2 Secrets to Keep on Track with Your New Year’s Resolutions

In my last blog I talked about three tips to help you stay on track to achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Now that you are a few weeks into the process, you might be struggling a little bit, so let me make another suggestion. Over the years, I’ve realized that the people who have the most trouble accomplishing goals and sticking with resolutions are the people who are the busiest. The problem with these people is that too often they go through the motions of day-to-day busy work instead of focusing on the most important things first.

You have probably heard the theory that we all have two selves—the external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting the job done, and the internal, thoughtful, reflective self that considers things before acting. The task-oriented self is the first to wake up in the morning, of course, and is only focused on task achievement. You read email while you are eating breakfast, then jump in the car, head to the office and start attacking your to-do list in order to get everything checked off before you go home. It’s so easy to get caught in this kind of activity trap—you’re so busy doing urgent but unimportant tasks you don’t have time to think about the important goals you may have set.

So how do you get out of this trap? How do you help yourself focus less on task achievement and more on goal achievement? I suggest that in the morning, instead of jumping out of bed and right into task achievement, you enter your day slowly and thoughtfully. Take 20 or 30 minutes to think through what you really need to accomplish for the day. Remember how I suggested you write down your New Year’s resolutions and read them every day? Now is the perfect time. Look at your resolutions to see where they can fit into the day’s plan. Entering your day slowly gives you the opportunity to plan your day out so that you can both accomplish your tasks and fit in time to work toward your resolutions.

Then, at the end of the day before you go to bed, jot down a few notes about your day in a journal. If you don’t want to take the time to write in a journal, at least give yourself the gift of thinking about your day for a few minutes. What did you do during the day that was consistent with your New Year’s resolutions, and what got in the way? Soon you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative patterns so that you can make changes in your schedule to get yourself back on track toward goal achievement.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to spend twenty minutes in the morning to plan and more time at night to reflect.” But I guarantee that if you take that little bit of time, you’ll set yourself up for success in achieving your goals—and your New Year’s resolutions. And you know what? You’re worth it!

3 Tips for Achieving Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions

I read an article recently stating that 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions are not met. I wasn’t surprised by that figure because of two very common facts:

  • Accomplishing the goal is usually more difficult than we think it will be
  • We rarely ask for help from others who can support us

That’s why it makes so much sense to use the three principles of Situational Leadership® II—goal setting, diagnosis, and matching—to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. This highly successful model for setting and achieving work goals applies to reaching personal goals, as well.

For years, I’ve shared the benefits of writing SMART goals. I truly believe this acronym provides a powerful method for making sure your goals are Specific, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable. So I’m not going to go over the best way to write goal statements today. Instead, I’m going to strongly suggest, once the goal is determined, that you write it down. Sounds simple, right? In the working environment, writing goal statements are usually part of a performance planning process. However, many times when people are setting personal goals, they think about what they want to do but they don’t write anything down. If you can’t make the effort to write it down, you probably won’t be committed enough to actually change a behavior.

Write each goal on a separate sheet of paper and read each goal every day. It won’t do you any good to write something down and file it away. When you read your goal statements each day, you remind yourself of your priorities and match your behavior to meet the goals—or adjust your behavior if goals are not being met. This simple process will help you be accountable for your own goal achievement. I read my goals first thing in the morning, just to get my day off to the right start and get myself in the right frame of mind.

Next, it is important to diagnose your development level on each goal. What is your competence (your skills and experience) and what is your commitment (your motivation and confidence) to this goal? Once you determine your competence and commitment, you need to ask for help.

For example, let’s say you are excited about your goal but are not competent yet. You are an enthusiastic beginner and need to find a helper who can coach you—someone who can provide a lot of direction on how you can achieve this goal. If you lack competence and confidence on a goal, you are a disillusioned learner. In this case you need a coach to provide direction as well as a supporter to cheer you on. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same person. If you know how to achieve your goal but your commitment varies, you are a capable but cautious performer. In this case, you need extra support to help you stay committed but you don’t need much direction. Finally, let’s say you have both high competence and high commitment to the goal. A self-reliant achiever, may not even need to write the goal down—you are well on your way to goal achievement.

The third step is called matching. This means finding the right person or group of people to help you reach your goals. You may have different helpers for different goals because you want to choose people who will offer the right combination of direction and support for you. For example, if you set a goal to exercise three times a week, find a friend who is already dedicated to exercising and is willing to join you at the gym instead of one who rarely laces up walking shoes.

Be systematic about checking in with your helpers. Set up a specific time each week to talk about how you are progressing. This can be as simple as a ten-minute phone call or even a quick text. Or use the check-in as a way to get face to face with your main supporters. How you get together doesn’t matter—what you talk about is the biggest factor that will keep you on track toward achieving your goals. I often ask people, “What is the best diet?” Of course, the answer is “The one you stick with.” Think of these check-in meetings as the way to stick to your plan.

So, don’t fall into that 92 percent failure group. Set yourself up for success by setting your goals, diagnosing your development level, and surrounding yourself with helpers who will provide the right amount of direction and support to help you flourish throughout the year!

Giving Thanks

You know, not long ago I woke up and I had a little “pity party.” I was kind of feeling bad.  I had been traveling a lot, and that day I was flying out of state to do something I had agreed to do over a year earlier. And I was thinking, “Wow, I’ve had enough of travel.” I’d just as soon have stayed home with Margie and our dog Joy and gone up to the office and hugged everybody. So I was having a pretty good pity party. And then I just kind of backed off. I read my mission statement and my obituary and my values—and I realized that there must be some reason I was going there. Maybe somebody really needed the message I was going to bring; maybe somebody really needed something I could help them with. You know, if you’re going to make the word a better place, you do it by the moment-to-moment decisions you make as you interact with other people. So I just kind of pumped myself up and said, “Okay, Blanchard, you’re here to make the world a little bit better, so stop with the pity party. You’ve just got another new audience—a new group of people.” And maybe, just maybe, I did make a little bit of a difference in someone’s life.

So if you ever have those feelings, you know—“Monday, oh my God. I’ve got to go back to work,” or whatever—the reality is that we’re really wonderfully blessed. We have to keep on reminding ourselves when we get into our pity party to just get up. Because somebody always has it worse than we have it. Somebody has some problems and maybe we can help—whether it be a customer or coworker, family member, or friend. So no more pity parties. Although it is good to recognize that we can all fall into that mood, the way out, especially this week, is positive thinking, giving thanks for what you do have,  and realizing that we are really here to make a difference.