THIS GUEST POST WAS WRITTEN BY TINA CURRY-LOGAN
Did you cringe when you saw this article is about New Year’s resolutions? Or did you do a quick fist pump and think, “Hell yeah! I’m going to rock my resolution this year!”?
I’ve got news for you: neither of these reactions will increase your chance of success this year. (Sorry, fist pumpers!)
Over 90% of all New Year’s resolutions fail. Let that sink in for a moment.
Most people are able to find the drive to get started on a new project, which is why New Year’s resolutions are so popular in the first place. Entrepreneurs are especially good self-starters, setting goals and taking on challenges.
The excitement of starting something new is enough to get you out of the gate. But pushing through roadblocks and crossing the finish line are elusive, no matter how much self-motivation you have.
What can you do to beat the odds?
Your New Year’s resolution, just like any other goal, requires both a realistic plan and a mindset shift to be successful. Fully commit to these two things and you’ll set yourself up to beat the odds this year.
We tend to assume that the path to success looks like a straight, uphill line. Put in consistent effort and you’ll work your way up the incline to your goal at the top.
In reality, the path to success looks more like a tangled pair of iPhone headphones that you pulled out of your pocket. You can’t clearly tell how to get from the beginning to the end, and there are knots all along the way.
That’s why you need a realistic plan when setting out to achieve your goals.
Your plan, determined far enough in advance, can give you the perspective you need to see potential obstacles before you hit them.
What does this kind of planning look like?
1. Cut your goal in half. (Say what?) Yes, take that lofty, exciting goal you have in mind and chop it down the middle. Or, alternatively, double your timeline for achieving the goal.
Over 90% of people fail at their goals because they set goals that are unreasonably optimistic.
In a 1994 study, scientists conducted an experiment in which students were asked to predict how long it would take to finish their honors theses. On average, it took the students almost twice as long to finish than they had predicted.
This problem is known as “planning fallacy,” a term first used by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. They referred to planning fallacy as “a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias and underestimate the time needed.”
So go ahead. Get to chopping.
If you’re afraid your goal will feel too easy when you cut it in half, that’s okay. Succeeding at your initial, smaller goal, gives you the forward momentum to keep going. You’re likely to achieve even more after reaching your “half-goal-that’s-now-the-full-goal” milestone.
2. Plan to fail. I don’t mean you should plan to completely fail at your goals. But you need to plan for little failures along the way.
Why? Because perfectionism is the root cause of most failed goals.
Let’s say your goal is to lose weight. It’s all too easy to throw the whole plan out the window the first time you fall off your healthy eating regimen and overindulge. Or say your goal is to exercise more and get fit. The first day you miss your workout you’re far too likely to throw your hands up and say, “Screw it!” to the entire routine.
Anticipate these little failures and have a plan for what you’ll do when, not if, they occur.
In the case of healthy eating, your plan could be to allow for one or two “cheat meals” a week. Overindulging at lunch doesn’t mean you’ve failed for the entire day. You can get back on track at dinner and allow lunch to be just a blip on the radar.
If failure feels like part of the plan, it’s much easier to move past it.
The Mindset Shift
All the planning in the world can’t help you succeed unless you get your mind right.
As I mentioned earlier, we generally look at our goals as an uphill climb to success at the top of the mountain. You reach the peak, find achievement, and it’s all downhill from there.
Some goals can fit this model. But if you’re looking for lasting change this philosophy won’t cut it.
Back in my Bikram yoga days, I took part in the annual “60-day challenge” held each January. My New Year’s resolution was to lose weight and get in shape, so the challenge seemed like a perfect way to jumpstart my progress.
To beat the challenge, I had to complete 60 classes in 60 days. If I missed a day, I had to make it up by doing a “double” on another day. That doesn’t sound so hard, until you factor in that classes are 90 minutes long and held in a room heated to 105 degrees.
It was tough. I spent a LOT of time at the yoga studio (and I did a LOT of laundry).
But at the end of 60 days, I had completed 60 classes. I beat the challenge! I felt great!
I rewarded myself with a day off. And then I didn’t step back into the hot room for at least a month.
What went wrong?
During the 60-day challenge, I turned my yoga practice into a daily habit. It wasn’t something I had to spend willpower deciding to do each day. It was automatic.
The problem was that the habit I chose wasn’t sustainable long-term. When I reached the peak of the challenge it didn’t feel natural to keep going. So I stopped.
What can you do to avoid making the same mistake?
1. Build sustainable habits. Think of your goal as a lifestyle change rather than a hill to climb.
I saw the Bikram challenge as a finite number of classes I had to complete to achieve my goal. Once I completed those classes I felt like I was done. I could have formed a more sustainable habit by choosing to exercise most days of the week with no “punishment” (like doing a double) for missing a day.
If you create sustainable habits as part of your daily routine, progress toward your goal happens naturally.
2. Be willing to suck at something else. I know it sounds silly, but this mindset shift packs a punch.
Your most limited resource is your time. When you decide to spend your time working toward a specific goal, you are, in turn, choosing not to spend your time on something else.
Rather than letting perfectionism kick in (it’s the root cause of most failed goals, remember?), you can consciously choose something to be bad at while you work on your goal.
During my 60-day Bikram challenge, I didn’t have much time for anything but work, yoga, and sleep. I chose to suck at socializing and household chores while I was focused on my goal.
Even Shonda Rhimes follows this philosophy. When she’s in the middle of writing for a show, she consciously chooses to forego exercise. In 2016, Fast Company included Rhimes in their Secrets Of The Most Productive People profile. When they asked her what she lets slide, she said, “Right now, I don’t feel guilty that I’m not working out. I’ll feel guilty about it at another time.”
If it works for Shonda, it can work for you. Plus, isn’t it fun to think about purposely sucking at something?
New Year’s resolutions seem to be doomed to fail before they even begin. But a realistic plan and a mindset shift can help you beat the odds.
It all boils down to embracing imperfection. A minor slip-up is not total failure. Your goals don’t have to be all or nothing.
Take the time now to plan ahead, build sustainable habits, and anticipate imperfection. You’ll set yourself up to beat the odds this year and make your New Year’s resolution a success.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of Tierra Wilson, LLC as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.
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- Beat the Odds: How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution a Success - January 11, 2018