Every January, my husband complains to his trainer about the crowded gym. “Don’t worry,” his trainer reminds him, “Just wait until March.” According to a University of Scranton 2016 study, 45% of Americans claimed they usually make New Year’s resolutions. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that only 8% reported successfully achieving their goals.
The essence of our being is DESIRE. We don’t move a finger without it. Desire lifts us out of bed in the morning, propels us forward day after day, year after year. Why is it so easy to create a wish list of goals and yet so hard to follow through - especially long term?
Below are 4 key secrets to not only sticking to our goals but feeling fulfilled by them.
1. BALANCE YOUR EXTERNAL GOALS WITH INTERNAL ONES
I think we all agree that our culture often defines success superficially, externally — how we look, what we drive, the achievements others see. Far less emphasis is placed on internal success, that is, becoming a better individual, a kinder partner, a more present parent, a sensitive listener, a more giving and forgiving person. Ultimately, who we become is what fulfills us at the core, and our internal success provides the very foundation for anything external to be lasting and fulfilling.
So yes, go after the changes you want to make in your life, set those new year’s goals, but make sure to couple those with an emphasis on becoming closer to who you want to be as an individual. Remind yourself often, it’s our internal changes that give our external goals their footing to last. Take someone who decides they need to stop drinking. That’s great, not an easy task for many — and for those with a problematic dependency, life will likely become better. However, without coupling that goal with changing one’s character and becoming a catalyst for helping others, not only will s/he be less fulfilled, but also less likely to stick to the initial goal.
2. GET TO THE ROOT
Dig deeper to find what is really motivating you to reach your goal. We often have obvious external reasons, but I recommend spending some time exploring inside and asking why. We can typically find a deeper or higher reason that can keep us inspired and motivated, and with greater staying power. For example, if you want to lose weight to look better, do some more digging. One client this week recently realized that it’s the chain of positivity that results from her healthy diet and exercise that is the true essence of why she wants to lose weight. That is, when she feels better about herself and in her body, she’s way more likely to get out of bed every day, engage in the world and ward off her tendency for depression. The more we identify what’s most important to us about our goals, the greater sense of urgency and commitment we can create.
3. CREATE A PLAN TO KEEP YOU ACCOUNTABLE
Left to our own devices, we tend to lose sight of the consistent effort and sacrifice required to manifest our goals. We lose objectivity when the going gets tough, and then cut corners. To move from a wish list to a reality, we need a structure so that we MUST BE ACCOUNTABLE. Set it up so that it’s difficult to back down, e.g., invest hard-earned money in a professional trainer, coach or counselor, sign up for a class and even volunteer so they will be counting on you to attend, commit to a plan of action together with a friend — a buddy system if you will, surround yourself with others who have a big desire, who are striving or have reached where you want to go.
Especially with more serious changes you need to make, be careful of “the gradually syndrome” which can easily lead to discouragement. For example, if you struggle with addiction or if your weight or lifestyle puts your health at risk, the “I’ll stop gradually” approach can backfire. While we don’t want to feel overwhelmed with too much change at once (see #4 below), we also need to invest consistently to see enough results. For example, if you go to a counselor for your anger or insecurity, most people find they make greater headway when they commit regularly for a while. Same with losing weight — make the trainer and measuring yourself a way of life.
4. MAKE A SHORT LIST — TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME
Many people fail at their goals because they get overwhelmed by too many changes at one time. Sure, write down your bucket list, your vision map for where you want to be in five years. But when it comes to manifesting, break it down into concrete and simple action steps with daily changes and goals you can reach, let’s say, within the next 3 months. We all need tools to protect us from “give up mode” when we misstep from our plan. No plan is perfect. When we take it one day at a time, and not beat ourselves up when we falter, we can find greater strength to carry right on with the plan.