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New Year’s Resolutions (Don’t) Suck

Welcome to the new year! Each season has valleys and mountain and lessons to be learned from each situation. We hit some goals and we miss some goals, but we keep walking the path.

It’s time to start thinking about your resolutions and goals differently. A year ago, I talked about the concept of SMART goals and how they feel tired!

My point is the same: The scientific data on SMART goal success shows that, as a strategy for maximizing your impact, they just can’t get the job done.

Leadership consultant Mark Murphy rightly points out that a SMART goal really focuses the goal setter on staying in their comfort zone and working toward something they already know is imminently possible.

He also shares a large-scale study conducted on the topic in a blog on his Leadership IQ website, and concludes that only about:

1 in 10 employees believe that their goals will help them reach their full potential.

Mark advocates an alternative framework for goal setting that he calls HARD goals. You can check out more about in this article written for Forbes.

Finding an effective methodology for setting goals is extremely important, but what I’d really like to discuss is something at a deeper level. What forces are at work on the psychological level when we begin to think about setting and achieving truly transformational goals?

And, how can we begin to harness these forces to start setting the kinds of goals that actually actively “pull” us along toward achieving them?

Grant Cardone says something very important about goals in his book The 10X Rule:

“...one of the major reasons why people don't stick to their goals and fail to accomplish them is because they fail to set them high enough from the beginning...The reality is that if you start small, you are probably going to go small. People's failure to think big enough usually means they will never act big enough...”

He goes on to point out that small goals just aren’t that interesting and when people get bored those goals end up being abandoned. These sound a lot like those mundane SMART goals to me. That’s why Grant suggests going big; it keeps things exciting and interesting, and ultimately that engagement is far more likely to lead to the persistence it takes to accomplish something great.

There is one underlying component to all of this that I’d like to spend just a little time unpacking. Humans are creatures of habit. We see and feel and live examples of this every single day.

One consequence of this though, that we have to be ready to accept and deal with as we begin to change the way that we set and work towards our goals, is that the kind of apathy, frustration, and forfeiture that results from setting ineffective SMART or small goals, has likely become a habit for many of us.

We are accustomed to giving up on our goals. 

We expect to leave things unfinished. We have learned to fail. :(

It is going to feel counterintuitive to set a bigger goal when we have learned to fail at small goals.

Push past that feeling.

Understand that setbacks and adversity are coming, and realize that if you have set the right kind of goal, you won't even think about giving up. The right kind of goal, one that is big and important and inspiring will naturally push you toward achieving it.

The reason we are willing to give up on smaller goals is because in your heart, you know that they don’t matter all that much.

But do not let the acclimation to goal abandonment discourage you from setting a goal that matters. Here is the truth: if you set a goal that matters, you will be far more likely to accomplish it precisely because it matters.

The dawn of the new year really had me thinking hard about all of this.

Most of us like to take the opportunity as the year turns to try and turn over a new leaf ourselves. Even if you can’t shake the cynical idea that resolutions tend to fall flat, there is still much to be gained from the process of reflection. So as you think about what you hope to accomplish in 2019, here are a few great resolutions for leaders to consider adding to your list.

  1. Be more present - wherever you are and whatever you are doing, make sure to keep your focus there.
  2. Take breaks - leaders are notorious for working through breaks and taking their work home. Rest is required for optimal productivity, stop operating at 50-70 percent.
  3. Learn from someone - if you don’t have a mentor, seek one out. If you haven’t read the latest book in your field, listen to the audio version on your commute.

You can read more of my blogs here or follow me along on Linkedin.

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