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92% of people never achieve their New Year’s resolutions. So, what’s the magic formula the other 8% use to accomplish them? And how can you and I make sure we’re among them?
First, how can we avoid being one of the 92%?
Here’s why most people never achieve the goals they set in the beginning of the year:
- They attempt too much, too soon. Instead of keeping it simple, they attempt an extreme makeover, either personally or professionally.
- Their goal is too vague. Like, I want to get fit. Or, I want to improve my relationship with my wife.
- Their goal isn’t broken down and documented in simple achievable to-do steps.
- There’s no “why” behind the goal.
- They’re not accountable to anyone.
So while it’s great to start the year with good intentions, there are a lot of ways to sabotage ourselves almost from the start. We all have the same 24 hour day, but when you subtract time for sleep, work, family, meals, chores… it doesn’t leave a lot to take on new resolutions.
So, making the best use of the time we do have, is critical. We may feel busy, but busy isn’t the same as productive.
Now, how do the 8% of people manage to set goals and achieve them against all these odds?
- First, they have a vision, or a life plan for the next several years. It’s not a complicated plan. It just states for instance, “In five years, I want to be…” And their resolutions, or goals for this year are tied to their life plan. That puts the “why” behind your goals.
- Their goals have clear achievable steps within a timetable. Smaller steps on a regular basis work better than a cold turkey reboot.
- When you label something as a New Year’s resolution, it obviously has a clear start date – January 1st. So it’s easy to subconsciously assign an end date too. Suppose you resolve to not charge any purchases on credit for the year. By next January, the sales on big screen TVs are going to look pretty attractive. But if your goal is tied into a longer term plan, you’re more likely to stick with it.
- They share their goals to create accountability. That could be with a partner, a friend or even starting a blog to track your progress.
How about you?
Are your goals drifting off into the sunset by March every year? Or do you achieve them, but then think, “yea well, so what. I thought I’d be more satisfied”. If this describes you, then consider attaching your goals to a life plan.
What is a Life Plan?
Put simply, a life plan is the “why” for all the daily and monthly goals you have. It’s where you want your life to be.
Here’s an example. Suppose you ran into an old high school pal you haven’t seen in years? You know their first question is gonna be, “So how’s your life going?”
You’d want to be able to say, “great” right? You’d want to say that things in your personal life couldn’t be better. Your relationships, your health and your finances are all working out well. And you work in a career that’s interesting and challenging. You feel like you’re making a contribution and you’re making a decent salary.
That’ll happen to you one of these days. You will run into that person. So, for you to be able to reply honestly that life couldn’t be better, what would your life look like? Grab a pencil and paper and make some notes:
- What would your typical day be like?
- What kind of work would you be doing?
- Would there be certain people close to you?
- What would your personal relationships be like?
- Where would you live?
- Would your family situation change? Would you be married, single, have children?
When you start answering questions like these, your values start to emerge. You start to see the difference between your current reality and your ideal life. You’re starting to define your life plan.
How to Define Your Life Plan
Think five years from now. One year is too short. If we’re defining our ideal life, we want to give ourselves enough time to put things into place that’ll get us there. Ten years would be too long. It’s fine to look ahead that far, but a lot can happen in ten years. Five years is long enough to make some major changes, and short enough to plan them.
Give yourself a bit of time to write down your five year plan. If you have a partner, you may want to do this together.
Notice how I haven’t even mentioned the word “goal” yet?
That’s because your goals should flow out of your five year plan. Your plan encompasses your values, your aspirations and how you want to live. Your goals will be the mileposts on the highway that’s guiding you toward your overall life plan, or the visual for your ideal life.
It’s possible, maybe even probable, that your five year plan will change. People enter your life, or leave it. Your employment or your health changes. Each day influences our perspective and then our preferences. So when it does, no problem. We’re looking five years out, so we can tweak our yearly goals to point toward our adjusted vision.
Hunter S. Thompson said it better than I can…
“Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.”
So, even Hunter agreed that our perspective is ever-changing. And as such, our core goals may stay the same for several years, but could also be evolving.
Related post: Finding Your Why
Having Trouble Getting Started?
If you’re having trouble defining what your ideal life would look like five years from now, here are a few tips to get started.
Think of three areas:
Personal – your relationships with yourself, your family and friends. Are they where you want them to be? If they were better, what would that look like? What would there be more of or less of?
Professional – Are you doing work that matters to you? If not, why not? What type of work would encourage you to get out of bed each day? And what would it take to put yourself in that position?
Health – Are you satisfied with your physical and mental health and fitness? If you were, what would it look like? Would you be more calm, less stressed, have a lower heart rate, lower cholesterol, more endurance, more muscle or less fat? Would any issues of the past be better understood?
Think about the past year.
- What went right this year?
- What would you have changed?
- What do you need more of?
- Are you struggling with something and need help with it?
- Is what you’re struggling with still a valid goal?
- Is there something you want to learn for your career or personally?
Here’s another idea that I just noticed this morning on Tim Ferriss’s 5 Bullet Friday post. Tim was discussing how you can identify some beneficial lifestyle changes. He suggests grabbing a notepad and making two columns – Positive and Negative. Then grab your calendar from the past year and flip through each week.
Jot down the people and activities that triggered positive or negative emotions throughout this past year. When you’re done, evaluate your two columns and you’ll spot certain things you’d want to eliminate from your life, and others you’d want more of.
When you start to visualize your ideal life in each area – personal, professional and health, your values start to emerge. And pretty soon you’ll be able to put your own vision into writing, “In five years I want to be….”
Writing Your Goals
Just defining your five year plan should feel good even though you haven’t accomplished anything tangible yet. Because now, instead of surrendering to the everyday grind and enduring whatever life throws at you, you have a plan. You’re getting out of bed with a purpose.
Now you just need some specific measurements – or goals, that’ll guide you toward your five-year plan and ensure that it’s becoming a reality.
Where your life plan is more abstract, your goals get more specific.
Use a spreadsheet, a Word document or even a notebook and pencil to write them out. Here’s a basic form with a few goal setting examples to see how it flows down to each month. You can even break it down further, into daily tasks.
In 5 Years I want to:
- Personally We want to move further south for the mild weather and lower cost of living.
- Professionally I want to work from home, doing meaningful work and get paid well for it.
- Health (…..…….)
This Year My Goal Is
- Personally Eliminate $14,000 in credit card debt so we can fund some trips to various states.
- Professionally I’m going to start a blog to become familiar with content marketing.
- Health (…..…….)
For each month I’ll need to:
- week 1 – Create a budget with categories for everything we earn and spend.
- week 2 – Record our week’s expenses into categories. Decide on a niche for my blog
- week 3 – Record our week’s expenses.
- week 4 – Record our week’s expenses. Identify categories we can improve on.
- week 1 – Record our week’s expenses. Pick one category of expense to reduce.
- week 2 – Record our week’s expenses. Start writing content for my blog.
- week 3 – Record our week’s expenses. Investigate options to reduce one expense.
- week 4 – Record our week’s expenses. Implement a change to reduce one expense.
- week 1 – Record our week’s expenses. Pick a second category of expense to reduce.
- week 2 – Record our week’s expenses. Pick a host and launch my blog.
- week 3 – Record our week’s expenses. Investigate options to reduce the 2nd expense.
- week 4 – Record our week’s expenses. Implement a change to the 2nd expense.
- week 1 – Record our week’s expenses. Start an automated emergency fund.
- week 2 – Record our week’s expenses. Create an editorial calendar for your blog.
- week 3 – Record our week’s expenses. Look into planning meals to reduce food costs.
- week 4 – Record our week’s expenses. Investigate ways to monetize my blog.
So there’s a sample of how to set goals and achieve them. Taking the extra step to determine a vision for where you want to be in 5 years makes all the difference. You wouldn’t hop on a train without first seeing where it’s going to take you. So if you begin by establishing your ideal situation, you’re able to break it down into small manageable chunks. Clear, simple tasks that if completed, enable you to make major changes.
Is there an element of failure here? Definitely. Anyone can sit on the couch all year and then say they didn’t fail at anything. Getting the life you want will involve failure, lessons learned, and then success. But having a 5 year plan will enable you to live each day with a purpose and adjust along the way, knowing that you’re still on course.
Stephen Vincent Benet said, “Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.”
So how about you? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Let’s be one of the 8% percent this year.