Setting New Year resolutions? I am. I’m a pretty goal-oriented person. I love to set goals. I even track them on a weekly basis. So, then I wonder why I didn’t meet them. The fact is research has shown that 88% of New Year resolutions don’t get met. So this year I’ve decided to do something different.
As I sat to ponder the goals I didn’t meet (lose the 10 lbs I am perpetually trying to lose, make progress on the book I’m writing, be more present for the important people in my life), I felt a bit of shame. Here’s a leadership coach who helps others achieve their goals and can’t quite get there herself. So I decided to do the exercise of celebrating goals met, examining unmet goals, and capturing what I learned. Here’s what I discovered about why I didn’t achieve my goals.
I give in to temptation easily. I get discouraged when I’m confronted with obstacles (someone says “no” and I move to the next easy task rather than persevering). I don’t take failure easily (so I “cheated” on my diet, might as well eat the pint of ice-cream while I’m at it). While I like to plan and set milestones, I don’t often have a plan to resist temptation in the moment. I judge myself quickly if I’m not meeting my goals.
As I reviewed these fits and starts, I realized that these challenges are probably common to most of us. It’s part of the journey of being human and striving for goals. Our striving toward goals is precisely what helps us grow into our potential. So this year as I set goals, my greater focus will be on five leadership practices that will help me develop muscles to meet goals.
Resist Temptation Muscle
Temptation abounds all around us. It comes in the form of chocolate chip cookies, all day “Law & Order” marathons on TV, the next status update on Facebook. Temptation has a purpose. It is so we can develop muscles that help us resist temptation. My new practice to resist temptation is to give myself 10 minutes or 24 hours (depending on the temptation) to “take a deep breath and think” before giving in. I’ve decided that in moments of temptation I will give myself something else to do that is pleasurable and helps me shift perspective (dance to my favorite song, a quick walk around the block). And I will celebrate the resistance to temptation (with something other than a chocolate chip cookie).
Get Curious In Discomfort Muscle
When we set bold goals they require us to get outside of our comfort zones – to create new habits, behaviors, attitudes and actions. These cause us discomfort. Someone says “No” to what we want. We have a hard time saying “No” to someone. We have a hard time asking for what we want. Our normal course of action is to give in to our discomfort by doing whatever will lower the discomfort. My new practice to deal with discomfort is to get curious about what within me is causing the discomfort. Getting curious gets us out of acting from our emotional impulses, or blaming others, into more of our “executive brain” so we can make the right choices.
Focus on Progress Muscle
We often tend to focus on the gap between where we are and the goal we need to get to. On the other hand positive energy is released when we focus on how much progress we have made. My new practice is to start with progress I’m making and celebrate that – even if that means developing stronger muscles in these practices.
Practice in the Now Muscle
No moment like the present to take action toward our goals. Yet, many of us create elaborate plans and don’t manage to take action in the present toward those plans. The most successful people pursue their goals in the Now – not in an hour, not tomorrow. My new practice here will be to adopt the perspective of “Nike” and just do it!
Develop the Learning & Resilience Muscle
The practice is to stop when I see myself in “failure” or hit an obstacle. My new practice is to give myself the gift of stopping and learning more, taking a breath and reframing, rather than judging myself (and going for that other pint of ice-cream). It is to remind myself that obstacles have a purpose. It is to help us develop our resilience muscle.
So try these practices or come up with yours to help you build the muscles to achieve your goals. As I looked at my list, I realized that these practices actually helped me achieve the goals I did achieve, so I already have these muscles. I just need to practice some more. We all have these muscles. They got us to where we are.
After all, in the famous words of Henry David Thoreau “what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”.
Wishing you an abundant 2014 and hoping you reach toward all that you’re capable of being.
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A version of this post first appeared on my Forbes.com blog.