This method helps people internalize priorities, identify solutions, plus implement with better motivation and time priorities. I developed this process for my own use, then shared with students and clients who also used this approach with better results. Their feedback helped us improve.
In this article, you will receive a brief discussion of why many resolutions fail and how to reach more goals. A few examples add insight. You can link to the planbook to review or download to print.
Goals and Resolutions. A goal is a desired result. Most people “state” goals, few “set” them. To set a goal means to identify clearly the desired result and strategy to create the result.
A resolution is an important goal you “resolve” to fulfill. Resolution requires decision. Important decisions usually merit a process of planning to identify desired results, options, and solutions.
Research—mine and others—estimates 50% of people quit on resolutions within one month. This process will help you persevere on the important and come closer to doing your best!
7 Answers that increase your chances of success:
If you answer these seven questions as an outline for your plan, you will make better decisions and increase successes. You will internalize better the results you seek and why you should follow through, plus have a plan that helps you invest enough time to give you a chance to succeed.
The Accomplish More Goals planbook expands on 7 Key Questions to Answer and provides a template so you can write your plans, actions, and results:
1. Mission (Identify and state the Primary Purpose).
2. Vision (List Desired Results).
3. Solutions (Strategy that could work if you decide to implement, including actions, time, and other resources needed).
4. Motivation (Results if you succeed–and if you quit, why you should persevere when grit is needed)–this one often gets overlooked though can be most powerful. “Feel” the results of success as well as failure.
5. Choice (Decide if your resolution results are worth the time and resources—if not or not now, let go; if yes, go for it).
6. Structure for Success (Create appointments and actions to set up your process with successful habits)–if you seek to do something new or better, pick good times to do them and what to reduce to make that time.
7. Assessment and Accountability (Set up how to stay on tract and arrange for positive feedback you need)–if you will do better with an accountability partner, admit it and invite someone to work with you, perhaps for a set amount of time or until you reach a milestone. As you mature in your thinking and behavior, accountability can come less often.
Key reasons many fail at important goals:
Do not get started effectively with time priorities because they do not plan for the hours needed to invest and blocks of time for when can work, which can include appointments with self and others. If you need a few hours per week to succeed, you likely need to block time on your schedule until you form a habit. If you are not good at doing this (yet), make appointments with others to make you more likely to follow through.
Many try to add good actions without identifying what to reduce to make time for the new priorities.
A common sense reality check helps: if you need 1-2 hours per day to get something done and do not plan how to implement that time commitment, most fail and often never know why.
New results often require re-defining balance and habits for awhile. For example, an Olympic athlete or a working professional going back to school at night for a few years chooses to invest more time in bigger goals and less time in less important activities like excessive tv, social media, or “hanging out.” The average person spends 20-30+ hours weekly watching TV or on social media, though when you ask them how much of that adds value, the number of hours needed drops significantly.
The dedicated Olympian or parent going to school to make a better life makes better choices—at least until the competition or course work is completed. Time for self and social life is important though if the time gets excessive, putting life improving goals at risk, it shifts from “renewal” to “escapism.” You can start your week planning to watch TV you like. For the rest, ask yourself, is it important or escapism? You many need more inspiration and energy to press on “after 5”–if so, you may need goals for improved health to support the other goals you have.
In The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker recommends assessing our vision for time use and what we actually do several times per year. Research supports, humans spend less time on valued priorities and more time on low priorities than we think. Assessing time use can provide a reality check that might give you motivation to change habits.
Lose motivation and focus on the result and inspiration felt at the time of setting the resolution. Inspiration often wanes within weeks. For resolutions stated at New Year, many lose motivation when they get back within their “comfort zones” in place before Thanksgiving. During the holidays, eating more, putting more sugar in what we eat, less time to stay fit, spending more money, and the like are increased.
It’s fairly easy to feel instinctive motivation to get back on track because you do not feel as well physically or personally because of holiday activities. When your body and spending feel better, your instinctive motivation often goes away. If you want to be better than where you were pre-Thanksgiving, you can put leverage on yourself to create better comfort zones (expectations of yourself).
Solutions often include reading your plan daily to internalize a better vision and stay focused, doing your improved plan with a partner, and associating with more people who value what you are trying to create.
Science supports the benefit of writing your resolution result and plan plus reading it regularly, preferably aloud, to internalize the vision and inspiration. Some psychiatrists and scholars call this “educating your conscience.” Better behavior starts with better thinking.
“Go with the flow” is a great goal. However, many people often hurt themselves by saying they are going with the flow before they have designed a good flow of priorities and actions based on purpose and values. “Following the crowd” does not always lead to happiness.
Once you have designed your life to reflect your purpose and plan, going with the flow works better. Plans rarely work all the time though if you have one you can adapt better and faster. Living in alignment with your beliefs and values is a key to living joyously.
3 Short Stories of Succeeding using this Method:
Writing books. Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Retired, 1943-2017) and I wrote two books after the “9-11” attacks on America, Professionalism Under Stress and Patriotism in Action. We finished on time and budget. We used the plan template to outline what we wanted to do, why, and how, then decided and signed the accountability partner agreement together.
If you want to keep a promise, ask a West Point graduate and former officer trained in doing “the harder right” to be your partner. It’s true, we sometimes keep more promises to others than to ourselves. I was more determined to keep promises to him and he kept his commitments to me. If you have a big enough “why” and internalize the importance to you and others you value, plus outline a plan with time commitments so you have a chance to succeed, then you can do most anything if you persist and adjust long enough.
Graduating school. I finished my doctoral dissertation and graduated a year faster than expected mainly because I realized I needed to change how I spent my time. In the final year of “residence” I was investing 12 hours daily–enough–though I assessed my time use and learned I had to find a way to invest more hours in the “main thing”–research and writing my dissertation. Like most students, I felt motivated and busy though an honest assessment of how I was spending my time motivated me to change time priorities that made the difference. I “looked in the mirror” and did not like what I saw in terms of a few time habits, but if I had not I would not have graduated that year.
Stopping bad habits. A grandmother attended my weekend workshop on “Goals and Resolutions” years ago at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She confessed privately, she had tried to quit smoking for years. Question 4 (Motivation) helped her the most.
I asked her questions until she got clear on her “why.” She concluded, “I want to live long enough to see my grandchildren graduate. Smoking might prevent that.”
Her answer was genuine, raw, and truthful. She was at risk of dying earlier than needed–and she was doing it to herself.
The good news was, she was tired of failing and fearful. Negative emotions can help you if you face them and want change enough.
She seemed ready to hear a “jugular” suggestion: she would post a photo of her grandchildren on her mirror and ask each morning, “which is most important: my grandchildren or my cigarettes?”
She grimaced at first at the reality behind her previous answer, then she grinned and said, “I see what you are doing.” She paused, thought, realized it was her choice, then, decided to quit smoking. She had the “how to stop” for years but finally she had her “why” that gave her the “grit” needed. Using this process, she improved her plan, but the main difference was the instinctive motivation and choice.
She internalized her desire to experience the graduation milestone in life of her grandchildren and she wanted to show her love for them. That vision overpowered the short-term longing for the taste of cigarettes that could end her life sooner and keep her from her goal to support her family.
What’s your purpose? What inspires you? What’s holding you back?
Whether you call your answer a goal or a resolution, you owe it to yourself to periodically ask and answer what is most important to you and those you love. If you are not creating the results you desire, “look in the mirror.” Following a process to set and achieve goals increases results.
To see the preview of the Achieve More Goals Planbook and have the option to download and print, go to the Life Leaders publication web page.
If you value my offerings, you are invited to subscribe to this journal to receive notices via email of new posts. If you feel inspired to take additional action with Life Leaders and me, I invite you to let me know.
Dr. David Dyson’s professional callings focus on helping people to PLAN and LEAD in LIFE. You can subscribe to follow this journal at no cost to you. If you value this work and want to help students in school or universities or professionals in your organization to live and work closer to our best-selves, you are invited to write to David@LifeLeadersInstitute.org for discussion of ways you and your institution can increase impact and branding for developing people.