How are your resolutions going?
Have your New Year resolutions already faded into good intentions and wishful thinking? Many of us find that by February our determination to lose weight, get fitter or achieve other goals can start waning as we see little progress. Old habits seem hard to break. There are some in society who seem to be successful in keeping motivated and on track with their goals. Think of our very successful Olympic swimming team. But are they really so different to the rest of us? It seems the first step to doing things differently this year is to start with how you actually set your goals.
Write S.M.A.R.T. goals
One of the missing pieces to successful achievement is in the details and goal setting. When asked what he attributes his successes to Australian Swimming Commonwealth and Olympic medallist Josh Watson replied, “The difference between working with or without goals equals results.”
Writing down your goals has been proven to significantly increase your success according to the famous Harvard Written Goal Study of 1979. The question that was asked of new graduates was “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” They found that 84% had no goals at all, 13% had goals but not written and 3% had clear, written goals and specific plans.
In 1989, the same graduates were interviewed and the results showed that the 13% who had goals were earning twice as much as the 84% who had no goals at all. Even more staggering, the 3% who had clear, written goals were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together.
There is a formula for writing goals that has been used successfully in business. George T Doran’s S.M.A.R.T. goals is a great tool to provide a very detailed roadmap of your personal goals as well.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are clear, specific and measurable, so that they can show positive or negative progress. Next they are achievable, that is, reachable. The old adage is “You can climb Mt Everest … one step at a time.”
Your goals must be relevant to you, meaning they are consistent with your reason, vision and core values. Finally, you need to set a realistic date or time period to drive action.
Now you have some clear goals and focus, how to keep motivated?
Motivation and visualisation
People often associate high emotion, passion and drive with the word ‘motivation’. One person who embodies this is Laurie Lawrence, Motivator Speaker, Olympic and World Champion Swim Coach and Australian Rugby Union Representative. You may not get as excited as he does, but to be successful you certainly need to be emotionally invested in your goals.
“Motivation really is an internal thing. You can’t make people do anything, so they have to decide they really want it. If they want it then you can help them,” says Laurie.
He explains that you must take ownership of your goals by putting some emotion into it. “It’s gotta hurt if you don’t get it,” says Laurie
How do you get motivated or excited about your goals? A powerful technique that elite athletes use is visualisation. Take a moment every day to read your goals then use all your senses to picture how you would feel when you have finally achieved them. How would it impact your life? This energy and emotion is what you want to capture to motivate you to overcome the hard stuff and take action.
Once motivated, the next step is to be committed to take action regularly.
Commitment to good habits
Commitment is not a wavering emotion but the non-negotiable mindset that comes from a subconscious habit. Do you question or even think about cleaning your teeth at night? No, because you have repeated this behaviour enough times to create a positive habit.
Aristotle told us “We are what we repeatedly do.”
While Aristotle may have it right about the importance of repeating a behaviour to create a habit, modern research also indicates that you must believe you can change.
“You do need the capacity to believe that things will get better,” says J Scott Tonigan, Research Professor, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico.
Inspiration can come from a role model or the support of a group or community. Laurie Lawrence reiterates the need for most of us to have someone like a coach to keep us accountable and on track.
“You’ve got someone there pointing you in the right direction, saying, ‘Good job, you’ve done this well.’ It’s very hard to do things on your own. There are some individuals that are so steely minded and so single minded that they can do it. I believe those are few and far between,” says Laurie.
Understanding the process of creating habits is critical. According to Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of the Habit, a habit is a 3-step process within our brains.
“First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.”
Cue + Routine + Reward = Habit
For example, if you want to start running, the cue would be leaving your running gear beside your bed. The routine would be running first thing in the morning before your day starts, and the reward that reinforces your discipline could be physically feeling the endorphins, the sense of accomplishment from actually achieving a goal, or a small treat – not necessarily food.
A great way to change an old habit is to keep the same cue and same reward but modify the routine: If you want to give up coffee, swap it for herbal tea.
As Duhigg tells us, “Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.”
So with the right direction provided by S.M.A.R.T goals, emotive motivation and commitment via your habits, you will be unstoppable to successfully achieve those resolutions!