We step back and review all the things we did poorly and how we can improve – eat better, exercise more, spend more time with the family, etc., etc., etc.. Then we vow to do better in the coming year. I am definitely going to avoid the fatty foods, I am going to lose weight and I am going to be a better father, mother, husband, wife, etc., etc., etc..
Every January, we boldly pronounce our resolutions, even if just to ourselves. Then, two weeks later, we find we’re already off course. Unfortunately, this process of making New Year’s resolutions is not much more than wishful thinking – a mere “hope” that we’ll do better. And, as I’ve written about before – hope is not a strategy.
We really do expect different results but we do little to break the cycle and we end up in the same place. We are fighting human nature. It is hard work to do the right things and more importantly to do the right things consistently.
Whether it’s for personal, professional or business purposes, I encourage you to stop making resolutions. That’s right – you read that correctly. Ditch the resolutions. This year, and from now on, I encourage you to set goals - not resolutions.
The Difference Between Goals and Resolutions
Resolutions are fun, but unfortunately, they’re typically meaningless – with little “teeth” or enforcement. In a word, they lack accountability. For example, some personal resolutions could be: to lose weight, or to exercise more, or to spend more time reading, or to spend less time watching TV, etc. If you examine your current approach to making resolutions (rather than creating real goals) you’ll discover much of the difficulty in executing them are due to barriers. These barriers may include:
- The timeframe is too short (or so long that it’s not reasonable)
- The involvement or dependency on other people
- Poorly defined outcome or a vague strategy for how to get there
- Unclear responsibility or accountability
The simple truth is most of us are trained to make plans, not to execute them. Our business schools are consistently top heavy when it comes to strategic planning, project planning, etc. But when it comes to execution? More often than not, we learned based on the "school of hard knocks."
No matter the goal, it requires us to formulate a strategy that helps us to achieve our desired results. And herein lies the problem. Formulating strategy is one thing. Executing it is another.
How to Set Goals – Not Resolutions
So rather than continuing on the path of low probability, I encourage you to make your goals that meet the following Goal Setting Criteria. (see below) Let’s look at that age-old resolution favorite “I am going to lose weight” but instead let’s make it a real goal “I am going lose 10 pounds by Spring Break 2010.”
- Be Specific – Be as exacting as possible. (Question: Is the goal well-defined, what does success look like? Yes, I will lose a specific weight by a specific date)
- Measure the Outcome – if you can’t measure it, it is not a good goal. We can track our progress during the timeframe in the number of pounds lost (Question: Will we know when the goal has been achieved? How will progress be measured? I will weigh 10 pounds less and I plan to lose 3 pounds per month)
- Be Realistic – you achieve the goal in the timeframe set or with the resources you have. (Question: Is the goal obtainable? Yes, based on the amount of weight I can afford to lose and the timeframe, it is achievable.)
Additional Goal-Setting Recommendations
What does success look like? What will it feel like when you have achieved a specific goal? Take the time to visualize when, where, and how the goal will be carried out. When you take the time to visualize exactly when and where you will do something, you’ll have a significantly higher probability of meeting those goals.
Passion trumps wishful thinking. You have to care about your goal. It has to be important to you. The goals that are most attainable are those that you want more than anything else.
Become laser-focused. A shorter list of goals is more likely to be achieved than a laundry list. If you set too many goals, it’s difficult to keep them all in mind and make progress. When you lose sight of a goal, you begin to drift. Pick one goal — or two, or at the very most three — and make these your highest priorities.
Make your goals public. You’ll find a much higher level of accountability if you’ve publicly committed your goals to someone other than yourself. This increases the probability you’ll reach your goals. Want additional assurance? Set a specific time (say, halfway through the deadline to achieve the goal) to meet with someone you trust to assess your progress. Share the goals with colleagues, employees, family members.
If you are looking for some good resolutions to turn into goals for 2010 – sample these:
- Be a better leader
- Improve your communications at work and home
- Hold yourself and others accountable
- Learn new/build skills this year
- Grow your sales revenues or profits
- Eat better, exercise, and lose weight
Remember, these are just resolutions until you apply the Goal Setting Criteria to it. Stay focused, stay discplined, get it done. Happy New Year!