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How To Make Resolutions You’ll Keep

How To Make Resolutions You’ll Keep

This is a time when people make resolutions and think about the changes they plan for the year ahead. 2005 is past; 2006 is lit by a glow of anticipation. The world of blogs is replete with suggestions for suitable resolutions, notes on how best to implement them and motivational pieces to get you started.

That’s not where I plan to go.

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I want to look back to the year that’s past, and try to recall the resolutions I didn’t keep in 2005: all the good intentions that came to nothing; the plans that somehow dissolved as they met reality. What did I want that I failed to act on? What did I hope for, then gradually allow to drift into limbo?


Why do this? Not to berate myself for what I left undone; nor to feel that most useless and pointless of emotions, guilt. What I hope is to learn from what happened—or didn’t happen— and discover things essential for the year ahead.

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There are no failures, only experiments that didn’t work. Every action (including inaction) produces a result; and every result is a way to help you learn more. Maybe you resolved to quit smoking, but are still puffing away on that cancerous weed. Ask yourself what held you back you from your resolve. What was more important to you than giving up cigarettes? The good feelings smoking gives you? The belief that it helps you stay slim? Social pressures? Maybe you resolved to lose weight, but weigh pretty much the same as before. What was more important than being thinner? The pleasure of eating? Relief from loneliness? Bingeing on chocolate or Doritos to offset some unhappiness? Did you fail to keep your plan to get better qualifications because of financial stress—or fear of leaving your predictable rut?

There’s always a reason in what you do, and in whatever you fail to do as well. Most often, it’s linked to your values. They aren’t all equal: the more important values trump the weaker ones. Concern for your health may be one of your values, but if wanting to fit in with your friends ranks higher, you’ll continue to smoke, or drink too much, or spend too much, if that’s what it takes to stay part of the gang. Make all the resolutions you wish. Until you change the relative ranking of your values, nothing in your behavior will to alter for long.

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The point of this exercise is to discover what rational decisions caused you to step away from what you resolved. Which were the values you acted on because they ranked highest? Not the ones linked to your resolutions. If they had been the most important, you’d be looking back on plans made and kept. Something else was stronger, so—completely rationally, if not always consciously—you did what it told you, and walked away from what you intended to do.

Never make resolutions simply because you feel it’s the right thing to do; they won’t have the force of deep, underlying values needed to produce success. Take whatever time you need time to work out what truly counts for you and link any resolutions to that. If your resolutions don’t draw on your strongest values; don’t spring from feelings and beliefs too important to ignore, they will quickly be swept away. You’ll feel bad for a little while, then forget about them—until next January 1st. A few moments of guilt will be your only reward, not success—nor a valuable lesson in self-discovery.

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There are no failures. Your mistakes are experiments every bit as useful as your successes, as long as you learn from them. Don’t rush ahead to a new set of resolutions for 2006 without getting the full benefit from all those you made last year; whether you kept them, lost them or set them aside. Stop, reflect and consider. If you only do that, you’ll have learned the most valuable lesson of them all: the lesson of lifelong learning.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

Achieving personal goals deserves a huge amount of celebration but setting these goals in the first place is a massive achievement in itself.

While the big goals serve as a destination, the journey is probably the most important part of the process. It reflects your progress, your growth and your ability take control and steer your life towards positive change.

Whatever your goal is, whether it’s losing 20lbs or learning a new language, there will always be a set amount of steps you need to take in order to achieve it. Once you’ve set your sights on your goal, the next stage is to take an assertive path towards how you will get there.

The aim of this article is to guide you through how to take action towards your personal goals in a way that will help you achieve them strategically and successfully.

1. Get very specific

When it comes to setting your personal goals, honing in on its specifics is crucial for success.

It’s common to have a broad idea of where you want to go or what you want to achieve, but this can sabotage your efforts in the long run.

Get clear on what you want your goal to look like so you can create solid steps towards it.

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Say you have a vision on retiring early. This goal feels good to you and you can envision filling your days of work-free life with worldly adventures and time with loved ones.

If retiring early is a serious personal goal for you, you will need to insert a timeframe. So your goal has changed from “I’d like to someday retire early and travel the world” to “I’m going to retire by 50 and travel the world”.

It may not seem significant, but creating this tweak in your goal by specifying a definite time, will help create and structure the steps needed to achieve it in a more purposeful way.

2. Identify the preparation you need to achieve your goal

It’s easy to set a goal and excitedly, yet aimlessly move towards it. But this way of going about achieving goals will only leave you eventually lost and feeling like you’ll never achieve it.

You have to really think about what you need to do in order to make this goal possible. It’s all very well wanting it to happen, but if you just sit back and hope you’ll get there one day will result in disappointment.

Self-managing your goals is a crucial step in the process. This involves taking control of your goal, owning it and making sure you are in a great position to make it happen.

In the early retirement example, this would mean you will need to think about your financial situation.

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What will your finances ideally need to look like if you were to retire early and travel the world? How much money will you need to put into your retirement fund to retire at 50? How much extra savings will you need to support your travels? You could also start researching the places you’d like to travel to and how long you’d like to travel for.

Outlining these factors will, not only make your goal seem more tangible, but also create a mind shift to one of forward motion. Seeing the steps more clearly will help you make a more useful plan of action and seeing your goal as a reality.

3. Breakdown each step into more manageable goals

The secret to achieving your goals is to create smaller goals within each step and take action. Remember, you’re looking for progress, no matter how small it may seem.

These small steps build up and get you to the top. By doing this, you also make the whole process much less daunting and overwhelming.

In the early retirement scenario, there are several smaller goals you could implement here:

  • Decide to make an appointment with a financial advisor asking what financial options would be available to you if you were to go into early retirement and travel. Get advice on how much you would need to top up your funds in order to reach your goal on time.
  • Set up and start to make payments into the retirement fund.
  • Research savings accounts with good rates of interest and commit to depositing a certain amount each month.
  • Make sure you meet with your financial advisor each year to make sure your retirement plan remains the best one for you. Research new savings accounts to move your money into to reap the best returns in interest rates.
  • Start investing in travel books, building up a library that covers where you want to go.
  • Think about starting a language course that will help you get the most out of your travel experience.

4. Get started on the journey

Creating a goal planner in which you can start writing down your next steps is where the magic happens. This is where the real momentum towards your dream starts!

Create a schedule and start by writing in when you will start the first task and on which day. Commit to completing this small task and feel the joy of crossing it off your list. Do this with every little step until your first mini goal has been reached.

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In the early retirement example, schedule in a meeting with a financial advisor. That’s it. Easy.

As I mentioned before, it may seem such a small step but it’s the momentum that’s the most important element here. Once you cross this off, you can focus on the meeting itself, then once that’s ticked off, you are in a position of starting a profitable retirement fund…and so the momentum continues. You are now on your journey to achieving your dream goal.

5. Create an annual review

Taking a step back and reviewing your progress is essential for keeping yourself on the right track. Sometimes you can be moving full steam ahead towards your goal but miss seeing the opportunities to improve a process or even re-evaluate your feelings towards the goal.

Nominate a day each year to sit down and take a look at your progress. Celebrate your achievements and how far you’ve come. But also think about changing any of the remaining steps in light of new circumstances.

Has anything changed? Perhaps you got a promotion at work and you feel you can add more to your monthly savings.

Do you still feel the same about your goal? It’s normal for our desires to change over time and our personal goals need to reflect this.

Perhaps you’d like to take someone new with you on your travels and you need to take this into account regarding timelines. Are there any new steps you want to add as a result?

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Remember, reflection is a useful tool in realigning your goal to any changes and it’s important to keep on the right trajectory towards it.

Strive to become the best goal-setter you can be

Having personal goals gives you purpose and the feeling of becoming a better version of yourself.

But it’s the smaller steps within these big goals that the growth and achievement really lies:

  • Whatever your goal is, make sure you get specific on when you want to achieve it. This helps you focus on the necessary steps much more efficiently.
  • Research the actionable steps required to get to the end result and…
  • Break these down into smaller, manageable goals.
  • Create a daily or weekly schedule for these smaller goals and start the positive momentum.
  • Reflect each year on your goal journey and purpose, readjusting steps according to changes in circumstance or desire.

Keep going and always have the end goal in sight. Remember the ‘why’ behind your goal throughout to keep you motivated and positive.

More Resources About Setting & Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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