November 1. It might be just another day on your calendar, but, for me, it’s when I begin working on my New Year’s resolutions. The process starts with an assessment of last year’s resolutions and a comparison of what happened during the year. I take a hard look at the positives and negatives in both my personal and my professional life, and I write down my successes, failures, and any other significant accomplishments and events. When complete, it provides a bird’s eye view of what happened, and it shows what I was unable (or unwilling) to accomplish.
Next, I write down specific goals relating to my personal life, work, music and other areas, all of them focused on moving forward. The common thread between all my resolutions is that they’re meant to improve my overall quality of life, both personal and professional.
Once you’ve written your goals, it’s human nature to want to hit the ground running. We’re full of excitement and determination that our resolutions will be lasting and life changing. We vow that this is it. We are going to lose weight, make more money, save money, pay off bills, find a new job, improve relationships, etc.
Then…life happens. We get busy, overloaded and overwhelmed. This causes us to lose our focus, and distractions derail our progress. In most cases, it’s a gradual process that innocently begins with one or two actions. However, if left unchecked, our good intentions fade into the background and we end up back at square one. But, this time, with guilt, along with damage to our confidence.
What I’ve described happens to many of us. In fact, one study by the University of Scranton found that only eight percent of people who set resolutions are successful in sticking with them. The biggest reason why we fail is that the goals are simply unattainable. The key is to create goals that are realistic and, if you do fail, to rebound as quickly as possible by adjusting the goal to make it more manageable and, thus, attainable.
Evaluate How Attainable Your Goals Truly Are
Perhaps you’ve set a goal to get up early every day and take a two-mile walk. Although, on the surface, this sounds like a great goal and an activity that would contribute to your overall health, it might quickly become overwhelming. That’s especially true if you’re a night owl and you have trouble adjusting to your new sleep schedule. Getting up every day to do physical activity on less sleep will certainly take a toll. A resolution should not compromise your sanity or the balance in your life.
One Bite at a Time
A former coworker had a sign hanging on the wall inside his cubicle. It read, “How Do You Eat an Elephant?” And, underneath, in his own handwriting, he had written, “One Bite at a Time.” This was the one guy in the office who always volunteered for every project and task. Although I admired his enthusiasm, it was hard to see that look on his face when he was overwhelmed and struggling, as a result of taking on much more than he could handle.
This applies to how you should approach your resolutions. Use this as a reminder not to allow yourself to become overwhelmed by your goals. You should make every effort to break them down into manageable “bites.” Not everyone handles this in the same way. Some will ignore the “elephant” and pretend that the enormity of the challenge will magically fix itself. That posture will quickly contribute to failure. Others will hang on and “negotiate” with the elephant. They will make concessions and adjustments on the fly, which will ultimately change the overall scope of the original goal and push things in another direction.
The only way to truly “eat the elephant” is to map out each bite and enjoy the rewards of every accomplishment along the way. Mastering the small steps and then adding to them over time is certainly less overwhelming, and it makes it more likely that you will stick to your goals. This is also how we actually get good at something new and mold it into a habit.
Feeling as though you’re failing can be discouraging, but one of the lessons we learn from failure is that we have a clear vision of what didn’t work. They say that hindsight is 20/20, right? This is extremely valuable in finding the path to success. It helps us move on, and it provides motivation for trying new things. You’ll never find the “right way” of doing something unless you are willing to fail.
Stay away from becoming Chicken Little. The moment an obstacle appears, don’t run around screaming, “The sky is falling!” Rather, take on the attitude that life is going to get in the way, and disruptions will happen. You’ll be setting yourself up for failure if you fall into a defensive position and channel all your energy into trying to fix things. Expect setbacks. Make them part of your plan for achieving your goals. Embracing them can be a great teacher in learning patience, and for life in general.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
A great deal of information can be learned if we are willing to set aside our pride and listen. Although some people can work through obstacles themselves, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask for help. The key is to know when to ask, and whose help to seek. Depending on the goal, turn to people who you know have had similar experiences and who you believe will give you honest advice.
Believe in Yourself
Stay positive about your progress. Share it with your family and friends. Post selfies on Facebook! Read and respond to comments. Positive changes will happen if you re-train your brain and stay on track. You cannot create permanent change without modifying your core beliefs and attitudes. As they evolve, so do you, as you move ahead on a positive and rewarding journey based on your deepest faith in who you really are.
Although the New Year brings a tremendous opportunity to enact positive changes in your business and in your life, goal setting can and should happen regardless of the time of year. Key to making a successful resolution is a person’s confidence that he or she can make behavioral changes, as well as the commitment to make those changes. Following through with goals should be seen as an ever-evolving process of trial and error. More importantly, it’s a process of learning and growth. Happy New Year!
David Hall is Retail Sales Manager and Webmaster for Hartland Music, Inc., and the Waukesha County Conservatory of Music, a full-line, 15,000-square-foot, freestanding facility with more than 2,500 students per week. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.