New Year's Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves about a future vision we wish to achieve, but more often than not, we lack the strategy, commitment, focus and accountability to make them a reality. An Anthony Robbins coach once said to me, "I don't care what my clients want. I care what they're committed to achieving." The same is true for resolutions -- it doesn't matter what you "want" in life. What matters is how ready, willing and committed you are to bringing it into being.
There's nothing more discouraging than saying you'll do something over and over each year, then failing. Make 2013 the year you bring about the changes you want most in your life and work, and make these changes stick.
Below are six simple yet powerful tips for articulating in a meaningful way the changes that you want most, and keeping these important commitments to yourself, to expand your experience of success, fulfillment and joy.
1) Understand specifically WHY you want this change
Discovering the real "why" behind a goal can give you the juice you need to make it happen. Think about how your life will be different when you manifest this change, and why you'll be happier, more successful and more fulfilled by bringing this about. Visualize it and experience it with all your senses. How will this goal help you be more aligned with what you know to be true about yourself and help you give form to your life and career intentions in more satisfying ways? What will this goal help you be and do? (Want more clarity on the why's behind your career visions? Take my free Career Path Self-Assessment).
2) Make your resolutions S.M.A.R.T. goals instead
Don't just say, "I'm going to lose 15 pounds." The vagueness of the "how" behind a big goal sets you up for failure. And if the goal is too far ahead of you, you won't believe it's possible and you'll sabotage your progress. Make each goal a S.M.A.R.T. one -- that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. So instead of "I'll lose 15 pounds," dimensionalize the goal and break it down into bite-sized pieces that you know you can handle.
Develop a fully fleshed-out plan of how you'll do it, and articulate that in writing. Understand what you'll do differently in your life to create the shift you want. For example, one client of mine stated this: "Beginning January 7, I will follow my new plan to lose 1 lb. per week. I'll do this through my new menus from my nutritionist, five rounds of exercise a week -- two at the Y for a class, and two visits to the exercise room, along with a hike in nature each weekend." Then monitor your progress each week and revise your course if necessary all along the way to your goal. Remember: if you don't DO anything different from what you've always done, nothing will change.
3) Dream Big, But Add a Healthy Dose of Realism
It's wonderful to dream big, but you also need to be realistic about the time, energy and commitment it will take to make your resolution a reality.
If you want to achieve a lofty goal such as, "I will finally write my book," first understand what you're committing to in terms of time, money, focus and actions that will make this goal a reality. As an initial step, "try on" the goal (before making the resolution) by researching it online and offline, and interviewing five people you know who've written and published a book about what it truly takes to write one. (If you're interested in self-publishing a book, read Guy Kawasaki's great new book APE: Author-Publisher-Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book and stay tuned for my Forbes interview with Guy on how to avoid the biggest mistake would-be authors make in writing their books.)
If after researching it, you feel you can and want to do it, make your goal clear and manageable -- for example, "I will complete my manuscript by June 2013, and find the right helpers (copyeditor, designer, etc.) I need by (specific date)." Then break the process down into realistic steps and stages, with dates, metrics, and milestones.
4) Base Your Goal On the Positive -- Not What You're Running Away From
If you hate your job and want out, don't make your goal "I'll leave my job by June." Reframe your goal to a more positive, expansive direction that encompasses what you truly want, not what you want to leave behind. Shift your resolution to, "I will begin January 7th on a path of finding an exciting new job that aligns with my passions, talents and skills."
Then follow it up with a specific plan of action that will help you land a great new job. First, figure out what you really want in the next chapter of life and work (check out my Amazing Career Project and download my free homework "Assessing and Closing Your Power Gaps" to gain clarity on where you want to go in your career and what you need to change to get there). Then, take key steps necessary to bring yourself to market effectively, build your personal brand and a powerful network to support you. Revamp your resume, identify 20 organizations you'd like to work for, reach out to recruiters, colleagues and friends, get connected on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and request endorsements on LinkedIn for a solid start. (New to LinkedIn? Here's a LinkedIn Primer to get you started.)
5) Connect With Your Past Successes
Before you make a goal/resolution, think about times in the past you've achieved something significant. How did you do it? What motivated you, and how do you persevere through the challenging times? Bring forward those traits and capabilities you already possess, and make sure those steps and abilities you've drawn on before are reflected in your new goals.
For instance, a client of mine wanted to raise her fees in her consulting practice in the coming year, but was nervous to do it in these recessionary times. I asked her to recall a time when she asked for more money and it worked out well. She remembered asking for a raise in her corporate job several years ago, and getting it. She brought to mind all the steps she took to accomplish that success (outlining her key achievements, doing research about what others at her level are earning, assessing the obstacles to her getting more money, becoming clearer about the value she brought to the table, etc.). This process that she successfully underwent in the past gave her the courage to ask for what she deserved in her new consulting role, and it worked.
Bring all the learning from your past successes forward into your 2013 goal success planning to demonstrate to yourself you can do it.
6) Step Up Your Accountability -- And Get the Right Kind of Help
We don't achieve big goals alone, or in a vacuum. That's simply not how the best and most powerful work gets done. You need a collection of different helpers to fill in your "gaps" -- including those who have great complementary skills that support your own, along with a mentor, advisor or coach and a role model who is ten steps ahead of where you are today, and who embodies what you want and how you want it. Realize what you don't know, and get outside help to support you.
As Einstein explained, we can't solve a problem on the awareness level that it was created. Ask your mentor, advisor or coach to hold you accountable for your progress. Meet with her/him regularly to assess your progress, share your challenges and ask them for their candid feedback and insights into what you could be doing differently or how you can change your mindset, habits and behaviors to achieve what you want more effectively.
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In the end, resolutions can be empty, unfulfilled promises filled with regret. Or, they can be enlivening, motivating goals that help you be all you want to be in life and work. It's up to you which path you'll take.
Make 2013 your year to shine. What is your top goal for 2013 and how will you achieve it?