Don’t Set New Year Resolutions, Set Goals Instead

Happy New year!

With how 2020 turned out many of us will be wishing for a far better 2021.

And that may well happen. Despite closing the year with a resurgence of the Covid virus that caused so much disruption, heartache and dismay, the release of vaccinations offers some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

No matter how we feel about the year that passed 2020 has been a year of circumstances. In the end there’s nothing any of us could have done about Covid or any of the other major events that occurred.

The only thing we can do anything about is us. And by us I mean our choices.

As we approach the New Year, it’s time to stop wishing and start setting goals.

Many of us will have made New Year resolutions in the past.

Generally they are made in a blur of emotion and hope that something will change in the year ahead.

We all know that insanity can be defined as doing the same things over and over but expecting different results, so we start the year full of promises, hope and dreams, but most of us will be lucky to remember those promises by the end of January.

The turn of this year seems to me the very best time to do things differently, to make a difference for ourselves and those closest to us; to make 2021 a year of growth, development, achievement and joy.

But how we do we do that?

The first step is to take responsibility. We are the only people who can change us. Yes, we can all wish for a Disney genie or fairy godmother to do it for us but that just ain’t gonna cut it. If we want change we need to accept the stark fact that we are the ones that must change first.

The second is to get serious about making change happen. I once read that a goal can be defined as a wish with a plan to achieve it. I guess this means that a wish without a plan remains just a wish. But if we have a plan to achieve something, that implies it’s not others who will make it happen, it’s us.

So how do we develop the plan?

Well a great start is to make your goals SMART; Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Let’s take each one by one, starting with specificity as all the others really fall from that.

If I were to ask you what your goal is would you be able to explain it to me, exactly in intricate detail? Would you engage my senses so I could picture you achieving it, hear what it would sound like, feel how it would feel for you? Would it stir my emotions? If the answer to any or all of these questions is no, then it’s not specific enough.

To make the goal happen you need to engage your subconscious. This will help you attract the conditions, circumstances and opportunities you need (rather like a magnet) to make it happen. To engage the subconscious you need to make it believe that the goal is a reality, ie that it has already happened. And if it has already happened, you will have the specifics to describe it.

Once you have the specifics you need to project yourself into the future using your minds eye.

See what you would see, hear what you would hear and really feel what you would feel when you realise your goal.

Enjoy the sensations and the emotions it creates. Keep building on it every single day. Get more detailed, more engrossed and more enriched by the experience each time and you will be moving closer and closer to your goal.

Once you’ve done that you know your goal is measurable. You will know when you have achieved your goal because you’ve spent hours and hours rehearsing it. When your eyes closed visualisation matches your eyes open reality, congratulations, you’ve hit your goal.

Setting actionable goals ensures your ambitions are focused on things that are within your sphere of control or influence. If your goals are entirely dependent on other people or circumstances then I’m sorry but they’re unlikely to be fulfilled. You need to have, or able to acquire the resources you need to achieve your goal yourself. You need to be in control and the one taking the action.

This doesn’t mean that your goal can’t include changing circumstance or people. But it does mean that you have to take the action to make those changes happen.

It’s here that the feedback loop comes in. You have to have enough sensory acuity to notice when things are not working, and then do things differently until they do work and you do get the response you desire.

The subject of setting realistic goals can cause some discussion among the coaching community.

There are those who believe that anything is possible with the right attitude and enough positivity. But I believe we have to be grounded.

I know at the age of 51 I am not going to lead England onto the pitch at Wembley for a game of football (soccer if you’re reading in the USA). Setting that as a goal would take all kinds of frankly miraculous events to occur and no matter how positively I believe they will, they’re just not going to happen.

But outside of such circumstantial impossibilities we should dream big.

I believe that it takes the same amount of effort and the exact same process to achieve a huge goal than it does a small one, so if that’s the case why would you go after the small things? Think big and achieve big. And even if you don’t quite achieve it you’re likely to have advanced a lot further than you would have had you set small goals.

Finally we come to time-bound. You need to set a date by when the goal will be achieved, otherwise your subconscious will just think it has all the time in the world and progress will be slow at best.

A great way of framing this is to write your goal in the future tense; for example, “It is the 31st January 2022 and I have……”

This not only places a date on the goal but also projects you forward, forcing you to write and read your goal as though it has already happened, thus hitting the requirements of specificity outlined earlier.

Some final words before I close.

Firstly, goals always need to be written in the positive sense.

Let me explain. Let’s say your goal is to stop smoking in 2021. Writing your goal as ‘It is 31st January 2022 and I have stopped smoking’ will not work. Your subconscious does not recognise negative terms such as stopped, don’t etc, it just recognises smoking. So guess what it does? It helps you to keep doing the exact thing you want to stop.

Instead, think of all the positives stopping doing something will bring. In our example you could write, “It is 31st January 2021 and I have never been healthier. My lungs are clear and full of clean air and I am able to breathe better than ever.”

Secondly, your goals have to be believable. By you. You need absolute conviction that you are capable of achieving your goals and that you will make them happen.

You need as much certainty in knowing they will happen as you have knowing the sun is bright yellow, will rise every morning and set every night, whether you can see it or not. It doesn’t matter if anyone else believes it, but you absolutely have to. When you have that sense of certainty making it a reality is just a matter of time.

So what do you think?

It’s quite a lot different to making a half hearted, drunken resolution on New Years Eve isn’t it?

However, if you want to really make changes then setting goals properly is the way to make those changes real.

Happy New Year!

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