Do you write New Year's Resolutions? If so, did you keep them?
You see the chances are that if you did write some NYR's for 2014 that you didn't succeed with them, along with 88% of the rest of the population.
So if only 10-12% of us have any success with NYR's why do we bother with them at all?
According to Wikipedia the tradition of setting resolutions in the New Year goes back to the Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. If you still haven't returned that widget/drill/bucket that you borrowed from your neighbour six months ago, now is the time to do so.
The Romans kept up the tradition by making promises to their god Janus and medieval knights took the "peacock vow" to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry at the end of the Christmas season.
So now we know why chivalry is not dead.
But with so much failure, why do we persist in writing our somewhat often repetitive lists that we will lose weight, exercise more, spend less, be nicer to our friends, do volunteer work, quit smoking, write a best seller, make a million dollars etc. etc. etc?
Possibly because we are programmed culturally to want to "better" ourselves and we hold onto the hope we might achieve that.
The trouble is hope alone is not enough.
That's why most NYR's end up in the bin. They are not well thought through, are often written in haste, are far too general and lack a plan.
Don't get me wrong; I am a big fan of goal setting, because it can work brilliantly. It's just we need to ensure our efforts warrant our success by understanding how goal setting works and implementing a brain friendly plan of action.
Start with setting aside a couple of hours (when you're not time pressured), and ask yourself a couple of questions.
1. What is it you want to achieve and why?
If you can't come up with a really compelling reason as to why you would want to achieve a goal, then perhaps you don't really want it enough. A great goal needs to be something that inspires you and juices you up with the anticipation of achieving it.
2. Is it a stretch or a snap?
Setting the bar too high is setting yourself up for disappointment and de- motivation. Keep your potential challenge real, with enough stretch to make it an actual challenge. It is about stepping up and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough but not too much. However setting the bar too low isn't about a goal at all, just something that needs doing.
3. Who are you reporting to?
Being accountable is a fantastic way of finding the support you need to get over those little humps and bumps that can otherwise lead us to give up too soon. Writing down your goals and noting the marker points of progress helps you and the person(s) you are reporting to keep you on track.
4. Is the path to success clear?
There is little point in overloading your brain with too many goals when you are already overcommitted to your work, completing your PhD, your kids school fete, your trip to Mongolia to set up a medical clinic, your significant other's birthday party in three weeks and moving house. Your brain can only deal with so much information at any one time, so clear the decks and provide the space your mind needs to focus on the ONE goal you are aiming for.
5. What is the plan?
Without a plan, our goals are just wishful thinking. Set yourself a "achieve by" date that is between 3 and 12 months from now, then work backwards to determine what has to be done each month, each week and finally each day to move you towards your goal. Remember, reaching our goal isn't always the main aim of the process. It's often more about what we discover about ourselves that helps us to develop useful new habits, a more positive attitude and lasting behavioural change.
Successful goal setting is about working with our brain to produce the enduring, positive and desired change we seek. Plus, being a biological process, naturally it takes a bit of time, effort and commitment.
If you're ready to start creating your future, it's time to start slam-dunking those goals with your high performance brain.