Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson both tout the importance of having big goals and going after them.
But if you’re jumping on board the “new year, new me” train, better buckle up for a bumpy ride: Research has found out that only 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
So this year, before you scribble down a handful of ambitious to-dos only to feel discouraged when you fall behind by mid-January, do things a little differently.
According to leadership expert Michael Hyatt’s book “Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals,” these tips can help you set and actually reach your objectives.
Start with the right mindset
First, you have to shift your thinking. We “tend to experience what we expect,” writes Hyatt, calling doubt a “goal toxin.”
You need to “recognize that most of the barriers we face are imaginary,” Hyatt writes. “There are a million thoughts running through our heads, but we alone get to choose what we’re going to believe.”
It not only helps with reaching goals, but multiple studies have found that optimists tend to be physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists, and researchers in another study found that positive thinking can even boost your performance at work.
Craft specific goals
Simply jotting down something vague like “do better at my job” likely won’t cut it. Instead, focus on goals that give you clarity and direction. According to Hyatt, goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, challenging but realistic and exciting.
Writing down your goals is also a must, Hyatt says.
A mix of “achievement goals” and “habit goals,” as Hyatt calls them, is also key. An achievement goal is a one-time accomplishment, something like, “I will get a $10,000 raise by Q3 of this year.” A habit goal represents a new, ongoing, regular activity like, “I will respond to all unanswered emails every week by Friday at 3 p.m.”
Use your “why” as motivation
It happens to the most motivated of us out there: the desire to quit. But the key to follow-through, according to Hyatt, is identifying the “why” behind the “what.”
“When we begin a project, there’s all kinds of enthusiasm,” Hyatt writes. “We’re energized by the surge of excitement that comes from novelty and our own creativity. But that surge is like starter fluid; it’s not the fuel that will see us through the journey. That’s why so many New Year’s resolutions only make it a few weeks. To go the distance with our goals, we need something stronger.”
That strength to push through setbacks and keep your momentum can be found in your underlying motivations. Why did you set your goal in the first place? Remember why you started, and remind yourself of any rewards that will come once you accomplish your goal.
Have strategy to execute
“Most goals fail because we’re missing proven implementation tactics,” Hyatt writes.
One of the best things to do to execute a goal is to break it down into more manageable steps, says Hyatt. Knock out the easy tasks first to develop some momentum.
“Getting some quick wins boosts your mood,” Hyatt writes.
Anticipating obstacles you might face and determining the best course of action to take in advance can also set you up for success, according to Hyatt. So can reviewing your goals daily, weekly and quarterly.
And always remember: “Goals are about growing,” Hyatt writes. “A good goal causes us to grow and mature. That’s because every goal is about the journey as much as — even more than — the destination.”