Well we are a month into the New Year, how are those New Years goals and resolutions coming along? According to research done at the University of Scranton, a staggering 92% of people that set New Year’s Goals never actually achieve them.
I’ll be honest here, I stopped making a list of them on the 1st of every year because I never seemed to follow through on them. Making them and not achieving them felt worse than not making any at all. So, what is one to do if you want to be like the 8% and achieve those goals over the next 11 months?
Write them down.
A study done by Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California discovered that those that wrote down their goals on a regular basis were 42% more likely to achieve them. That’s all it took. So reach for that pen and paper and write them down. And for those that pen and paper are foreign to, type them onto your tablet or computer.
Keep them specific.
Vague goals rarely get met. Basically, the more specific your goals, the higher your motivation toward hitting them. Research by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that when people followed set specific goals, it led to higher performance 90% of the time.
For example, if your goal is to lose 25 pounds by the end of the year, that is too vague. Make it more achievable by saying I’m going to lose 25 pounds by my sister’s wedding at the end of September. To do that I will walk 30 minutes at least 3 times and week. When you have more clarity around your goal, your chances of hitting the mark increase dramatically.
Make them challenging but doable.
While it’s important to challenge yourself, goals that are too difficult don’t get met either. Make the goals challenging, but doable. Focus on making a little progress each day instead of thinking of the enormity of what lies ahead? The key is not to overwhelm yourself, if the goal is challenging, keep the steps to it simple. For example, for my triathlon I have a run portion that is 26 miles (marathon distance). That is a LONG run! Am I going out tomorrow and running a full marathon of 26 miles? Heck no. My coach has me running shorter runs that build up over time for me to achieve my goal. When facing a challenge, small steps are usually more effective than big ones.
And there’s science behind ‘baby steps’, scientists call it ‘proximal goals’. In a classic study, researchers wanted to help 7- to 10-year-olds with “gross deficits and disinterest in mathematical tasks” improve their performance. They broke the kids into different groups: One was instructed to set proximal goals (six pages of math problems in each of seven sessions) and another set long-term goals (42 pages of problems over seven sessions).The kids who set proximal goals were faster, more motivated, and performed twice as well — they correctly solved 80 percent of problems versus 40 percent for the long-term group. As my triathlon coach says, “Small steps equals big success.”
We’re all human, we lose motivation, procrastinate and make excuses. To counter this, enlist help from someone (family, friends, a coach, etc…) to give you feedback, or that you are accountable to. Accountability has a way of keeping you on course. I have to say without my coach, who I have to report in to once a week, I’m sure I’d get distracted and find several reasons to skip training. Knowing I have to check in with him keeps me on track and making progress. And even though I did not make any New Year’s resolutions, I set a date for a race!
Only choose goals you can truly be passionate about.
Make sure the goals you put down are really for you and not because others are pushing you toward them. Ask yourself, is my heart really into it, do I really want it, and how badly? What is my level of commitment? When the inevitable obstacles pop up, are you going to give up and call it a day? It does not matter if you write them down or how specific your goal may be, if you’re not passionate and have no real desire for it, you’re not going to reach it.
Crossing the finish line.
Simply put, the 8 percent of goal-setters who succeed want it, and badly. While you may think the 8 percenters are born with some extra talents, money or contacts, research shows that successful people achieve their goals because of what they do, not who they are. So write those goals down and be accountable, keep it challenging but simple, and go for a goal you’re passionate about. See you at the finish line.