Early this year, I addressed New Year’s resolutions – specifically, the broken ones. Most people, with the best of intentions, break at least one resolution within the first two or three weeks of setting them.
If you fit into that category, I urged you not to give up and offered you a mini-plan of three steps to get you back on track again.
Now that we’re a third of the way through 2016, how is your plan working out for you?
If your answer is a mumbled “not very well,” please don’t give up. It is still not too late to reach your goals. Remember the acronym “IAM” — “it’s about millimeters.” It could also stand for “I AM,” as in “I AM going to succeed.”
Let’s review the steps and see how you can get back on track.
Step #1: Recognize and write down just three things you want to accomplish in the next 90 days.
Did you actually write them down?
Putting your goals on paper gives you a powerful edge toward fulfilling them. In fact, the converse may also be true. Melissa Dahl wrote in New York magazine last July that fantasizing about your goals “may actually reduce one’s odds of achieving (them).”
The same article reported on research from the University of Toronto that had students not only write down their goals but design and record a path to achieving them. At the end of two years, the writing students were more likely to have stayed in school and completed more courses than a control group of students who had not done the writing exercises.
Why is writing so potent? Here are my thoughts:
- It makes your goals concrete, not wishy-washy, as daydreaming can do.
- It involves other senses — visual and tactile, for example. That helps imprint them on your brain.
- It forces you to clarify exactly what you want to achieve.
If you did write down your goals, and that didn’t work (yet), try expanding this exercise. Do as the Toronto students did: Create a plan. In other words, write down the steps you can take to achieve your goal.
Don’t just think the plan – writing is what makes it work.
In our example a few months ago, I set the goal of going to the gym five days a week and acknowledged that may be a daunting aspiration for someone who doesn’t exercise at all. If that’s you, you could write a 90-day plan that might include these steps:
- Make a list of beginner classes that appeal to you and see how the days and times they are offered fit your schedule.
- Attend each one once to see which are a good fit.
- When you’ve selected your favorite classes, make a schedule showing which ones you’ll attend on which days. Don’t overwhelm yourself at the start — maybe just one or two classes a week is enough. Remember IAM – It’s All About Millimeters. You succeed by taking well-intentioned baby steps. Don’t rush or you may give up.
- Plot out your timeline for adding three more classes.
- Ask a friend to join you. Buddies are great motivation.
- Promise yourself a real reward – a new gym outfit once you’ve met a certain schedule, for example. Pick it out and post a link to it so you have a concrete image of it. Write your thoughts on how great you’ll look in it after all that exercising.
Here is step #2: When picking the first three things you want to accomplish, choose a mix of short- and long-term goals.
It has been 90 days since I posted that story. Have you fulfilled one of your three goals?
Maybe you think, like many people, that short-term goals are not effective. Aren’t your dreams bigger than that?
To which I answer: Big successes are always the result of a series of little successes. Baby steps. Millimeters. One at a time.
Here are some reasons short-term goals are so effective (with inspiration from Arina Nikitina, author of the Goal Setting Guide blog):
- They are easy to complete.
- They create momentum toward a longer-term goal.
- Accomplishing short-term goals boosts your self-confidence.
- Because they’re short, they allow you to stay on track.
- Because they’re quick, the end is always in sight.
Let’s look at these three goals in the context of writing a book. I have written four, and I know what an overwhelming task that can seem at the outset. The millimeter approach will keep you from becoming discouraged.
Your goals might be these:
1. In the first two or three weeks, write an outline for your book, with a list of chapters and topics; outline each chapter, including photographs you will need; identify experts you may want to interview. (shortest term)
2. In the next 90 days, and each 90-day segment thereafter, write one-fourth of your chapters. You don’t have to write them in order. Once you have one-fourth of your book done, you will be motivated to finish it. (short term)
3. Set the goal of completing the book in one year. Then begin again with plans to print and market it. (long term)
Short-term goals lead to long-term successes!
Step #3: My last suggestion: Focus on one small “millimeter” task each day that gives you happiness and joy.
Did you try this? All work and no play … makes no one happy. Smile at everybody, even strangers. It’s magical. Be grateful for everything you have. For starters, if you live in this country, you are luckier than most of the rest of the world. Take time for yourself to walk through nature, read a great book, meditate, enjoy a hobby, get down on the floor with your children. Again, start with one smile at a time – and watch how your happiness and everyone else’s catches on.
Just because it’s four months since you set your New Year’s resolutions, instead of 90 days or no days, does not mean you should give them up. You can get there! It’s only too late if you never start.