Remember how inspired you used to feel at the beginning of a new year? All that motivation to start over, conquer new goals, and take your personal and professional life to the next level . . . the New Year used to brim with possibility.
But now things are . . . different. You’ve opened so many years with bright eyes and big ambitions, only to close the year in the same place you were 365 days before. Over time, your goals begin to feel more like fantasies. You start to believe you’re not really capable of achieving your dreams. If you were, you would have by now.
If this is hitting home, be assured that 2020 can be different.
The problem is not that you’re incapable of reaching your goals. It may not even be that you lack willpower or discipline.
It’s just that you’re setting the wrong goals and the wrong system for fulfilling those goals. You are—to put it frankly—setting yourself up to fail.
Why Traditional Goal Setting Doesn’t Work
If you’re like a lot of people, your list of goals looks something like this:
- Double profits
- Win a professional award
- Lose 20 pounds
- Spend more time with family
These are great goals to have, but focusing on the achievements makes it harder to reach them.
Well, let’s take a closer look at the weight loss goal.
You want to lose 20 pounds. You’ve heard you can lose weight quickly with the keto diet, so you order three books about keto. You create a meal plan for the first week. You make a huge shopping trip to stock up on staples of the diet. You get home and prep your food for the week.
As the week starts, motivation is high. You’re excited. Inspired.
But at the same time that you’re making this revolutionary change in your life, you still have a full schedule at work. You still have fires to put out, meetings to endure, new clients to win over. Your kids need help with homework and want to see your face in the bleachers at the next little league game. Your spouse is counting on your for moral support through a personal challenge.
By the end of the week, you just don’t have it in you to plan perfectly proportioned keto meals for the next seven days. So you figure you’ll take it day by day. But this proves more difficult than you expected. So you just try to make low-carb choices and hope for the best.
By week three, your diet is over, you’re back to old habits, and you consider this failed experiment evidence that losing 20 pounds cannot be done. You decide weight loss isn’t a realistic possibility for you, whether it’s because you’re too busy, too disorganized, or not disciplined enough.
Focus on Changes, Not Achievement
The problem most people have is that they’re chasing an end goal. They expect to get a specific result in a specific time frame using a quick fix method. And when that doesn’t work, they bail on the goal altogether, believing they’ve proven to themselves that they just cannot do it.
If you truly want to improve any area of your life, focus on the changes you need to make in order to get there. Whether you want to lose weight or open a new store location, you can only accomplish these things by making a personal transformation.
You don’t lose weight by ordering books and going shopping. You lose weight by making small, gradual changes that train you to prioritize wellness.
You don’t expand your business with a sudden burst of aggressive marketing. You grow an enterprise by learning to think like a successful business owner, discovering how to invest your time, resources, and creativity most productively.
You cannot create a whole different life in a matter of weeks. But you can start making changes tomorrow that add up over time to build the life you want.
And believe it or not, the smaller those changes are in the beginning, the wider you open the door to transformation.
Start Small for Guaranteed Success
Change is hard. It just is. A lot of people get tripped up in the pursuit of their goals because they think change wouldn’t be hard if they were tougher. They charge forward with a brand new routine and feel like a failure when it doesn’t work.
You’ve got to let that mindset go. You’ve got to accept that change is hard. It’s hard for everyone. And the best way to guarantee your success is to start small.
Let’s go back to the weight loss example. Throwing yourself into the keto diet overnight didn’t work because it introduced too many changes to your day-to-day lifestyle. You either had to carve out an unrealistic amount of meal prep time to make it work, or abandon the goal altogether. There was no in-between. So, when you couldn’t realistically make a complicated new diet part of your existing lifestyle, you technically failed at reaching your goal.
Now, imagine if that goal was defined differently. Let’s say you decide you want to live a healthier lifestyle, starting with drinking eight glasses of water a day.
You get a 32-ounce water bottle to keep at your desk and make sure you get through two full water bottles each day. And that’s it. Just for right now, that is your only goal.
You may have to set some alarms to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day at first, but it’s such a small effort, it’s easy to succeed. You feel good about yourself and motivated to tackle the next small change.
Now you’re going to set your morning alarm fifteen minutes earlier so you have time to eat a healthy breakfast instead of running out the door with a high-sugar energy bar.
With these easy-to-maintain changes, you develop an ongoing pattern of small victories. That success propels you forward, keeps you motivated, and adds up to bigger gains down the road. These adjustments also become habits, and your habits inform your mindset. You start thinking about healthy living beyond your eight glasses of water a day. Before you know it, it’s easier to make the larger changes, like fitting in a daily jog.
In time, you become a healthier person. And you may even become a person who is 20 pounds lighter.
Setting Yourself Up for Success in 2020
Most people are pretty bad at setting expectations when it comes to goals. We tend to overestimate what we can achieve in one year while we underestimate how much we can accomplish in five years.
It’s great to wish for a specific outcome. Your dream of a thriving business or unforgettable vacation or fulfilling marriage is an excellent motivator.
But it is important to remember that the path to that dream depends on a series of small, personal changes, and these changes are gradual. A brand new life takes time. It’s a process, not a destination.
As you look at your goals for 2020:
- Think about how you need to transform in order to reach those goals and sustain that change over time.
- Determine the series of small changes you can make for a gradual, successful transformation.
- If you slip up, forgive yourself and get back on track.
This approach may feel too slow at first, but I promise you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come by the time you’re reviewing your goals for 2021.
Wishing you a bright new year, bursting with possibility.