Why is it that we set goals for the New Year only to find we forget what they were about a month later and never actually achieve them?
The primary reason we don't achieve our New Year's resolutions is because we don’t set new habits. We revert to what we’ve always done. Tim Psychl, a psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa who has pioneered procrastination research for the past 20 years puts it well, “You are making it your New Year’s goal because you keep failing at it”.
How can we avoid the trap of setting goals we don’t achieve in 2018? I propose we look to the experts in goal achievement, the U.S. Navy Seals.
When I worked at AOL, we often had various experts over the years come and train us on how to be better at our jobs. My favorite training by far was led by former Navy Seal Commander, Curt Cronin, then CEO of Kaizen International. I felt so honored to be trained by him.
Curt told a story of how he had lost many of his closest friends all in one day in Iraq when a helicopter went down. One of the biggest things he said that impacted me was that when he came home from deployment he decided to “turn his post-traumatic stress syndrome into post-traumatic growth syndrome instead”.
The result of his trauma experience would become an opportunity for him to grow. Here is what he taught me that I have applied to my personal life goal setting process and you can too.
5 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT GOAL SETTING FROM A FORMER SEAL COMMANDER
1. Define Where You're Going
What is your vision for your life? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Where do you see yourself one year from now? If you haven't defined where you are going and your goals do not ladder up to a greater purpose, you won't accomplish them.
When you feel a sense of mission about something, you commit to it and can remain committed to it when things get hard because you are working toward something greater.
It’s the difference between our Navy Seals saying we’re here to kill a bunch of bad guys today and saying “We’re here to defend freedom”. Killing bad guys is not something that will motivate people for long especially once they’re getting shot at themselves. But defending freedom- that’s a whole other level of purpose that makes risking their lives worth the sacrifice.
Same with setting a vision for our own lives. If we just set goals without crafting a vision, it becomes very difficult to follow through. For example, If I say I’m going to workout and lose 5 lbs. this year. Who cares? That goal alone is not enough to get me to the gym every morning or stop eating donuts, because it’s not connected to any larger purpose.
But if I have a vision of getting married this year and of myself in the perfect dress, my goal now becomes tied to something greater. I’m going to workout and lose 5 lbs so I can fit into that wedding dress. All of a sudden my goal has an important purpose tied to it and a finite date attached. I can use this bigger vision to motivate me not to reach for the donut.
Sometime this week, block off an hour of your day and get a notebook or Evernote. Write down your vision for your life one year from now. Describe what you see. Where do you live, how do you spend your time? Who do you spend your time with? What do you do for fun? What is your family like? What do you do for work? How much money do you have in the bank? Where do you take vacations?
Create a picture of who you see your future self as and this will serve as your mission, your meta purpose.
2. See Things As They Are
In the financial world, this is known as determining your baseline. You’ve got to know exactly where you are right now if you want to go anywhere. You experience the importance of this every time you open your mapping app. You have to input your starting point before you can pull directions.
Back to the losing weight goal. If your vision is to lose weight and become a healthier you, you need to measure what you weigh now, so you can quantify what you have to lose. If your vision is to become a Mom who spends more time with her kids, you have to quantify how much time you currently spend with them now so you can determine what “more time” with them would look like.
Seeing things as they are shows you how far you have to go to get to where you envision yourself to be.
3. See Things As They Could Be
Curt walked us through a vision exercise that I want to repeat with you now. Stand up and reach your arms out straight to your sides like you’re reaching for either side of the room. Now, keeping your arms out to the sides, turn your body and try to reach behind you with your right arm as far as it will go. How far did you get?
Now, go back to the starting stance with your arms out at either side again. This time I want you to envision you are reaching for the left back corner of the room. Picture it? Ok, now reach behind you with your right arm once again. How far did you go?
If I walked you through the exercise correctly, you should have gone way further than the first time you tried to reach behind you and in most cases, should have surpassed the back left corner you were aiming for.
This is an awesome example of the power of seeing things as they could be. If you see yourself writing that book, paying off that debt, owning that home, losing 15 lbs, etc, you have a real target for what you’re aiming for and you will go much further than if you just try to set some resolutions and “do the best you can”. If you see things as they could be, you will likely surpass your goal.
4. Make Things How You See Them
Now it's time to make your vision actionable. You need to make things how you see them. Look at your vision statement you wrote for how you see yourself in 5 years or in one year and now ask yourself “what are the Top 5 tasks it will take to accomplish this vision?”.
If you’ve already written your 2018 New Year’s resolutions, take them out and ask yourself if they advance that vision you have of your future self. If they do, perfect. Keep them as they are. If they don’t or if you haven’t written any goals yet, look at your vision and ask what are the 5 things I can do this year that will get me closer to my vision?
For example, I had written my 5-year vision a few months ago, but I had not yet written my goals for 2018, so I pulled out my vision. My bigger purpose that is evident in my vision is to live an abundant life.
Part of the abundant life I see for my future is paying off my home in 5 years. I pulled out that smaller picture from my larger vision and created a goal for it. I started with seeing things as they are. I currently have a 15-year mortgage. I figured out how much I owe on that mortgage and divided it by 5 to get an annual goal for 2018. Task 1 for me is to hit that annual amount this year. If I do that, it will bring me one step closer to realizing my vision of paying off my home.
I did the same thing for each of the other elements of the 5-year-vision of my future self. This is the first step to making things how you see them.
5. Connect What You Do Everyday To Your Overall Vision
Lastly, you need to connect what you do every day to your overall vision. To do this, you will need to break your top 5 tasks down from annual goals to monthly goals to weekly goals to daily goals.
Back to my own personal example of paying off my home in 5 years. I took the annual 2018 goal and divided it by 12 to figure out my monthly goal, then divided it by 4 to get a weekly goal and lastly divided it by 30 to get a daily goal.
Now I have a target to aim for to each day to make this vision of paying off my home in five years a reality. It will help me because each day I don't spend this money on other things, I can tell myself it's going toward my goal.
Once you have the goals broken down into daily targets, you need to create solutions to get there.
Ask yourself, what do I need to do this year, this month, this week, this day to get to my goal?
What can I sell? What expenses can I cut? How can I make extra money to meet this goal?
Back to the losing weight example, how can I make time to workout for 20 minutes each day? How can I decrease my calorie intake by 300 calories, etc.
When you make your goals bite-sized like this, they become much more actionable and therefore attainable.
2018 can be the year you achieve your New Year’s resolutions. You just need to commit to creating actionable tasks that will correlate to your goals. You can take the below advice of a former Navy Seal Commander for connecting your meta purpose to daily bite sized goals to achieve.
Welcome to Honey & Figs! I'm Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.
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How insightful! I am going to apply these . These 5 goals setting strategies are a bit different than the normal SMART goals. Thanks for sharing.
thanks Denise. Yes, all of the goal-setting articles out there seem to be SMART focused but that is such an old strategy. I was doing that years ago.. so to me this was a helpful different approach for this year.
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