As a teetotaller who never smoked and has never been severely overweight, setting new year’s resolutions was not something I did or worried about not doing. However, I have always set goals and, more importantly, ways to achieve them. The start of a new year is not the only time we need to take stock and set goals we’d like to achieve. Birthdays, anniversaries, month beginnings, or simply today is a good day to start! So, if you have not yet set a resolution for the year, perhaps you can today? But why do some people fail to achieve their health and fitness or other life goals while others manage to work so easily and achieve them? Read on to find out how to be more successful at setting goals or to understand why you are someone who is usually more successful at it than others around you.
Remember, this approach applies not just to your health but also to your wealth (professional or business goals) and to your personal relationships. In the end the goals you set and how you go about achieving them is a reflection of yourself and about your state of mindfulness.
Practical Tricks to Use
There are three broad tricks that I find useful to be mindful of…
The first is that of creating a simple hierarchical structure which helps break down the problem into manageable components that then allows you to (a) see sensible goals and (b) help you with the second trick.
The second trick is that of setting a goal but thereafter focusing not on the goal but on the process. Remember, performance is an outcome of the process. You cannot plan performance (the goal), but you can plan the process. Stating “I’d like to lose 5kg in 2014” is all well and good, but meaningless without further thought. A better resolution may be “I am going to cut out sugar in my coffee”. The former was a goal, the latter a process. This second trick then leads on nicely to the third trick.
The third trick is to leverage off what I call “the power of miniscule change”. A small change, when repeated daily (365 days in a year) or weekly (52 weeks in a year) can have a significant direct impact and an even more significant indirect impact. Small changes are easy for us to handle. In the example of the “sugar in my coffee”, if I had two teaspoons a day, on a calculation of fat loss (assuming that sugar was being stored as fat), giving it up would mean a direct loss of 1.3kg of fat in a year. And, if like me, you had four (yes, four!) spoons of sugar in your coffee, moving down gradually in steps to three, and then two, and then one, and then none would lead to a higher probability of success than trying to give up in one go (blech!!). Remember, “the power of miniscule change”! And after seeing the impact of the small manageable change over time, you will soon find yourself being self motivated to make further small changes – a nice cascade effect – again, “the power of miniscule change”!
What else could you do to increase the probability of success? Here are interesting variations that I like to think about:
– mix and match your goals e.g. say your daughter goes to karate class three times a week. Walk her to the weekend class with a healthy drink and sensible snack instead of sending her with a maid by cab. You’d get time with her (family) with exercise (health) and, hey, you’d save money (wealth) and protect the environment! So, you aren’t making a heavy commitment of taking her to each and every class but, perhaps, one day you’ll change your lifestyle so that you could!
– link your goals to the goals of others e.g. if your wife would like to learn salsa this year – why not promise to enrol for at least 12 lessons with her? not a lifelong commitment, but perhaps it might become a lifelong passion?
I’ve been asked by numerous friends what my current set of resolutions is. I have worked through a hierarchical tree (in my head) and have a long list – most of the entries have no specific date tag. They are invariably linked to the achievement of the goals of others. Following my approach to goal setting, process definition and execution, the likelihood of my success is high.
I would like to hear about your achievable goals!
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.