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Goal-Setting for Success

-Aaron Lakanen

Every year, millions of people make resolutions to lose 15, 30, or 50 pounds. Some make resolutions to eat better than they currently do. The same people may join their local fitness facility with the vision of working out many days a week or walk every day with a friend who may have a similar goal. Picture them with the others who may have similar resolutions, standing in line for the elliptical machine or treadmill. Now, flash forward to March 1st and walk into the same club. Ellipticals lie in wait and walking paths all around cities will be less busy than just weeks before.

Do you every wonder why the same people make the same goals every year? RESOLUTIONS DO NOT WORK!

There was a fascinating study conducted with the 1979 Harvard MBA program where graduate students were asked “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result, only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing, and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the result was absolutely mind-blowing.

The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down, were earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined! Harvard quickly realized this, and all incoming students were brought through goal setting processes to learn how to set goals that would allow them to achieve the results they should be getting.

How does a Harvard Business School study relate to people achieving a weight loss goal or working out? What drove the 3% that had achieved a higher level of success is simple: they wrote out a goal, created a plan, and executed. The process of creating goals is not new, but achieving the success one wants is new for most people.

Let’s start by baby stepping to success.

Step 1. Make a small goal that is specific to the long-term goal you wish to achieve. If losing 20 pounds is your goal, create a short-term goal of eating 1 healthy meal per day where you hadn’t before. Or maybe instead of drinking 5 sodas a day, cut it down to 3.

Step 2. Do you notice there is a number attached to the goal? If you say eat healthier, there is nothing to measure. But if you say “I want to eat a total of 21 meals a week and have 15 of them be healthy,” you can measure your success or failure.

Step 3. Pick something that can be done successfully and is not too lofty of a goal. If you currently eat fast food 14 meals a week, cutting it out completely will not work! Instead, commit to a change that doesn’t alter your life too much. Try cutting out 3-5 of the fast food meals a week and replace them with healthier options that you cooked at home or brought for lunch.

Step 4. Habit change must be realistic! It takes a minimum of 28 days to achieve consistent habit change. The brain is strong and must take small steps to modify behavior. Going ‘cold turkey’ from any habit may get you a quick result, but the behavior you modified to achieve the result will creep back into your life during a moment of weakness. Baby stepping is key!

Step 5. Give yourself time to make the change and hold yourself accountable to the timeline. Starting small and allowing yourself a margin of error will allow you to feel successful each day. This will in turn lead to you building a new habit. Once this habit is maintained for 1-2 months, you can begin your next baby step and move closer to your long-term goal.

Step 6. If you have made it this far, fantastic! The most important step may be written last. WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL! Don’t just write it down. Write it down and put it in a place you will see it every day. Put it on your mirror in your bathroom. Tape it to your lunch bag or briefcase. You have to see it so you are reminded of your long-term goal and that each action you take will impact your success! 

Fill out this goal-setting worksheet to help you create a defined goal and keep you on the path to success.

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