Tis the season to make New Year’s Resolutions! This time-honored tradition happens when a person resolves to change undesirable habits, or, more commonly, accomplish a personal goal. Yes, we hear them every year, and probably make a couple ourselves.
But, I’ve read upwards of 80% of New Year’s resolutions FAIL! 80%! That’s a lot. I remember in ’98 when I had a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking cold turkey. At 12:01 I threw my pack of smokes into a snowbank, promising to never touch them again. At 12:07, I dug them out. Fail. Sound familiar? Maybe you lasted longer than 6 minutes, but at 80%, chances are you’ve had a failure yourself.
There are three words I’d like you to think about as you make your resolutions. These can help put you in the 20% vs. the 80%. They are Goal. Plan. Execute.
Sounds simple! These three words can help you identify what you want to accomplish, how you’ll accomplish it, and then actually doing the work leading to success. If you’re thinking hey, this sounds eerily similar to a project, you’re right!
Well, the reality is a lot harder. Truth is we have jobs, families, hobbies, and a whole spreadsheet of other commitments. Making a resolution and sticking with it is hard. We may start off strong, but if there’s no immediate results or progress, they fall to the side.
Goal. Plan. Execute.
Let me break down these three little words for you as I just finished up my goals for 2021 and helped one other person plan thiers. Hopefully, this will help put you in the 20% successful category.
GOALS. Resolutions are essentially goals. Maybe you want to quit smoking. Lose weight. Get up earlier. Start exercising. Get a new job. Relocate somewhere warmer or lower cost of living. It could be anything. But at the end of the day, you’re starting with a goal.
Now, if you have 10 goals, how many will you accomplish? Zero, one, maybe two? If you have five goals, how many will you accomplish? Zero, one, maybe two? If you have 2-3 goals, how many will you accomplish? Probably 2-3.
If we try to do too much, we get overwhelmed, and nothing gets done. Make a list of all the goals you want to accomplish in 2021. Choose your top 2-3, and toss the rest. I can’t tell you how to pick those 2-3, but focus on those goals that will give you the greatest satisfaction and return.
For me, I have three goals every year; one personal, one professional, and one family. I’ll share my personal further on down.
Congratulations! You have goals you’d like to accomplish. Now, let’s create a PLAN. The easiest way I’ve found to plan out my yearly goals is with a pen and paper. Yep, the old fashion way! I write the goal at the top, then continually break it down. There can be a lot of scribbling, crossing out, rewrites, and different color ink when I’m done. But, I have a plan. I’ll usually rewrite it on a fresh, clean sheet so not only I understand it, but others do as well (we’ll get to that).
Now, for a plan to be effective, it needs dates. Why? How will you know if you’re making progress against your goals? Maybe your yearly goal is to drop 20 lbs. To do that, you’ll join a gym by January 15th. You’ll work out twice a week until March 1st when you will increase to 3 times a week. By April 1st, you’ll be down 5 lbs. By July 1st, down 10 lbs. By 12/31, down 20 lbs. These dates are your yardstick to see how you’re measuring, and can be adjusted as circumstances necessitate it. But, have dates.
The final, and the hardest, of the three is EXECUTE. You’ve developed your goals. You’ve created your plan. Now it’s time to do the work! This is where the rubber meets the road my friends (as you’ll see below, I mean it quite literally).
It’s easy to say “Just go do it!”, but as we know, it’s harder than that. Executing takes preparation, effort, commitment, sweat, discomfort, and sometimes outright pain. Let me give you some tips I’ve used to execute effectively:
- Start Gradually: you won’t run a marathon tomorrow, but maybe a mile, or a half mile will do. Cutting carbs may start with reducing just one piece of toast in the morning. Writing a book starts with a single page. Get up 5 minutes earlier everyday for a week, then progress to 10 minutes the following week. If you start too fast, you’ll get burned out. Start small.
- Prepare in Advance: Have your clothes and running shoes situated the night before or packed in a bag for after work. Make a healthy lunch and put it in the fridge for the next day. Remove any barriers or distractions that would prevent you from doing the work. Be prepared to execute! Don’t give yourself an excuse.
- It’s Gonna Suck (at least at first anyway): I hated running. A lot. But, I wanted to run one race. So, I started walking more and eventually running short distances. It sucked. As time went on, though, it still sucked, but less. Anything new will suck initially, but stick with it!
- Accountability Partner: Remember when I said have your goal and plans clearly written? Share those with someone who’ll hold you accountable to performing. For me, that’s my wife. Sure, she tells me I’m crazy, but also knows I’ve thought through my goals and plans. She holds me accountable for making them happen. Note: I don’t tell many people my goals because the “haters” are out there. Though I could give a shit less about their opinions, you may get sidetracked by this. Keep your accountability group small.
- Setbacks Are the Norm, Not the Exception: Know you’ll have setbacks. Injuries if you’re training. Unexpected travel for work. Family emergencies. The list goes on and on. Sometimes these setbacks are so major they make us have to re-examine our goal, whereas others take us out for a few days or weeks, but don’t impact us long-term. Just know setbacks will happen.
- Document Progress, Even if You Don’t See it: I write down every workout I do in a notebook. At the end of the week, I tally what I’ve done. Is it the same or more than the week before? Did it go down and why? Am I doing too much or too little? By having everything documented, I can monitor progress, even if I don’t see anything.
- Celebrate the Wins: Remember those dates you wrote down? When you accomplish a goal, celebrate! If you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve hit a certain number by the certain time, enjoy a night out with friends or a spouse (preferably without a lot of chocolate and/or wine).
Let me share one of my 2021 goals. I’ve gotten more into biking, including “gravel grinding” on gravel roads. I have a goal; compete in one gravel grinder bike race in 2021. My planning took three paths; researching a race, training plan, and ancillary bike components.
I researched races and noted a few options. Finally, I landed on one in May in the Badlands of North Dakota. Instead of waiting, I signed up immediately. Knowing the date, I researched training plans and created a 12 week program. I’ve already been working on building a “base” with indoor riding about 40 miles a week. Finally, I’ve been looking a what accessories I need on my gravel bike; bags, GPS, pedals, shoes, etc. I’ve made a list, where I can buy them (gotta love Amazon!), and how much they are.
Goal. Plan. Execute.
As we move into the new year, it’s time to look to all those wonderful opportunities in the future. If you’re creating your 2021 New Year’s resolutions, remember Goal, Plan, Execute. Best of luck!!