No matter your motivation—New Year's resolutions, an upcoming high school reunion, a milestone birthday—everyone has experienced that looming feeling of urgency when they feel that a life change needs to happen and it needs to happen now.|
Whether the goal is losing weight, getting in shape, getting more sleep, organizing the house or any other improvement, people suddenly feel an urgency to make big changes. As you begin spending more and more time thinking about it, you start taking some preliminary first steps: You bypass the dessert in the restaurant that night, check out the local fitness center, maybe even clean out a drawer.
But sadly, for most people, that’s where it ends. A few months or even just a few weeks down the road, the progress towards that goal halts. The scale might have dropped a few pounds, but then went back up. You visited the gym a couple of times, but then life got so busy! That drawer you cleaned out? It's a mess again.
If you've attempted making changes and setting goals before, sadly, statistics show that you are not alone in this path. Despite the fact that approximately 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, according to research at the University of Scranton, a mere 8 percent achieve their goals. Of the 20 percent of the population that set goals in general, at any time of the year, roughly 70 percent fail to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
What is different about those 8 percent who get to enjoy success? What do they know, or do differently, that escapes the rest?
Productivity experts say it’s all about making the right kind of goals and having a plan. Your goals need to be SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic but challenging, and be attached to a time frame. Furthermore, according to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, participants who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals.
However, despite writing down your goals, making them SMART and creating a plan, many still see their goals and resolutions falling through the cracks. It’s frustrating and confusing, and leaves you feeling bad about yourself. So, what gives?
After more than a decade, working with hundreds of individuals around setting goals, I found that there is often a foundational piece missing, a piece that comes into play before beginning to create SMART goals, before mapping out a plan and before implementation. That piece is your mindset.
Too often, although genuinely interested in making a positive change, people are not truly committed to their goals, which makes a huge difference. It’s the difference between success and failure.
When something piques our interest, most people tend to think about it a lot, moving it to the forefront of our minds. They set good intentions, and may even follow through for a while, but when it becomes inconvenient, difficult or downright frustrating, many people lose interest and give up.
Commitment is a whole different ball game. Consider the definition of the word commitment: The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity; a pledge or undertaking; an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.
When you commit to one thing, you are saying no to something else. If you commit to an exercise program, you say no to sitting on the couch all afternoon rather than heading to the gym. If you commit to weight loss, you restrict the freedom to eat anything you want.
Commitment, then, goes beyond just being interested. You feel a responsibility, an obligation to yourself to get the job done. No more excuses. Once and for all, you are going to succeed at this goal, despite difficulties, discomfort and inconveniences. Which means that despite having a stressful day at work, you still go to the gym afterwards as planned. Even though it's your favorite cousin’s birthday, you skip the cake.
Even when you have a lapse in your positive actions (which you will; everyone does), you trip, stand up, wipe off your knees and begin again. Even when life gets busy and complicated, you recalculate and create a new plan.
If you sense that you are interested, rather than committed to the goals you’ve created, should you throw in the towel? Absolutely not. Follow the steps outlined below, and you can strengthen your resolve and reach your vision once and for all.
1. Develop the right attitude. Listen to your inner voice. Is it one of excitement, enthusiasm and even feelings of being a bit scared? If yes, you are on the right track. Those are the emotions of positive movement. But if your inner critic says you probably won’t follow through, that it is going to be too hard, and not much fun, there is a good chance you’ll quit before reaching the finish line. Remember: That voice is yours, and you get to change it. Talk back and encourage yourself the same way you would if you were talking to your best friend.
2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. You might be wondering what the heck this has to do with commitment to goals. Brain research consistently proves that when we are tired, our cognitive thinking brain shuts down, and our emotional brain takes over. We do not make good decisions when we are tired. Before taking on any meaningful goals or resolutions, check in on how much sleep you get and how well rested you feel each day. If you are struggling, work on improving your sleep habits before you focus on changing any other behavior.
3. Increase your confidence. Confidence and commitment go hand and hand. When one falters, so does the other. Reflect back on past challenges that you accomplished, and ask yourself what personal strengths you brought to the table back then. How can you use those strengths to help you now?
4. Hang out with others who share your commitment. We are influenced by the behavior of those around us. If most of your friends aren’t too interested in healthy eating or working out, it may be time to limit time spent with them and find a new group to hang with. Join a support or mastermind group of like-minded individuals or participate in online forums with others who are working on similar goals.
5. Have a visual reminder and a mantra that you can refer to several times each and every day. Whether it’s a picture on your wall that reminds you of your goal, a screen shot on your computer or an alert that goes off on your phone several times a day, you want to keep that vision in the forefront of your mind at all times.
6. Continuously check in on your deepest motivations and reasons why. If you do not feel passionately about what you want to achieve, you’ll struggle to get there. Ask yourself daily, "How important is it to me to achieve my desired goal? What’s at stake if I fail?" Those answers should be strong enough to propel you into action every day.
James Womack, founder and senior advisor of Lean Enterprise Systems and author of several books, including Lean Thinking, says, "Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision and gives us the ‘right stuff’ to turn our dreams into reality." Big goals and dreams require dedication, determination, discipline and patience. Built on a foundation of commitment, there will be no stopping you!