Many people set both personal and professional goals this time of year, but why do some succeed and others fail?
“We often set goals that go against our nature,” says Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the Harvard Business Review article, Make Your Resolutions Stick.
Chamorro-Premuzic says we all have predispositions, character traits, and habits that we have built over many years, and that “most of our New Year’s resolutions and goals involve breaking these patterns, which is very difficult to do and requires a lot of work.”
Also quoted in the article is Joseph Weintraub, founder and faculty director of the Babson Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program, who highlights the importance of having focus.
Both give the experts’ view of how to make the right kinds of resolutions, and how to stay motivated by turning intentions into reality.
1. Be realistic
Weintraub recommends setting no more than three goals — more than that is “too overwhelming” — with a deadline of a year or less. “This is the time to think small— both in terms of the number of objectives and the timeframe in which you plan to accomplish them,” he says.
2. Focus on the positive
While at least one of your goals ought to involve developing an area of weakness, Weintraub cautions against getting hung up on self-improvement. “Too often we focus on what we need to do better,” he says. Instead: “Consider things you’re good at and set goals that leverage those strengths.”
3. Commit publicly
Once you’ve decided on your goals, write them down and share them with others, including your manager, peers, direct reports, and friends and family. “When you make your goals public, you’re committing to them,” says Chamorro-Premuzic.
Stress works in your favor. It helps you focus on the goal
4. Create a plan of action
To accomplish any goal — personal or professional — you need a step-by-step strategy, says Weintraub. Ask yourself: What actions do I need to demonstrate to accomplish this?” If your goal is nebulous — say, for example, to develop a more trusting relationship with your direct reports — you’ll need to think about specific behaviors that will help you, such as taking each of them to lunch individually and engaging with them on a more personal level.
5. Recruit support
An encouraging and supportive network is critical to reaching your goals, says Chamorro-Premuzic. Your support system could include colleagues, mentors, your significant other, a professional coach, or even peers outside your organisation. “They will motivate you and encourage you, and when your morale is low, they will boost it.”
6. Set milestones
When you launch into working toward a new goal, you feel inspired and energised. But as the weeks and months trudge on, that initial excitement wanes, and it can be a struggle to find the time or motivation for it. To ease this problem, work toward short-term targets that bring you closer to your end goal, says Chamorro-Premuzic.
7. Keep perspective
Stress can drive up performance, but it’s important that you “don’t lose perspective” when unforeseen circumstances arise. According to Wientraub, the stress works in your favor. “It helps you focus on the goal,” he says.