Insider Tips for Achieving Goals and Resolutions

Wow, we are already at the end of the quarter. How are you doing with those resolutions and goals? Ten years ago I learned a great deal about goal setting from a number of successful people and authors. Below is a piece that summarizes the best bits.

Time, Planning, Effort and Persistence

Almost any worthwhile goal requires time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that simply thinking good things will come to you with little effort = failure. Visualizing effortless success is disastrous. Believing you can succeed with effort—YES! Believing you can succeed with little effort—NO!

Change Really is Possible

Believe that your ability to do anything can be improved. Change really is possible. There is no ability that cannot be developed. When you think to yourself, “I’m just not good at this”, rephrase it to “I’m just not quite good enough at it yet”.

One or Two Big Goals at a Time

Work hard on only one or two big goals at a time; your chances of success are greater when you channel energy into just a few.  For example, quit smoking and lose weight are almost impossible to achieve simultaneously.

Focus On What You Really Want

Don’t just target the usual goals. Remember to focus on what you really want out of life. Make sure your goals are motivating. Ask yourself, “If I were to share this resolution with others, what would I tell them to convince them that it is worthwhile?”

Put Your Goals in Writing

Studies tell us that: a) less than 1 percent of adults put their goals in writing; and, b) when we write our goals down with a time frame we increase the probability of success threefold. Why would anyone want to defy those odds? Use a smartphone or computer to write things down and track your progress.

Be Specific

Goals need to be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. Be specific. Break your goals into a series of steps, focusing on creating sub-goals that are concrete, measurable, and time-based.

For example, improve relationship with Dad by talking to Dad once a week and scheduling an activity together once a month (i.e. share a meal, round of golf, or sporting event).

“If-then” Plans

Translate critical actions into specific “if-then” plans.  If-then plans take the form: If X happens, then I will do Y. Human brains love contingencies. Once you have an if-then plan, the unconscious brain will start searching for the situation in the if part of the plan.

Example 1: If it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I will go to the gym before work and workout for 60 minutes. Example 2: If an email makes me mad, then I will wait at least 24 hours before answering so that I can respond more calmly.

Check Your Progress

Check your progress monthly, weekly, or daily, depending on the goal. Your end goals may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly.

Focus on how far you have left to go rather than how far you have already come. We subconsciously focus on discrepancies between where we are now and where we want to be. When your brain detects a discrepancy, resources get dedicated to it–attention, effort, and willpower needed to achieve the goal.

Your Willpower Muscle

Develop your willpower muscle. Yes, you can build your willpower muscle. But you can also deplete your willpower muscle. When the willpower muscle is running on empty, then give it a rest.

Help your willpower muscle recover faster by doing something to lift your spirits, and avoid tempting situations. Most of us think we have more willpower than we actually do. We throw ourselves in harm’s way, exposing ourselves to temptations that we assume we can handle.

Share and Post Your Goals

Tell your friends, family, mentors, peers, and coaches about your goals, thus eliciting support and putting yourself on the record. Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself.

Expect To Revert

Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time. Treat any failure as a temporary set-back rather than a reason to give up altogether. Build your confidence back up.

If you find yourself full of self-doubt, then take a moment to remember as vividly as possible some of the goals you have achieved in the past, and the obstacles you had to overcome to achieve those goals.

Don’t compare yourself to others, but rather compare yourself to your own past performance. Are you improving and getting closer to your goals?

Prepare For Tomorrow the Night Before

Prepare for tomorrow by reviewing the schedule and action plan before you go to bed. The slow morning routine to “get a grip on the day” puts you behind the eight ball of life.

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