? Why do some people succeed in achieving their resolutions, and others don’t even get past day one? This year I decided to investigate a little more into what I can do to increase the number of goals that I actually meet. Here’s some helpful tips from my findings:
- Be specific. We all know that goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Based) and would use this method at work. But do we use this when setting life goals? I am always saying ‘I need to drink more water,’ but there is nothing about this that makes me ground my goal into action. It would be much better to say ‘I want to drink six cups of water a day, every day,’ and go even further by deciding when I will drink them. I could also use an app, or my paper diary, to tick when I have had these cups of water. Much more specific and easier for me to track my success.
- Write it down. There’s something about committing to paper (or to a screen) that increases the likelihood of following through on resolutions. Once I have decided upon my goals, I write them down trying to be as specific as I can. I have goals for all the key areas of my life: health (body and mind), personal development, financial, family, spiritual, and my business. You may have other categories but it’s good to think about the different facets of our lives rather than just focusing on one aspect. When you write it down use ‘I will’ statements: this helps us to own them as vision statements for the year ahead.
- Flex your willpower and watch it grow. Apparently, will power is more like a ‘muscle’ that you develop rather than a steely resolve that some of us have and others don’t. This is hugely encouraging to me because I have always thought that I’m one of the unlucky ones that just doesn’t have the willpower within me to not eat that chocolate in the cupboard. So, the trick is to help ‘grow’ your willpower, a little at a time. Don’t push it too hard too quickly. Instead, try to imagine what will happen if you give in, and set yourself mini goals along the way. For example, the reason the ‘couch to 5k’ plan has been so successful is because it broke down the goal of ‘I want to be a runner’ into something that was manageable and achievable for everyone. It didn’t involve getting up one morning and running 5k having never put one foot in front of the other. Instead, it included lots of mini-goals that gave the feeling of success along the way, so the main goal of becoming someone who can run was actualised.
- Don’t tell people. You may be familiar with the TED Talk by Derek Sivers: Keep Your Goals To Yourself (watch here). Sivers uses science and research to suggest that when you tell people your goals (particularly big, important goals) you start to feel the gratification that you would feel if you actually achieved the goal, thus making it less likely that you bother holding out and working hard to actually achieve it. You’re sort of tricked into feeling like you’ve done it already. On the flip-side, there is a lot to be said about telling just a few select people who can hold you to account and encourage you along the way. Just be careful what you share, and who you share it with.
- Use your Strengths. I’m a Strengths coach, and so for me the better we. know ourselves, the better we can motivate ourselves to achieve our goals. I know my Strengths, so it I intentionally put these into action, they can help me succeed with my resolutions. If you’ve never taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment then you can do so here. Each of the 34 Strengths fall into one of four domains: Executing, Relationship, Thinking and Influencing. These different Strengths will help you achieve perhaps the same goal as someone else but in a different way. Here is how the approaches differ:
- Executing: these Strengths will help you make plans with deadlines, and break down targets into achievable parts.
- Relationship: these Strengths will help create goals that will have a positive impact on others. You may even want to involve others and their expertise to help you meet your goals.
- Thinking: with these kinds of Strengths you are likely to be good at imagining your future and what you would like to achieve. You can create goals with the big picture in mind. You naturally like to think about the possibilities in life so you probably have a lot of ideas about your future. Use your ability to envision tomorrow to keep you motivated and achieve your goals.
- Influencing: having Strengths in the Influencing domain will help you to articulate your goals clearly, as well as give you the confidence to know you can achieve them. Use these Strengths to help you navigate what resources you need to be successful, as well as how you can get other people on board with your goals.
- Review. This seems obvious but is so often missed. You need to review your goals regularly – daily, weekly, monthly. How are you doing towards your goals? Have you done anything towards them today, this week, this month? If you feel that things have slipped, ask yourself how am I going to get back on track? It doesn’t have to mean that it’s over. We need to stop wiring off weeks, months, or even years when things go a little awry.
- Reward. Alongside the review, if you are working hard towards your resolutions, you need to reward yourself along the way. If your goal was a financial one (e.g. saving towards a larger project) and you have got a quarter of the way, or halfway there, then reward yourself for what you have achieved. Have a special meal out, of some other treat (food always works for me)!
I sincerely hope that this year you can accomplish all your resolutions, and find the strength to pick yourself up and keep going when the going gets touch.
If you want to find out more about personal or executive coaching, take a look here.
It’s not to late to make 2017 count! Challenge yourself, and do something inspirational. Why not take on a sponsored challenge and gain a great personal achievement whilst raising money for A Gift To Lift? A Gift to Lift is a charity that was set up by Alex Hopwood in 2014. Alex was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in September 2013, aged 22. Her selfless nature soon shone through when she created A Gift to Lift which supports others battling with blood cancer. Today Hampton Manor’s Laura, her Aunty Jacky, and the Gift to Lift team have taken up the mantle in honour of Alex.
Take a look at sponsored challenge ideas here.Back to Blog