It is almost impossible not to think about goals and/or goal setting during the month of January. It is, after all, the most popular time for most of us to get motivated and determined to make important changes in our lives.
And if January is the month for hope and determination, perhaps we could say February will be the month of reality checks, dwindling enthusiasm and quivering wills. And for many of us, February could also be the month of disappointment. Statistics show only 8% of people will manage to stick with their New Year resolutions.
This means that no matter how enthusiastic and determined we are today, the majority of our goals and resolutions will likely not pan out the way we intended them to by the end of the year.
All of that said, lately I’ve been less interested in the reasons why some of us have a hard time sticking with goals and more interested in what the 8% does differently. Particularly in the past year, when I've established my biggest goals yet.
Part through personal experience and part through research, I’ve been able to identify at least five things we can use to hack our way to success in 2016 and for years to come.
If you too have set down goals for this year -big or small- and want to become successful at whatever you set your heart to do, I have some simple yet effective hacks for us ahead.
Now, let the goal slaying begin!
1. START WITH WHY
Just like we would ensure our car is filled up with gas before we embark on a long journey, if we are to change direction in our lives, first we need to make sure we know why.
In other words, we should be able to have an answer for the question why do I do the things I do?
For many of us, the answer to why becomes the thing that makes us get out of bed in the morning, put in the extra hours or go the extra mile. Our why is going to be our fuel in the goal reaching journey. But not only that, according to Simon Sinek, it will also make us more confident and thus more effective at what we do.
Needless to say, it’s important that we start with a lot of clarity and self-honesty when we set out to figure out what is our why. Once we have the answer, we put it on paper. We may even draw it, turn it into a song, sculpt it. We do whatever works in a way that is meaningful to us. Once it’s ready, we make sure we gas up by placing it somewhere where we can see it daily.
2. FOCUS ON BUILDING SYSTEMS
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, proposes we shift our focus away from goals and put our energy on systems instead. In his latest book, How to Fail At Everything And Still Win Big, he explains why system oriented people are more likely to succeed:
“Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system”.
This doesn’t mean we are to ditch our goals. But once we’ve identified them, we build systems to reach them and focus on the system instead. Under this approach, we are less likely to become disillusioned or quit if our goal is taking too long or we are not getting the results we expected.
For example, instead of focusing on getting a six pack this year, we can implement a system of going to the gym three times a week to work on our abs and watch what we eat 6 days a week. This approach is more effective than the traditional focus on goals for two reasons. First, having a system increases our odds of success by keeping us constantly moving towards our goal. Second, it keeps us motivated with the satisfaction of sticking with a plan, therefore, we are less likely to give up. I can assure you whether or not the six pack goal is reached, if we were to stick with the system of ab workouts 3 times per week and healthier food, our gut would look substantially better than it would if we were to give up within a month.
3. CULTIVATE SMALL & DAILY HABITS
A wise person once said ‘if you want to know what you’ll be doing in five years, take a look at what you are doing now’.
Or, in the words of Aristotle:
‘We are the sum of our actions, therefore our habits make all the difference.’
It is often the smallest choices we make that end up adding up to have the biggest impact in our lives.
My husband and I call this Doing The Things. The Things vary depending on our goals. It could mean writing one page, one hour of drawing, 50 pushups and 2 planks, 5 prospect calls, 10 minutes of mindfulness, 1 submission. You get the idea. The point is, by practicing daily, we know we are getting closer to reaching our goals.
The best part is, cultivating habits not only move us closer to our goals, but it’s also great for our mood and self-esteem. Whenever I hit a motivational slump or need an extra hit of inspiration, I go back to this post by my favourite artist and husband Geoff Coates:
‘I’m less fixated on the goal these days, because my trajectory is taking me in the right direction. The act of creating something makes me happy.’
It’s the perfect reminder that by Doing The Things we are guaranteed to continueMoving In The Right Direction.
4. GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY
If you are 100% certain you deserve all the success and happiness the world has to offer, just by being alive, awesome! You are doing great! Please skip ahead to the next point.
If, however, you struggle believing that good things flow to you, that your worth is somehow tied to the things you achieve or fall short on, let me tell you, you are not alone.
If this sounds true for you or has been true in the past, I encourage you to become curious of the ways in which we may be getting in our own way. An effective way to do that can be with the help of a trusted coach or counsellor. Or, if you are seasoned at building your self-esteem, keep an eye on it, especially around times of change and goal setting.
5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Participating in life when we are not feeling particularly great physically or emotionally can become challenging at best, debilitating at worst.
If we are to tackle goals and make big changes in our lives, we need to ensure our health and spirits remain high. A simple and effective way to do that is to form a daily habit of gratitude. This has not only been proven to make us happier, but it also does wonders for our health.
My favourite form of gratitude is writing a daily list of at least three things I am grateful for. I do this every morning before I get out of bed and after I set intentions for the day.
That said, there are many different ways to practice. Have fun with it and find something that works for you and that you can stick with every day.
In our family gratitude is not only an important part of our lives, it has become part of Doing The Things.
Being grateful will likely not guarantee success. But we know it will lead to living more positive lives and becoming happier humans. And when we hit the occasional slump or feel discouraged, we can always fall back on gratitude to re-focus and carry on. Think of it as a happy vitamin or happiness insurance.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SUCCESS
Even if we were to put into practice all of these ideas perfectly, at the end of the day, there are no guarantees. No matter how strong our why, how great our systems, how consistent our habits and how high our gratitude and self-esteem, there is a chance we may never reach some of our goals. That is the nature of life.
However, we are convinced that putting energy towards daily habits, systems and living more positive lives will always pay off. By sticking with it, we will continue to grow, hone our skills and even increase the chances that success will find us. We will also become better prepared to try again, and if need be, to set new goals. And who knows, maybe bigger and better opportunities will be presented along the way.
At the end of the day, perhaps the secret behind success is changing the way we define it. By showing up consistently, we’ve already won. We have travelled further than most people have. But more importantly, by following our system, we will have the good fortune of every day doing The Things we love.
And that’s true success, in our books.