I'll get straight it; less than 10%* of us are set to achieve our new year's resolutions this year. Every year I remind readers not to set these sparkling little goals on their horizon for the year, not because I'm a jaded, cynical old bat but because I'm a coach and know that setting processes instead of objectives is the best way to make lasting change. I've written about that here, if you need a refresher.
But what happens when setting processes isn't enough, when your dreams are bigger and riskier than losing weight or learning interpretative dance? Here are some inside tips that us executive coaches use when conventional goal getting isn't working as advertised for our clients.
When thinking about the change or the goal you're after it's easier and more fun to focus on what you want and how life will change when you have it. This is unhelpful if the reality of achieving something significant is never addressed. A bit like going to a Motivational Megaconference and leaving all pumped up to 'go get it' but not knowing what to do when 'getting it' brings unforeseen challenges.
Once you know what your goal is, take some time to explore these simple questions.
1. How much am I prepared to fail before I succeed?
Sir James Dyson worked through 5,126 failed prototypes of his revolutionary vacuum cleaner along with 15 years of savings. Stephen King's first novel was rejected 30 times. Katy Perry was dropped from three music labels before she became the teenage dream. How did each of these failures feel at the time? The first one is usually the hardest, after that, if you're paying attention, you get better at failing.
I have a chart in my study that I'm very proud of. It lists how many times my book manuscripts have been rejected before being published. My goal is to get at least 50 rejections before I even think of giving up or doing a complete rewrite. (Yup, it's a sticker chart for failure.) If you remove the emotion from a rejection then each one becomes a source of information. (Except for the one I received on 25 December 2014. Who sends pithy rejections notes on Christmas day!?)
If you can establish upfront how much pain, frustration and old fashioned failure you are willing to invest in pursuit of your goals then you are already improving your odds of ultimately achieving them. Decide how many rejections, failed prototypes or cheating days on your new diet you can withstand before you give in. Quitting then becomes a choice not an emotional reaction to circumstances.
2. What beliefs do you need to let go of, give up or stop doing in order to realise your goals?
Are your beliefs about yourself tripping you up? To be a better public speaker many people have to give up the belief that they can't present or release their fear of being judged as not good enough. Before you can write that children's book you've always dreamed of, you'll have to give up the idea that it's just a silly dream of yours. Desperate to lose weight and be healthier? You may have to give up the idea that you will be judged if you say no to a glass of wine or that giving up smoking will be bad for your social life.
The last question is the clincher.
3. What happens if you don't succeed ... ever?
If you never lose weight or lower your blood pressure, don't get that degree, give up on getting your novel published, never start your own business or spend even less time with your children this year? Never, ever, make the change you want? If you plot the effects of giving up on your dream say over over 1, 5 and 10 years you should have all the motivation you need to dig deep and find the resilience you need to push through.
Finally, it takes courage and clear thinking to look past the glitz and sparkle of a shiny new year and focus on the small steps needed to move towards your goal, anticipate the challenges and failures you are likely to encounter and then set aside a reserve of resilience to meet those obstacles. And once you get the hang of failure, nothing can stop you, truly.
*Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Research Date: 1.1.2014