New Years Eve 2011 London

New Years Eve 2011 London (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Its that time of year again. we all look inwards (and outwards I guess) and focus for a time on those parts of our lives we wish we could improve, or change for the better. Maybe you want to lose weight (!) get fit, get a new job or do better at your current one. Move house, go on holiday or get a promotion. It seems a great idea at the start of the year and can fill us with a sense of purpose and hope that sees us rush into life energised and excited about whats to come.

But it rarely lasts. For some reason the excitement often drifts away. The resolutions are diluted or we get distracted by the ‘day to day’ until they are nothing but a bit of a guilty memory.

Its always fascinated me, this falling off the resolution wagon. These things are obviously important to us, but I guess not important enough. At least not in the face of the more prosaic stuff we have to deal with.

I think if someone could come up with a fool proof way to ensure people could stick to resolutions, or any kind of self improvident plan, they surely would be on to a major money making opportunity! Having said that, there are a lot of ideas and techniques out there that people seem to think will help. Here are the three I like the best:

Dream v. Goals

A lot of us are familiar with the idea of goals, and especially SMART goals or objectives: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (or Realistic) and Timed. And in all honesty, I have always used this appraoch to great effect, and would continue to advocate this approach going forward.

However, it is often the case that failing to achieve a goal, especially one as clearly defined as a SMART goal is a good way of feeling bad about yourself. Ask any sales person that ever missed a target about that one!

Rather, focusing on the ‘dream’ that the goal relates to, or the dream the goal is a road map to achieving, is a brilliant way to stay focused and to ensure yourself against the bumps in the road.

For instance, Michael Finnegan tells a story of how his Mum learned to fly a helicopter by keeping the picture of herself flying over the family garden, waving to her grandchildren at the forefront of her mind as a way of seeing it all through. I can’t imagine how complicated learning to fly must be? But I can imagine how powerful that picture she used must have been.

Making the ‘dream’ as real as possible is the trick to this technique. trying to imagine what success, whatever that means, looks like, feels like or even smells like is what it is all about.

When you have that clear picture as fully formed as possible, then you need to hold it as tightly to you as possible, and literally use it as a touchstone to guard yourself against the distraction of the day to day.

Daily / Weekly / Monthly Disciplines

This is inspired by Anthony Iannarino over at The Sales Blog. A daily and invaluable read for me. This idea is really simple, which is why I like it so much, but can be extremely powerful.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino

Detail what you have to do on a daily / weekly / monthly basis in order to win at whatever it is you have set out to achieve. Then make sure you complete those tasks, those disciplines if you prefer.

These disciplines are somewhat different from goals as they may be more practical. But they will be essential to the success or otherwise of your venture.

It might be to limit the answering of emails to two 30 minute sessions a day, an example Anthony himself gives, or maybe booking two client appointments into your diary each day. Weekly disciplines can be ticked off at the end or beginning of the week, and monthly ones considered at the relevant set time.

Simply, this is about breaking your job, or the dream you have decided upon for the year, down into daily weekly and monthly disciplines, the things that you physically have to do in order to achieve the outcomes needed, and doing them, and then ‘ticking them off’. Great idea, thanks Anthony!

Three, Single Word Themes

Another idea nicked from someone else, this time from Chris Brogan, and actually referenced by the above mentioned Anthony Iannarino, and the brilliant Mitch Joel I notice too.

This is what Chris says about the three words:

Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan (Photo credit: Brian Wilkins)

‘In an effort to tell bigger stories, I’ve found that the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals instead of what most people do when they focus on just a finite task. It’s a bit like turbo-charged goal planning’

The idea isnt so much as to focus on one word, its to have an entire approach summed up by that word. The other thing Chris talks about that I like is that each word should be postive in spirit not negative.

He gives a great example of not using the word ‘Fat’ but rather ‘Fit’! Makes sense doesn’t it? He then goes on to further explain that the more complex word ‘athlete’ or even marathon runner’ would be even better.

Read the whole article and see what Anthony Iannarino and Mitch Joel have had to say on the subject too, and chip in with your own three words for the coming year. Its seems a very worthwhile approach to me I must say.

And what about you? Do you have a sure fire way to make sure you stick to the path? Or maybe you have insight into why we tend to drop off the path in the first place?

I’d love to hear about it!

Leave me a comment below, or email me directly on [email protected]

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6 replies
  1. Debbie Leven
    Debbie Leven says:

    I think it’s so easy to get beaten down by goals when you feel you are making little headway. Or, they can become overwhelming when you have set backs. The idea of breaking it down into monthly, weekly and daily activity is really important. Reminds me to go back to ‘Pick Four’ – Zig Ziglar’s goals programme.

    I love the idea of picking some key words and re-shaping your thoughts around that. I’d also add that being vocal about your goals can be very powerful and help to incentivise. So too is support from the people around.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Quite right there Debbie, and thanks for taking the time to comment. This three words idea seems to be pretty big this year, I’ve just read mark Schaefer’s post about the same thing…
      I think its really important to try to take the emotion out of your goals. I think the reason I have found SMART objectives such an effective tool for me personally is that I have never allowed myself to beat myself up over business failings. You take a risk, you win, great! You lose, also great, because then you get to learn too!

  2. seangrey54
    seangrey54 says:

    Hi Tony, enjoyed your article. It is a facinating subject as it seems by the end of the month up to 90% of us will have given up on our New Year Resolutions. Such a high failure rate may suggest that willpower, determination and planning is no match for the destructive force of the inner crtic that runs the show. The power of a positive affirmation lies in the “tail ender” which often lies unchallenged. For example you may say to yourself, “I am going to exercise three times a week,” as you say this a little voice says; “Who are you trying to kid, you’ve tried this before and failed.” Or, you want to give up smoking and eat healthier. You’re fine for a few days until you have those cravings and hear that voice tempting you with; “Go on just have that one cigarette,” or, “one slice of cake won’t hurt.” You try and be positive, but the real power is in that negative voice . . . ever ready to spoil the party! The good news is that voice can be silenced by using energy therapies such as EFT. So, for any of the 90% that struggle to keep to their goals at this time of year there is hope. Best wishes for 2013 Tony to you and your family. I am just off to the gym . . . maybe?

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