We all can get wrapped up in setting new resolutions and goals for 2019. That’s fun, until we realize that experts say nearly 90 percent of those optimistically life-altering plans fail. And, that’s never good for our ego. It makes us question ourselves. It makes us want to avoid making future commitments to ourselves. It makes us not just quit our plans to make ourselves better, but it can actually turn us in the wrong direction. The “I want to eat salad for lunch everyday diet,” doesn’t just derail into a simple tuna sandwich and a bag of chips. Our frustration instead leads us to a box of donuts, with a side of fries. So, why try making a fresh start at all?
A study released by the European business school INSEAD reveals some surprising new data that suggests that while goals set too high are bound to fail, setting goals too low can also be similarly bound for failure. In fact, the research shows that when people are tasked with making no change at all, but instead challenged just to maintain the status quo, failure seems almost unavoidable.
- Never shoot for sameness. It makes sense that trying to remain the same can lead to failure, because there is nothing more natural than change. Expect to change. Strive for improvement.
- Make it public. Sharing your goal holds you accountable to achieving that goal. Tell your friends and family. Tell your coworkers. And be vocal about your intentions and progress.
- Make it focused. Being a better boss, becoming rich, or losing weight are hard to quantify unless you get focused and specific with your words. Define each step toward your goal and stay focused only on the next step.
- Make it scalable. While we can all hope to find a Genie to grant us wishes, the truth about achieving any change is that small actions eventually create large results. Don’t be discouraged by small change. Applaud it. It’s part of your process. Weight is lost pound by pound.
- Give it consequences—both good and bad. We all hold ourselves more accountable when consequences are present. If you decide to run a marathon next November, pay your entrance dues now. Don’t wait until you’re marathon-ready because you don’t want to risk losing your registration dues. Set consequences—plan something that stings a little when you fail and celebrates when you succeed.
- If you punish, also reward. While many resolutions focus on quitting negative habits, others should focus on adding rewarding habits. For example, it’s great to say you want to quit smoking or quit eating French fries. But, if you quit something negative, add something you enjoy—like spending a few extra hours with a good friend, painting, or reading more thrillers.
- Seek support. There are few more powerful things in life than knowing someone is cheering for your success. When you set a goal, seek out a person who will support your decision and be your champion. And, even if you’re not chasing the same goal, become a cheerleader for their goals.
- Manage expectations. There’s a reason you didn’t achieve all your goals in the past. You can probably list numerous of them—you got busy, distracted, stressed, and so on. Know that while you’re trying to create change, a lot of your life demands won’t change. You’ll still be just as busy. You’ll still find distractions. And, you need to manage your expectations when setbacks happen. Don’t throw in the towel.
- Accept recognition. This might seem like an odd inclusion to this list, but we’ve witnessed a lot of people who have a difficult time accepting praise for their hard work and efforts. Learn to say ‘Thank you’ when someone praises you for your achievement. Cherish the fact that someone is paying attention. Those words might be the motivation you need to get to the next level.
- Start doing. Advice can come in many ways. Yes, there are psychological, physiological, and social elements included with any intended change you want to make this year. But, ironically, when you achieve your goal, your friends, family members, and coworkers will summarize your achievements in one simple sentence. They’ll say, “You did it!” So, possibly the best advice we can give anyone is this, “Start doing.”
Change is inevitable. It’s going to happen. And, that means we should all focus on setting goals to make the best changes possible. Best wishes in 2019!