Happy New Year and Best Wishes for Your NY Resolutions!
Would you like to join the 8% club?
We’re 3 weeks into the New Year, which marks the time when most people have completely abandoned the goals or resolutions they set on New Year’s day. But then, NY resolutions are notorious for failing, anyway. In fact, research shows that only about 40% of the American population makes resolutions to start with, and only 8% ever actually achieve the goals they set. So, don’t feel bad about it ;-)
My wildest NY resolution was to take one hot bubbly bath per month—it was during my Canadian years. I thought it would not be too much of a commitment. For once I could join the 8% club, easy peasy! I mean, how hard is it to melt into a hot bubbly bath when the temperature outside averages a meager -20C/-4F? By March, I had to schedule ‘my bath’. I could feel I was dragging it like a chore. By April it was ‘who had that dumb idea, anyway?’ And right there and then died my last NY Resolution!
Does it even matter whether we have ‘resolutions’ or goals? Well, people who have a goal have a lot more chances to reach it than people who don’t have a goal. Duh! It’s like saying that 100% of lottery winners have played … Kind of obvious, isn’t it?
In fact, even if I am not one for New Year resolutions anymore, goal setting is touted as being a major reason why successful people are successful. And I take that seriously …
We could argue that most of us have some idea of where we want to go and what we want to do in life: we have an idea of the kind of family we want, of the kind of house, job, money, travel, of the impact in the word we want to have …
But the reality is that most of us don’t spend the time to really define our goals, what we really want in life and from life. And even when we know what we want, how clear a picture do we have? How refined and detailed is it? When was the last time we thought about and updated our goals? Have we ever written them down? Congratulation if you are among the few who do it! For most of us, we live our lives in a constant rut, dealing the best we can with whatever life throws at us.
The good news is that we can start setting goals at any time in our lives. This is a skill that we can learn like any other skill.
Setting goals means we take charge of our lives; we’re deciding that whatever we have to deal with, we have a clear idea of where we want to go. Goals can be set for all areas of life: family, career, finances, personal development, health, fun, contributions to the world, etc.
To make the best of goal setting, here are a few parameters to take into consideration: Goals should be CHALLENGING enough but ATTAINABLE, SPECIFIC, and MEASURABLE. Easy goals might not grab our imagination much. They don’t enthrall us or heat us up. They don’t give us an answer to our ‘WHY?’… So we drop them. Too lofty goals can be paralyzing. Vague goals are just that—vague. And measuring our progress is a great motivator. Finally, goals should always have a 'by when' DATE ... No date means no action, so, let's set a timeline for our goals.
But how does goal setting actually work?
It forces us to make CHOICES: Goals narrow attention and direct efforts to goal-relevant activities, and away from goal-irrelevant actions.
It increases our EFFORT: Goals can lead to more effort; for example, if your goal is to run a marathon, you will have to develop an exercise plan and stick to it.
It encourages PERSISTENCE: you will more likely overcome setbacks if pursuing a goal.
It develops COGNITION: Goals can lead individuals to develop and change their behavior.
Of course, the more committed we are, the better it is. Commitment comes from the importance of the expected outcome (building a business vs. taking a bath), the belief that we can achieve our goal. An engagement or promise to someone else can considerably increase the commitment.
So, if setting goal is so amazing-fantastic-sensational, why is it that most of us never set goals, or when we do, that we don’t follow through?
There are basically four reasons why we don’t take action:
- We don’t know what we want
- We don’t know how to do it
- It is painful for us to take action
- It is painful for us to be successful
Any of those reasons can have two underlying causes. The first one can be strategic, for example ‘I never really asked myself what I wanted’, or ‘I don’t know the steps’. The second underlying cause can be emotional, like ‘I failed miserably once and can’t trust myself anymore’, or the infamous ‘If I succeed what will people think? Will they still love me for myself or rather for my money?'
Here is a potent approach to answer these strategic underlying causes of disappointing results: let’s revamp that New Year’s resolution; let’s give our goals an upgrade to … Small Daily Actions.
Yep, those small ordinary things we can do everyday, but which yield extraordinary results, and bring us closer to our big goal.
The science of human behavior change says it’s way more effective and empowering to focus on Small Daily Actions and to have their completion be the goal, NOT the end state.
If your goal is to lose weight, what are the Small Daily Actions you can do? Reintroduce greens in your diet? Snack on apples and carrots? Reduce pop one can at a time? Add water one glass at a time? Do 5 minutes of daily workout, or a regular walk in the park?
It’s the same if your goal is to have a striving business or a better relationship with your partner: concentrate on those Small Daily Actions … and CELEBRATE them all mightily!
There is nothing our brain likes more than giving us what it thinks we want. So, by celebrating, taking time to acknowledge our progress, or simply speaking to ourselves in an uplifting way, we tell our mind what we want, which is more of this success. On the contrary, when we constantly tell ourselves that whatever our effort is, it is not good enough, what we get is more of ‘not good enough’ stuff, we get discouraged and we don't follow through …
So, crank up the music and show your moves, throw your own smarty-pants dance party, take a nice long bubbly bath (yep, having it as a reward and not as a ‘must do’ is a LOT more efficient!), play a game, go out … let the whole world know about your small success, and soon the success will become bigger and bigger!
What are the Small Daily Actions or behavioral goals that would bring you closer to your end state? Which are the ones that are not as empowering, not as efficient?
Now, the underlying emotional causes of lack of success in Goal Setting are a lot trickier to catch. To start with, most people are unaware of the emotional root of their behavior; therefore they are much less able to act upon it.
For instance, if one of your Small Daily Actions is to reduce overspending on clothes, and if overspending on clothes is how you deal with feelings of worthlessness, how successful is your attempt going to be?
If one of your Small Daily Actions is to replace your afternoon cookies by an apple, but if eating cookies is how you deal with feelings of sadness or loneliness or boredom, how successful do you think you’re going to be?
If you failed at a very important goal in the past, and felt ashamed or disappointed in yourself, what are the odds that you are going to even trust yourself with new goals?
Our nervous system's main goal is to protect us from further disappointment and painful emotions.
This is a fundamental and totally subconscious process. Now considering that our conscious mind represent only 5% of our mind's activity, whereas our subconscious represents 95%, which part of your thinking or feeling is going to win the game? The one backed up by a super-powerful computer (your subconscious mind) or the one stuck in the age of dial phones (our conscious mind)? It is most probable that whatever our conscious mind is trying to achieve, it is no match for our subconscious mind.
Does that mean there is nothing we can do? Not at all. There is actually a lot we can do.
Neuroscience has exploded in the last 15 years. It has validated and proven the efficacy of a slew of tools, or mind-body techniques, that work to change the subconscious beliefs, stuck emotions, or past traumas. It is up to us to use them to access and change how our subconscious mind is programmed. This is paramount to any real and lasting success.
My tools of choice are meditation and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). I will tell you everything on Emotional Freedom Technique (also called tapping) in my next newsletter. The topic will be Stress Deregulation.
In the meantime, let me give you a little tip that will propel you into your new awareness: At the basis of any mind-body technique, or stress reducing techniques, there is deep breathing. Most of the time, the first thing any practitioner will tell you is to ‘take a deep breath’, whether it is meditation, Yoga, EFT, hypnotherapy, NLP or other.
This is so simple, yet so powerful that I decided to make it the first step of my 3 Essential Steps to Make Money With your Art or Craft. On this downloadable PDF, I explain what is deep breathing, and how to achieve it. I also lead you through a couple of breathing exercice as well as other powerful clarifying steps.
Whether you are deep in your New Year's resolution, dropped it already, or don't even bother anymore, I wish you lots of success and a Happy New Year!
I’ll see you next month with more info on EFT and stress deregulation … I can’t wait!
Quote of the month
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson