We are well into the new year and many of you have set resolutions and goals for the new year. This is a very common ritual after the holidays after all the parties, gatherings and holiday revelry. We tend to reflect on the prior year to see what we have accomplished, where we fell short and what we need to focus on in the new year.
This is something that we should be doing all year around and not just at the end of the year but the coming of a new year tends to trigger reflection and a desire for change. I highly encourage everyone to look at all areas of their lives, their health, their relationships, their career, their finances and their spirituality, to assess where they are and how they can elevate each of these areas. The problem is that most people do not approach goal achieving in the right way.
For example, a lot of people set the goal of losing weight in the new year. This is why fitness centers are usually busy in early January. But visit the same fitness center in late February and you will see that it is not as busy. This is because most people who set new year’s resolutions and goals will not stick with them and this is the problem.
So what is needed in order to set goals and follow through on them? There are only two things that are needed and they are priority and consistency. What I mean by priority is setting goals in the areas of your life that demand the highest attention.
For example, if you are an entrepreneur and financially well off but you are 50 pounds overweight with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea does it make sense to focus all your goal setting focus on increasing your business revenue to the exclusion of your health?
Now I’m not saying that entrepreneurs should not be reassessing their business to see how they can provide more value to their customers and increase their revenue. What I am saying is if that entrepreneur is overweight and unhealthy his health should be his primary goal setting focus more so than his business.
Another example is if someone is quite healthy and fit but his marriage or romantic relationship has been rocky. This person can continue to maintain his health as he has been but his goal setting focus should be on determining what is wrong in his relationship and how he can remedy it or if he needs to end it and move on.
Now let’s look at consistency. In order to accomplish any goal that we set we must be consistent. The problem is that most people get excited as the new year rolls around, set high and lofty goals and do not have any consistent plan in place to achieve those goals. This is why most people give up on their resolutions by the end of winter.
If you set out to achieve anything, you should be taking an action step in the direction of what you want to achieve almost every single day. It does not matter if how big that step is. Even if it is a tiny step, you must do it. For example, if you want to improve your health and have not been physically active for years, you should be doing at least the bare minimum exercise on a daily basis, even if it is only walking 10 minutes a day.
The problem is how to maintain this consistency. The way to do this is to get the goal and the steps to achieve it out of our heads and onto paper. You do this by keeping an annual planner in which you write out your goals and the steps that you are going to take over the next day, the next week, the next month, the next six months and beyond to achieve your goal.
Now these don’t all have to be big steps but you must account for all of the above time periods. For example, if you are trying to lose weight you might start by first cutting out all added sugar from your diet for the first few weeks and make a conscious effort to do this. You may also want to schedule in regular physical activity even if it is only ten minutes of walking a day.
Remember, it is more important to make small consistent steps towards your goal than to make inconsistent huge steps because the former will get you to your goal quicker. In addition, you need to plan out goals that have the highest priority in your life. What areas of your life are demanding your attention urgently and that you need to focus on right now?
My suggestion is that you start out with two major goals at first and once you can maintain consistency over a period of at least 3 to 6 months with these then you start adding more goals. Therefore, in order to ensure that you achieve the goals that you set for yourself, you need both priority or urgency and consistency as I have outlined above.
I urge you right now to examine your life to see what areas need your immediate attention to start prioritizing your goals. Pick two goals and then start planning out the actions you will take towards them, daily, weekly and monthly. If you approach your goals in this way you will have a higher chance of success, both now and into the future.
Nauman Naeem MD