Sometime in late January or early February, you start to see the signs. The gym begins to clear out. Your colleagues are back to cheeseburgers instead of salads for lunch. And that time you and your office pals carved out for personal development or acquiring a new skill keeps getting pushed back on the calendar.
It’s that time of year when many people abandon their new year’s resolutions. It’s probably no surprise, since only 8% of us accomplish them anyway.
But what if those big goals weren’t dead in the water after all? What if we could recommit to them, but do so in a way that makes us more likely to succeed?
It’s possible, says Steve Farber, president of Extreme Leadership, Inc. and author of The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership, and other books. With a little self-reflection and some attention to setting yourself up for success, you can get back on track to make those resolutions a reality. Follow this six-step plan.
Look at why you set the resolution in the first place, Farber says. Ask yourself, "Is this intrinsically motivating or am I doing it because I feel I have to?" It’s important to be honest here. When you set a goal and are driven by an authentic reason that you want to accomplish it, that combination can keep you doing the things you need to do for success, he says.
In addition, evaluate the idea or goal. By asking yourself a few key questions, you can better identify which are worth pursuing—and which might best be left in the dust.
Sometimes, we give up our goals because they’re too overwhelming. In those cases, you may just need to make the steps smaller, says leadership coach Tyler Parris, author of Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organization. If you’ve stumbled, ask yourself if you’re trying to do too much too fast, and calibrate your expectations to be more in line with what you can manage.
But don’t get too comfortable. Growth happens when you’re just outside your comfort zone, Parris says. Make the steps manageable, but not so easy that you’re wasting time not doing more.
Farber says that one of the best things you can do to get back on track is to get help doing so. Whether you need a coach or mentor to keep you accountable, or you simply need a friend who can give you a pep talk and a bit of motivation, think about what assistance will help you move toward your goals.
"Resolutions, goals, vision, anything that's future-oriented, we tend to think of as a lonely venture, that it's up to me to do this by myself. It's a good time to stop and ask who it is that I can reach out to for help, for support, for guidance, for resources, for coaching, for encouragement, and realize that not only do I not have to tackle this alone, but I shouldn't," he says. Be sure to tap your own network as well as look for external help. Farber says we often overlook people we know who can give help and inspiration.
All of the introspection and help in the world isn’t going to work if you don’t make the time to accomplish your goals, says executive coach Alexandra I. Levin, cofounder of The Back Forty, a coaching organization that helps people make changes in their lives. However, this can’t just be the leftover time that you have after everything else gets done. You’ve got to prioritize the time you need and treat it as non-negotiable, she says.
If you’ve stumbled after telling people about your goals, you may also be dealing with feelings of embarrassment and shame. Those aren’t helpful, but it’s important to not just ignore them, either, Farber says. Find a friend, coach, or counselor with whom you’re comfortable being honest. And don’t let other peoples’ opinions stand in the way of moving toward your goals.
Once you’re making progress again, set smaller interim goals or observe milestones, and celebrate them when you reach them. Keeping motivated along the way will help you keep up momentum, she says.