Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Two industries that do particularly well in January, without fail, tend to be gyms and weight loss/nutrition centers. We once had a good friend who worked at GNC. GNC, of course, is the staple found at each and every mall—offering and promoting nutritional supplements and the like. He said that more people come in January than all other months combined! The reason? The avalanche of New Year’s Resolutions focusing on health, in general, and weight-loss, in particular. Spoiler alert! New Year’s Resolutions fail at an alarming rate. Even conservative estimates suggest people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions at a staggering 90% clip.

At ELP, we’re kinda good at helping others achieve goals. After all, our simplified, strategic One Page Plans are all about goals and goal setting. So, please count this as both personal and professional coaching as we offer three surefire ways to up our chances of achieving our New Year’s Resolutions.

Addition Thru Subtraction. We know this begins with the noblest of intentions and the highest of hopes, but the seeds of destruction to achieving our goals for the New Year begin with something as simple as the number we choose. You see, at the beginning of any period in the goal setting process, we often overestimate our discipline and our capacity. As a result, we sign up for more goals than we can possibly handle. In our own institutional research, we found that leaders who had fewer goals on their simplified, strategic One Page Plans actually performed better and achieved them on a more regular basis! Nobody needs a Nobel Prize to figure the mechanics out. With fewer, but more important, goals, we can better marshal resources. Also, we can focus better with two goals as opposed to six. For these reasons, we suggest limiting our New Year’s Resolutions to two or three critically important goals.

Private vs. Public Good. To us, it is amazing that we don’t unlock more the power of social relationships to help us achieve our goals. Indeed, by just making them public enhances our chances of goal success. A very good friend of ours was about to go on the Atkins diet several years back. He did the unthinkable. He shared his goal to shed 20 pounds with his friends, his sisters, his parents, and, even, his Facebook friends. We thought he was crazy as we stood back and watched…and waited. He didn’t lose his 20 pounds—he lost almost 30! When we asked him how he did it, we were waiting to hear him swear lifelong allegiance to the Atkins diet, but he didn’t. He said that the biggest motivator was the public embarrassment and the mutual accountability by the very act of sharing (or broadcasting, in his case) his goals. We’ll never forget his quote and have actually employed this reasoning in some of our coaching/leadership lesson plans, “It is amazing how easy we’ll break a promise to ourselves, but nobody wants to break a promise to another…to let someone down.” So, consider sharing your New Year’s Resolution with a couple of close friends who may just hold you accountable for achieving that goal. At the very least, you may feel that you’re letting them down by not delivering on your promise.

Break Up The Goals! The maxim—eat an elephant one bite at a time—couldn’t be more true as we put our designs on our 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Two of the more seminal scholars on goal setting of the last 50 years—Professors Locke and Latham—have demonstrated that goal setting and goal achievement work better when we bust up our goals into smaller parts. So, instead of saying that you’d like to lose 50 pounds by the end of 2017, the better way to do is to shrink both the time horizon and the goal itself. Donning our ELP coaching hats, we’d push for a more time-appropriate goal—to lose 5 pounds by January 31st. There are several psychological tricks at play here. First, human beings are woefully poor at prediction beyond several weeks. In other words, many of us can’t imagine 12 months out. Also, we know the Secret of Small Wins. Once January is in the bag and you’ve lost 6 pounds (not 5), you’ve developed cognitive and spiritual momentum. The next step, then, is to launch into February’s goal. Without fail, the best chance to achieve a yearly goal is to break the time period into months or quarters. Before you know it, you’ve strung together an annual accomplishment. You’ve got it—goal setting is an iterative process.

So, let’s recap. Choose fewer goals—ones that are critically important to you. Next, tell some people about your goals. Use shame or guilt or negative emotions for positive effect. Finally, shrink the time goal into manageable time horizons with realistic goal metrics.

Our turn to brag—across the globe, we are among the best at goal setting. If you want more than just a newsletter here, reach out to Robin Bichy at robin@elpadvantage.com to learn more.