As summer winds down and the back-to-school syndrome sets in, for many people this is the start of a “new year.” It’s a throwback to our childhood most likely, but we often think of September as the beginning of new things. Of course, most people set their goals in January as a New Year’s resolution, but given the holiday hangovers, fall might be the better time!
An interesting survey published in December of 2012 showed that people who set goals – at least fitness-related ones – don’t seem to meet them. Fitness, eating well and losing weight are typical goals. In fact, according to the study, nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States who make New Year’s resolutions have set fitness goals as part of their resolution. The survey found that of the people who made this resolution, a full 73 percent gave up before meeting their goal (data from an online study conducted by Harris Interactive).
What makes one go off track with something as important as fitness and health? In my experience, we can apply a similar statistic to other goals – career, relationship, emotional or otherwise. While people know what they want to accomplish, staying on track to get there is reserved for the rare few.
In honor of September, and back-to-school, maybe it’s time to look at some goals you have put to the side and dust them off. Here are ten tips to help you stay on track through fall and into 2014, so you can get where you want to go:
- Be crystal clear about your desired outcome. Don’t just say, “I need to lose weight” or “I have to get out of this job!” Instead, think about what you do want. Paint a picture that is clear and has measurable outcomes – both quantitative and qualitative. If it helps, cut out pictures from magazines, or draw a picture.
- Set your priorities each day. This sounds so simple and yet very, very few people do it. The evening before or the morning before your day starts, write down the top three priorities for that coming day. What do you need to make progress on? What’s most important to you? Keep these priorities – in writing – somewhere you can refer to them often throughout the day.
- Get a coach or partner. Find someone who will support you in your efforts. If you can’t afford to hire someone, get a friend or relative who also wants to accomplish goals and agree to keep each other on track. Put a time on the calendar each week, if possible, to check in on progress. Having someone you are accountable to often makes a world of difference in completing assigned tasks.
- Identify your obstacles. Don’t pretend there won’t be challenges. If you hate getting up in the dark, don’t assume you will lose weight by running at 4 a.m. because your days are so busy! Identify those things that present challenges in getting to your goals. They are real, and likely are the reasons you haven’t reached the goals you desired in the past.
- Organize the obstacles by those you can control, those you can influence and those out of your control. Focus on those things you can control and can influence. It’s disempowering to get fixated on things you can’t change. Focus on the things you can and work around them.
- Chart your progress. For a lot of people, when they can’t see the end goal, or haven’t been able to feel that sense of “I did it!” they get disillusioned and lose interest. The goal could have been just over the horizon, but the person stopped walking too soon. Pay attention to the incremental progress you are making along the way and acknowledge it.
- Focus on moving toward, not away from. Often times a person wants to “get away” from something. They hate the boss, the way their body looks, the job they have, etc. The need to escape is greater than the need to get somewhere appealing. Be sure you are making progress to something that matters and not just trying to jump out of a situation.
- Embed a reward. Getting to your goal will be a reward, but have other smaller “wins” along the way. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be taking a half hour off from work, or going to a movie with a friend, or taking a long, hot bubble bath. Do something nice for yourself to recognize you are making progress and sticking to it.
- If you get off course, get right back on again. Beating up on yourself, being negative, and whining about “I’ll never do this” are all wastes of time. Many of the most successful people failed miserably on multiple occasions before they finally succeeded. The difference is that they kept on going.
- Use positive self-talk to remind yourself you CAN do it. Be your own cheerleader. People take many twists and turns in life, and just because you haven’t gotten where you want to be doesn’t mean you can’t. Remind yourself each day that you are capable and can stay on track.