We’re quickly heading into that brief window of time each year when far more people will casually discuss their goals with others: New Years. People at work who seem loath to accomplish much for eleven months of the year, will suddenly start talking about self development goals like seasoned veterans! And yet, the cliche is how short-lived such “resolutions” tend to be. Those who don’t proudly announce their new-found discipline will instead proclaim their defeatist cynicism: “I quit making New Year’s resolutions years ago when I realized I couldn’t keep them for more than a few weeks.”
So why are New Year’s resolutions so commonly broken? Is it that the necessary enthusiasm and intent isn’t really there? Sometimes. But I think it happens just as often that while we’re setting the types of goals that an experienced veteran may hesitate to declare, we proceed to implement them like real life rookies. This year, why not try to set and achieve goals from the seat of experience, paying particular attention to the types of obstacles that need to be avoided, and with a plan for surmounting the obstacles we can’t.
Every goal involves potential obstacles. We can admit this because the very notion of a goal implies action on our part, and if nothing else we all face the potential obstacle of inertia. The tendency to do nothing and remain as we are is a powerful and subtle obstacle. For purposes of discussing our New Year’s resolutions, lets assume that inertia is sufficiently overcome by our enthusiasm to truly make a change in the new year. We are still left with all of the things you can imagine or have experienced in the past that can go wrong. A major impediment to accomplishing our goals is not giving any thought to what can go wrong. What could potentially and totally threaten the accomplishment of our goals?
Let’s say your goal for the coming year is to get up earlier every day. What could so completely derail this goal such that your resolution is only a memory by January 9? One answer is, “Staying up late.” The next question you ask yourself should be, “How can I arrange my life such that it is unlikely that I will be forced to stay up late this week?” (This is obviously an obstacle and a question that has to be addressed every week, if not daily.) From here, you can begin planning to anticipate and avoid each of the obstacles that might prevent you from achieving success.
Using our prior example of wanting to get up earlier every day, what if something totally unexpected and unavoidable happens such that we have to be up later than we would otherwise prefer? That is when we have to confront an obstacle and the confrontation is far more likely to go well if you already have a plan in place for such circumstances.
In this example, perhaps you’ve previously planned that if a night comes when you have to stay up later than usual you will take the following actions to make it easier to get up early the next day:
- Turn up the volume on your alarm
- Program the coffee maker to start brewing at the earlier hour
- Ask someone else for assistance in making sure you get up
- Have a large glass of water before bed to assure you of discomfort once the alarm goes off
(Okay, that last one is kind of silly, but you get the point: BE PREPARED, SCOUT!)
By putting some focused thought into anticipating the obstacles you may face on the way to your goals, and by implementing simple steps to avoid or confront them, your likelihood of success will increase dramatically. Try to avoid making unrealistic goals followed by nothing but inspiration-inflated effort. Give some advance thought to what has taken you off track in the past and what could take you off track in the present and then take action to prevent or address these things.
Best of luck to you in the New Year!
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? And if so, do you have a plan for achieving them that considers potential obstacles? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.