Why New Years Resolutions suck and why I don’t set goals.

IMG_2005It kills me that millions of well-meaning people are setting themselves up for disappointment and frustration, even a I type these words. You see, today is December 31st: New Year’s Eve. A day when hope is high and good intentions are birthed via the “new year, new me” mentality.

For years, I have scoffed at the concept of setting New Year’s resolutions. I liken these flimsy promises as the “drive-through fast food of personal achievement”. If you were going to compete in a full Ironman Triathlon, you’d no sooner fuel up a drive-up window than you would tie dumbbells to your waist when attempting to swim the 2.4 miles of the triathlon.

Yet, instead of looking at success as a marathon (or triathlon), many people leave their dreams to chance by whimsically declaring “this is the year!’ and hoping for immediate results.

Let me be clear: I’ve done it, too. I’ve stood at the threshold of midnight on many-a-New-Year’s-Eve and declared that I would conquer the world. I’ve also set lots of goals, and in some cases, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. And I’ve seen the high failure rate (some studies indicate over 70% of New Year’s resolutions fail before the third week of January) and frustration that ensues.

Instead, allow me to offer a different approach:

1. Set priorities, not goals.
As great as the initial hit of inspiration feels to write out goals and set intentions, there is very little long-range value in traditional goal-setting. In my experience, setting “SMART” goals is flat-out dumb because there is very little in the way of strategy, and almost total emphasis on the goal itself. I could go on all day about his, but suffice it to say, if you really want to make this year your best ever, narrow your focus on your Top 3 Priorities for the year and let your “goals” power you through the year. Use these smaller goals as checkpoints along your path to indicate whether or not you’re on course to your overall mission. For instance, if your priority is to get in the best shape of your life, one goal may be to drop 10 pounds in 6 weeks. Track your progress toward that goal and see if your strategy is serving the bigger mission or needs some adjustment.

2. Get clear, then get going.
A major deficiency in setting New Year’s resolutions is a lack of clarity most people feel when setting them in the first place. A typical almost-midnight conversation might go like this…
Your friend: “So, what are your New Year’s resolutions?”
You: “I’m gonna lose weight, make more money, get out of debt and find my soul mate!”
Naturally, everyone is unique, and we all have different motivations in life, but what is surprising to me is how nebulous many folks are when it comes to defining their desires in exact detail. Instead, get really specific on the desired outcome. If you wanted to get in great shape, for instance, what is your EXACT desired body weight and composition? Once you’re clear on what you want, get moving. Literally. Action is the jet fuel of success.

3. Connect to your WHY.
This is a huge oversight in traditional goal-setting. “SMART” goals speak nothing of the meaning of the goal, the connection to your purpose, and the deeper importance of it’s attainment. It has been my experience as a success coach that most people do not know their WHY, and are scared to death at the prospect of not knowing their purpose in life. However, doing a little deep exploration of these areas will reveal HUGE insights into not only what a person wants in life, but how to go about making it a reality.

4. Focus on the process, not the result.
Stress, overwhelm, procrastination and frustration love the moist, damp, dark recesses of traditional goal-setting and it’s emphasis on results. Look, I love results as much as anyone. I make my living off helping my clients get results. However, if the entirety of your focus is on the result alone, it is only a matter of time before the pavement of life races up to slap you in the face. I do not care what the high-profile “gurus” tell you. If you truly want results—long-term, sustainable results—then shift your focus on doing great work. Allow the results to inspire you and notify you that you are on track, but commit yourself to the process. If you commit to the process over the results, success will never soften you and failure will never stop you. Focus your attention and energy on doing what it takes to make the result and outcome a reality. This is another reason whey I despise vision boards. If you want to slap pretty pictures up and stare at them all day, be my guest. But include imagery of you executing with confidence, clarity, consistency and proficiency. THAT is what leads to results.

5. Drop the “No Plan B” attitude.
You gotta love the dreamers. Those idealistic souls who believe that as long as their will is strong and their intentions are pure, there is nothing that can stop them. Until their initial plan falls apart. Flying combat missions in the skies over Afghanistan as a surveillance and reconnaissance pilot, and serving on the ground in Iraq as a military-liaison officer taught me that even the best-laid plans can fall apart seconds into the mission. Then what do you do, fold your tent and call it a day? Not an option if your mission matters. Realize that you will hit barriers and road blocks. Get comfortable with the fact that heartbreak and setbacks happen to everyone from time to time. You can have the best plan in the world, but if you do not build in contingency plans “just in case”, you are setting yourself up for massive disappointment. Be unreasonable in your pursuits, but pragmatic in your approach.

You have everything you need to accomplish anything you want. This can be your best year yet, all you need is a little focus, clarity, strategy and a dose of mental toughness. You got this. Make this year one to remember.

Fly High, Fly Fast, Fly Far.
~JT

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