Most Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but, by this time of year, most of those goals have been abandoned. Two studies report that only 9 to 12 percent of people stick with their resolutions throughout the year. There are many reasons for this drop off: unrealistic goals, too many goals at once, competing priorities, a lack of tracking, and no definitive plan.
It’s not too late to get back on track. Here is my comprehensive six-point plan that can help you set goals—at any time of year—and achieve them.
Step one: Write it
Write down your goal. “If it’s not on paper, it’s vapor,” quipped Sir John Hargrave. Recognize that your subconscious mind is a powerful magnet for bringing goals into your life. Writing them down is the first step to making them a reality.
Step two: Plan it
Develop a written, detailed plan to achieve your goal. “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” said writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Break down major goals into smaller manageable tasks. Then use daily to-do lists to bring aspirations, desires, and goals into your life. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, break it into small, measurable tasks, such as taking a walk for 20 minutes each day or taking two 10-minute-long walks. Plan the time that will work best for you and mark it on your calendar. Think about possible conflicts and plan ahead so they don’t derail you. For example, if you normally walk outside, but the weather forecast calls for rain, walk through the local mall instead. The more detailed your plan, the greater your likelihood of success.
Step three: Get started
Start the journey today. Taking action helps you overcome inertia, which allows you to develop momentum. That makes it much easier to keep going and get the job done. Lao-Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” If you don’t start your journey, it’s impossible to reach your goal.
Step four: Take action every day
Daily action toward your goal is the most powerful secret of success. It’s better to spend one hour per day every day on a task to get you to your goal than it is to spend five hours on the weekend.
Step five: Persist
Most people try to meet a goal for a little while, but when the results come too slowly, they quit and look for something easier. They don’t realize that if they had hung on a bit longer, they could have achieved their goals and reaped the rewards.
Step six: Believe
Radiate happiness, optimism, and gratitude for what you’ve already achieved in life. People who believe that good things invariably happen to them exhibit behaviors that attract the resources and circumstances they need to achieve their goals. Instead of viewing temporary setbacks with self-doubt, look at them as opportunities in disguise.