I got a chuckle over an email from Coach Handbags on January 17th with the title “Happy Ditch Your Resolution Day”, a tongue in cheek acknowledgement that by mid-January, most folks are ready to abandon those New Year’s Resolutions. There was, of course, suggestions on things to purchase to celebrate the decision, inducing giggles from me. But the thing, they are right. Most folks are ready to ditch the resolutions because they don’t feel they will find success, so why bother?
I get it. We have grand ideas for what we want, but after the holidays are over and we return to “real” life in all its beauty and stress, those goals seem un-doable. Or, we’re so busy dealing with the day-to-day responsibilities, there doesn’t seem to be a crumb of time left to devote to your dreams. That pinnacle of success you imagined when you set you intention, resolution, or goal just doesn’t seem possible.
And despite the fact that I get how hard pursuing goals can be, I also know that that resolution you’ve already halfheartedly left in the dust are salvageable. It just requires a little bit of planning so you can set yourself up for success.
In order to do this, it’s critical that you let go of “if-then thinking”. You know what I mean: all that bargaining of “when the kids are grown…” and “when I lose weight…” And you want to know what gets in the way of pursuing a dream, goal, or resolution? Not making time in your life for the pursuit.
Here’s a Six Step Way to go from abandoned goals to success.
Step One – Revisit Your Goals / Dreams / Resolutions / Intentions
Semantics matter to your brain, so choose the word that works best for you. Now that you’ve chosen how to see this desire worded, write all of them down. I’m going to use the word “goal”, but feel free to substitute your favorite word. And yes, do write it down.
Even if you’re extremely motivated, you also need to state your intentions. A written goal is more likely to become real success.
Step Two – Choose One or Two Goals to Pursue to Success
While not making time for the pursuit of success will always get in the way, it’s important to know that too many goals makes success at any goal impossible. By choosing one of two goals, it allows you to hone that precious focus of yours. Yes, I know you want it all – now – but trying to do it all muddies the water of your potential success.
Consider not just the end-result you’re desiring, but other factors that could impede your success. For example, if you want to clock a faster running time, maybe it’s a goal best left for the spring or summer when it isn’t snowy. Don’t worry that you’ll miss out, by the way. Once you reach one goal, you can sub in one of those goals just waiting in the wings.
(Pro-tip: write down ALL your goals somewhere you can easily access it, even if it’s goals you aren’t focusing on.)
Step Three – Create a Plan for Each Goal
This is probably the most important step for success: planning for success. How are you going to go from here to there?
For each of your goals, create a plan for success. You can do this on the computer or on paper. Personally, I do a mix of both, using my journal for the plans and then turning to the computer for any check-lists and task reminders for specific dates.
I think best in bullet points, so find that a brainstormed list of all the little pieces of my plan helps me see it more clearly. A good way to do this may be to make a running list of all the ingredients you need, and then re-writing it as if it were a step-by-step recipe for making your goal a reality. Don’t be afraid of getting too detailed if that’s how your mind works, just don’t overwhelm yourself.
So, for example, let’s say your goal is to lose twenty pounds. This means you need to eat right, exercise, get adequate sleep, and reduce your stress levels. Each one of those needs to meet your goal are almost goals in themselves, right? So don’t be afraid to break those down into mini-goals with their own plan. This allows you to break down the pieces of your goal into actionable tasks.
It’s also important during your planning to set some milestones. Mark these on your calendar!
By the way, you can do this for even those goals you’ve chose to pursue later. Creating a plan may show you that you need to change your focus to a more suitable season in your life, so don’t be afraid to go back to Step Two until you feel it’s right for you now.
(Note: To save plans for future goals, I create a file in my desk and check it once a month to see what ideas might be ready to make a priority.)
A plan also allows you to recognize major tasks so that you can stagger them. It’s hard to begin eating right, exercising daily, and getting enough sleep NOW. So much for reducing stress, right? So, maybe you see that your plan needs some entry steps: to focus on eating right this month and once you’re happily eating well, to add exercise in next month.
Be willing to push yourself a little while also being compassionate with yourself and the reality of the responsibilities you have.
Step Four – Plan Time to Take Action
There’s no way to find success if you don’t make time to take action, right? That’s why it’s critical to success to plan your time to make space for the pursuit of your goal. That’s often-what causes abandonment early in the year: you haven’t adjusted your daily life to include working on your goals!
Remember that goals are sometimes best approached with the domino affect in mind: you need to do this before you can do that.
So, going back to the example of losing twenty pounds, let’s look at what you might need to eat right. That may include cleaning out your pantry, setting time aside for meal planning, making grocery shopping a priority, cooking more often, etc. Exercising may require buying new workout shoes, joining a gym, and blocking off time each morning to get some exercise.
It’s impossible, for example, to eat right if you don’t have a plan for what to eat, right? Otherwise you succumb to a meal of crackers, wine, and ice cream (or whatever is in the fridge). Be realistic, but don’t make excuses.
Step Five – Set Yourself Up for Success with Routines
When you include various tasks in your regular routines, this allows them to become habits. So, examine all the tasks you need to do to pursue a goal and fit them into your daily routines. To go back to that “losing twenty pounds” goal, for example, you might want to make time for exercise and breakfast each morning.
You can also create blocked routines to do a task on the same day each week. Like meal planning on Sundays and grocery shopping on Mondays. You may find that making all of your lunches on Sundays means you’ll eat well in the middle of a busy day.
While you are making space in your routines, be honest about your energy levels. This isn’t about judgement, just managing yourself and your life in a way that feels loving and supportive. For example, if you are just too darned tired to cook after a long day at work, make meals ahead on the weekends or use your crockpot to ensure you have a healthy meal waiting for you at the end of the day. And if you know that you won’t get up early to exercise, go to the gym at lunch or on the way home.
Once they become a habit, you’ll get more momentum. And the bonus: once you instill good habits that support your goals, it gives you more energy to put towards what’s next!
Step Six – Plan for Success by Checking in With Yourself
All plans need adjusting now and then. Block off some time on your calendar to review your goals once a week – or at least once a month. Monitoring the progress of your goals, adjusting your plan, and making time to include actionable steps as time passes allows you to stay motivated and see real successes.
Making time for review also allows you to see when goals need to be abandoned, not because they are too hard, but because they don’t fit your life. Or, you may discover that you’re ready to move on to other dreams. Now that’s a way to success, too!
It’s important to remind yourself that if you want to be happy, you need to remember that your goals are important.
Not making progress towards your desires doesn’t mean that you’re a loser, it just means you need some structure. I know that you can achieve your heart’s desires if you create a plan and ensure that you are making space in your life to pursue your goals.
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