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Set your New Years goals right!

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Douglas Vermeeren

Douglas Vermeeren

Set your New Years goals right

By Douglas Vermeeren 

New Years is a special time of year where people think about setting new goals and making some changes. Maybe you’ve got some ideas for new years resolutions. Maybe you’ve already started to think and plan about what you’ll do next year to be a better you. To get the outcomes you really want and maybe you’ve even thought about some things that you want to stop doing too.

In Japan it is considered the most important holiday of the year. IN the Buddhist temples that gong their large bells 180 times at midnight to symbolize overcoming the 180  human weaknesses.

In Spain they eat 12 grapes at midnight to symbolize the hope of 12 happy and prosperous months in the year to come. The dutch actually select that as the night to burn their christmas trees in the streets symbolic of purging the old year and bringing in the new. The chinese set off fireworks in hopes that the loud noises will scare away the evil spirits and pave the way for a prosperous new year.

In the US a traditional new years day dinner is supposed to include peas, because as the tradition goes the more peas you eat the more luck and fortune you will have in the upcoming year.

But a tradition that everyone is familiar with is said to have started with the ancient babylonians nearly 3000 years before the coming of Christ. That is the tradition of setting New years resolutions.

We’ve all set new years resolutions. some of those resolutions may have lasted a month, some a week, some a day and perhaps some only hours. I remember when I was a young child I set a resolution that I was going to stay up all night and never go to bed again. Sleeping I thought wasted time. That one lasted a few hours.

Most people set resolutions to lose weight, eat less or better, stop smoking, make more money, work on their relationships, work harder at work or any number of things. Yet most people end up pretty much right back where they were in a short period of time. So why is it that these resolutions don’t stick.

A few years ago USA today had an interesting article on why most people fail to fulfill their new years resolutions. They narrowed it down to three main reasons and we are going to spend some time talking about each of these today and then discuss a formula that will work a little bit better for you.

USA Today

USA Today

Here’s the first reason that they felt people failed to accomplish their new Years resolutions:

  1. The resolutions was too large or unrealistic.

Sometimes it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the excitement and spirit of an upcoming new year. that new year represents a lear slate or a fresh start. Kind of like the first day of school. Along with the problem of being too large or unrealistic I’d like to add one more that USA today left out but I think it should certainly be included: Resolutions often also fail because they are based on things out of our control. That may go along with unrealistic, but I think it is worth emphasizing. Often people set goals or resolutions and they build them around things that they have no control over or in extreme cases they set goals that infringe on the rights of others. For example, we had one mother who attended one of our seminars and her goal was to make her kids love her more. Here’s a hint anytime you set a goal that has the words “make someone” in it, you are most likely setting yourself up for failure. For a goal to be effective It has to begin with you and it cannot rely on the reactions of another. Now in the end if you learn better relationship skills those kids may end up liking you better, but that outcome really has to begin with you.

Some times we can set goals that are too large for us. I am not against setting large goals. But If we look at how the mind sorts information, it is necessary for the brain to recognize a path to accomplishment in order to get started. If the goal is too lofty the brain doesn’t believe it’s possible. You might get excited to begin the process, but the minute your brain can’t see the next step to take you will become paralyzed and progress will stop. If you are ultimately aiming for a big goal, break it down into smaller tasks that you can attack right away and that you can feel that you are making progress with.

Unrealistic goals are also something that keep us from succeeding. Not too long ago I had a young man at one of our Christmas high school presentations tell me that this coming year was his year to become a famous rock star. We talked about this for a while and naturally the subject turned to his music. I was surprised to find that not only did he not have any songs written, but he didn’t play an instrument.  When I asked his musically ability he told me that most famous musicians didn’t take lessons they were discovered and details weren’t important. While I really hope he does make it, I am not sure that he will. It is not enough to simply believe a thing will happen you have got to find ways of increasing the probability that the outcome you want will occur.   If there’s one lesson I have constantly tried to teach is that your life will not be a result of your wishes, it will be a result of your ability to translate your wishes into real life. If you want to have your goals become more realistic that will almost always mean a change form where you are at in your life. Get more skills, surround yourself with people and situations that can help you, and do whatever you can to increase the likihood that you will be able to take advantage of those opportunities.

The second reason on the USA today list was that most people were not heavily committed to the resolution. Because setting new years resolutions are a tradition we often find that a lot of people simply set them because, well, everyone else is. And then of course you don’t end up doing anything about it.  I think this is a big mistake. What you are teaching yourself is that when I set out to do something it really doesn’t matter whether you do it or not. As I have observed all of the top achievers that I have worked with through out the years I have noticed that they make their commitments sparingly, but they honor every commitment they make. Even to themselves.

I am not saying don’t make resolutions. I am saying make it count for something. Put some thought into it, and i you can’t come up with something that you really feel that you want to do, then don’t.

And if there is something that you really want to do, then turn up the volume on your commitment factor. Really get invested in making the change.  ONe of the strongest ways to do that is to spend some significant time exploring why you want this outocme in your life. What’s the difference that this outcome would really make. Who would it effect and how? And when you have these answers and they are strong enough and this is something that you want to do, then do it!!!

Get in fully. don’t look back. Make the change.

Sometimes it helps to involve other people in the process just to solidify the commitment. A good accountability partner can help you to stay on track and keep going as you hit barriers and challenging moments. Remember that it generally takes 28 days to build a new habit so that beginning part of the journey is going to be the hardest.

The 3rd reason on the USA today study is that people fail in their resolutions because they have no plan.

As we said earlier in this call, the brain requires specific instructions to get started. If you set a goal and then don’t have any idea what to do with that goal to get started your brain will soon discard that goal. Now I’m not saying you have to have all of the answers figured out to begin. You won’t.

In fact many of the answers of what you will need to o won’t even show up until you are doing it. But you need to have some starting points and an understanding of the general direction you are going. We are all human beings that are constantly evolving and growing. A static stationary plan seldom works. I like what Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has plan until he gets punched in the mouth.’ Plans and real life don’t mix very well.

Plans are important and they put you moving in the right direction. Plans may change and will change. But they are necessary to see where you are going.

Dwight Eisenhower said it best this way, “Plans are nothing, Planning is everything.”

Plans won’t provide all the answers but they will provide the direction. Direction is always more important than destination. Because the truth of the matter is the destination often changes. When you get to the top of the mountain, it’s never the end. In fact, when we get to the top we get to see where we want to go next.

Direction is the key. Get the direction right and you can’t miss.  By the way another reason I think that direciton is more important that a fixed destination is because I often change my destination on route. As I am moving towards a goal I often become aware of many opportunities I never knew about until I was involved in following my first direction. As I am moving forward I have more than once seen something that I liked better, was more capable of doing, or found to be more exciting and profitable than what I originally wanted.

The key is to get started. don’t worry about direction. Don’t worry about having all the answers.

The next time you feel like you need all the answer to get started think about this:

Top Achievers are not perfectionists, They are improvisors. Get started and the answers will come as you are doing it.

So as we approach the beginning of another year it is an important time to think about changes you may want to make. These improvements can be large or they can be small. They can be something that you’ve needed to do for a long time coming or they can be things that you’ve newly realized. The only thing constant about life is change.  Now is the time to look at how you can be on the edge of change for this year rather than under the wave of it.

This coming year can be your most incredible year yet. To make it so, remember these three things 1)Make your resolutions realistic, break down the big goals into ones that are actionable right now, and make sure that they are goals that you can control and don’t rely on the violating the rights of others.

2)Make sure you are committed and if you’re not pass, until you find something you are committed to. By the way, you were aware that you can decide to change something in your life anytime, you don’t have to wait for new years.

3)Have a plan in place, not that you are going to be married to it, but that so you have some direction as to where you need to go and to shout at you if you get too far off course.

Now how can you really get to your goals? How can you really set resolutions that stick.  Here are a few simple points to consider that will go a long way for you.

  1. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. In other words choose to set a resolution about something that means something to you. In the Movie the Godfather Marlon Brando says, It’s not personal, It’s business. In setting effective goals it must be the opposite. It can’t be business. It must be personal. You have got to have a burning reason why this goal is important to you and why you need it in your life.

You can’t participate from a distance. You can’t be a spectator. You are a player on the ice. (Pardon the Hockey analogy, remember I am Canadian after all.) But seriously you must be fully invested in the outcome.

As a side note if you are a manager of people this is important to remember.  You ever wonder why productivtiy is sometimes down in a n office? It’s because the manager often assigns people their goals. You cannot assign people their goals. They must pick them. They can’t be invested in goals that are assigned to them.

So principle one – Make it personal.

2)The second thing I’d suggest is that you need to get really clear about the resolution or goal. I am not just talking about getting clear with what it is that you want. – That is very important. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. You need to be fully aware of what you want and more importantly the direction you need to go to get it. But something that many people forget when it comes to getting to your goals and creating better outcomes is that clarity is also required when it comes to understanding what to do first.

If you don’t know what you should do first you can often get paralyzed and not do anything at all. Get clear. What is it you want and what can you do right now. A goal that is specific and clear is attainable and near. Generally you can tell if a goal is too large when you can’t recognize the first steps to take.

A friend of mine shared an interesting analogy once. He held an elastic band around his wrist and as he stretched it said, this elastic is kind of like goal setting. If it’s too easy it has no tension. It is too far or unrealistic I pull the elastic too far and it breaks. But if it’s tight it has tension and the power to pull me.  Goals should be like that.

The final thing I’d like to mention that will make the biggest difference in getting to your goals is to seek for ways Increase your probability. Aristotle once said, that which is probable is most likely to happen. So if we want to get to our goals we really need to find a way to make it more probable that the outcome will occur. You’ll remember my high school student who wanted to be a rock star? Well, there are a lot of things that he could do to increase his probabilty. The first might be to go learn an instrument, write some songs, get out performing, meet the right people and start doing the right things. Nowadays, it’s very possible for people to use tools like social media and the interenet to build audiences and followings for musicians. And who knows maybe things will take off in a big way. But you won’t ever know unless you give yourself the best possible chances for success. And that begins with increasing probability.

Remember these three things From USA Today 1)Make your resolutions realistic, break down the big goals into ones that are actionable right now, and make sure that they are goals that you can control and don’t rely on the violating the rights of others.

2)Make sure you are committed and if you’re not pass, until you find something you are committed to. By the way, you were aware that you can decide to change something in your life anytime, you don’t have to wait for new years.

3)Have a plan in place, not that you are going to be married to it, but that so you have some direction as to where you need to go and to shout at you if you get too far off course.

And from me:

  1. Make it personal, do it for the right reasons. Give yourself several big reasons why you want, need and must have these changes in your life. If you reasons are small your results will be small. Your results are always a reflection of your reasons.
  1. Get clear. Clarity is king. Your brain absolutely needs a clear path to get to work. You need to be clear about what it is you want and also clear about what it is you need to do to get started. Now again I’m not saying you have to have all of the answers. But you have to know the first step, and from there the next steps will appear. You’ve probably heard the analogy of a car driving with headlights in the dark. The road appears in your headlights as you need it. The same is true of achievement. You won’t have all the answers at the beginning but you’ll have them as you need them.
  1. And lastly, the most important achievement principle that i could share. Look for ways to increase your probability. Notice I didn’t say find a way to do it perfectly. Increasing probability means that you will have occassional set backs. This is natural you are learning something new. You are doing something you’ve never done before. But keep going. There is no such thing as failure or falling down. Everything is falling forward. everything you do is  a step in the right direction. There are no wrong answers only discoveries about a better way to move forward. Keep moving forward. Keep increasing your probability and you will arrive.

Remember you have great potential. This new year is a fresh beginning. In fact, each day is a new beginning. Tomorrow is. One minute from now is. You don’t live in the past. You don’t really live in the future either although we are heading there quickly. You live in the moment of now. And if now is the time to change then get started.

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