We’re all pretty good at making new year’s resolutions, but following through with those grand promises is another thing entirely. Most of us suck at it. In fact, research suggests that only about 8% of people setting out with some intentions for the next year successfully achieve their goals. Even otherwise successful entrepreneurs often struggle with this, a fact that can have negative consequences not only for their private life but also for their business.
From the few people who do manage to follow through with their intentions we can learn one important lesson: reaching your goals is not just about doing; it’s about changing.
Good entrepreneurs are decision-makers, so they know how to step up and get things done. But in order to be successful with something as big as a new year’s resolution, you’ll need two important things: an emotional connection with the desired outcome and a strategy that will get you there.
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?
But of course, it isn’t, and unsurprisingly, there’s more than one reason why so many people fail at their resolutions. After speaking to a number of entrepreneurs and doing a lot of digging online, I’ve identified the top six reasons why people seem to fail at their new year’s resolutions:
Top Six Reasons Why People Fail Their New Year’s Resolutions
1. We try to “just do it”.
Like I mentioned before, the “I’ll just have to do it” approach simply doesn’t work when it comes to goals of this magnitude. That’s because a resolution implies more than one simple action. To reach your big goals, you need to have a smart schedule in place that is able to get you there.
2. We don’t prioritize.
Most people make many new year’s resolutions at once and end up failing all of them. You can’t focus on too many things at once, so learning to recognize the “nice to haves” vs. the “must-haves” is essential.
3. We focus on the what instead of the why.
Lack of motivation is one of the biggest resolution killers there is. It’s not enough to know what you want to do; you have to know exactly why this is important for you and why you need it now.
4. We’re unprepared for doubts and critique.
No matter how motivated you are, there always comes a point when things get tough and you ask yourself what the hell you’re even doing. Even worse, others might question your new goals and habits too. Being prepared to deal with these stumbling blocks can be the difference between success and failure.
5. We don’t set micro-goals.
Setting big goals is great, but what most people don’t realize is that there are dozens of micro-goals they need to reach and hundreds of individual tasks they need to complete throughout the year in order to get to where they want to go.
6. We want too much too fast.
When it comes to scheduling goals throughout the year, most people set the bar way too high. Either they’re too impatient with themselves or they’re simply bad at estimating how long things take. As a result, they fail to reach their goals in time and lose motivation.
6 Steps to Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions
Now that we know the reasons why so many of us fail at our new year’s resolutions, let’s make sure that this year will be different! I’ve developed a system with four steps that’s incredibly simple to copy and sure to help you reach your goals – provided you really stick to it. Here it is:
Step 1: Identify the desired change and set priorities
Start off with a brainstorm to identify what it is you want to change. To me, there really is no better tool for this than a mind map. Mind mapping is intuitive, it fosters a free flow of ideas and it lets me capture my thoughts almost as fast as they appear in my mind. You can use pen and paper if you want, but I personally use the online tool MindMeister because it’s very simple and I can easily rearrange topics and edit ideas after I’ve written them down. You can sign up for a free account and watch this tutorial to get started.
After you’ve written down all the resolutions you could think of, separate them into private and business goals. Now it’s time to prioritize. Be honest! Which of your resolutions are the most urgent and the most important? Make those your number ones. Are there any resolutions that can wait until next year? Delete them – you simply won’t have the time, energy and motivation to do everything at once.
Step 2: Find the ‘why’ and prepare for times of doubt.
What’s your motivation behind each of your resolutions? Why do you need to make these changes in your life, and what would happen if you didn’t? Write down at least three reasons for each of your goals. If you find that multiple of your goals share the same motivation, that’s even better.
A successful resolution has to defend itself not only against your own excuses (“I’m really too tired to work out today”) but also against criticism and disapproving looks from friends, family, and colleagues (“You’ve stopped eating meat? Ugh, that’s so pretentious”).
These sorts of comments can really get you down, but the good news is that if you know what to expect, the haters won’t be able to stop you from getting where you want. Go to your mind map and type in all the excuses, mean comments and stupid questions that you can think of. If you already know any good counter-arguments, write those down as well.
Tip: Before you move on to step three, consider creating “guiding words” to represent the main focuses of the coming year. This is some great advice from Chris Brogan, CEO of Human Business Works, and also used by successful entrepreneurs such as Eric T. Wagner (Mighty Wise Academy) for instance.
Step 3: Set micro-goals and create a schedule.
Big goals are important because they show us the right direction we need to move in. But we’ve already seen that these big goals alone aren’t enough. Therefore, your next step is to break your big goals down into smaller, more realistic chunks that you can actually handle and focus on.
Let’s say one of your new year’s resolutions is to publish your first ebook. Your first micro-goal could then be “Create ebook outline until 20th January”. Be reasonable with deadlines and give yourself more time than you think you need. This does not mean that short deadlines are bad, but it’s important to keep in mind that new year’s resolutions usually come in on top of your existing workload and everyday responsibilities.
Tip: If you’re using MindMeister to set your micro-goals, use the task widget (accessible in the right sidebar) to add a due date to it. This will be important for step 4!
Chances are you’ll end up with a number of one-time tasks (such as “Create ebook outline”) as well as a bunch of recurring tasks (such as “Write 30 pages each week”). There’s no need to add due dates to these recurring tasks. I’ll show you how to handle them in the next step.
Step 4: Turn your good intentions into actionable tasks.
You’re almost there! However, if you don’t turn your intentions and resolutions into actionable tasks now, all this hard work will have been for nothing. There are tons of great task management tools out there, but because I like to keep things simple I use the online tool MeisterTask, which integrates with MindMeister and lets me export my tasks from the map directly into a project board.
There are many different ways to set up your project board, but I’m just going to show you the workflow that I will be using next year. This is what my project board looks like:
Here’s What You Need To Do:
Export your tasks from MindMeister to MeisterTask:
After you’ve created your MeisterTask account (Important: Use your MindMeister credentials for this!) and have set up the board with its four sections, go back to your mind map and connect it with the project, using the MeisterTask footer in the mind map. Choose the Open section as the export destination. Select all the non-recurring tasks in the map and drag-drop them onto your avatar in the footer. You’ll see them pop up in your Open section in MeisterTask after a few moments.
Schedule recurring tasks:
Add an automation to schedule all your recurring tasks.
Add an automation to your Done section:
Add the Update Status automation to your Done section, selecting Completed as the desired status. Now, every task you move to this section will automatically be completed by MeisterTask.
Work with the board:
At the beginning of every week, go through the tasks in your Open section to find the ones that are going to be due the coming week. Drag and drop these into the Upcoming section so you’ll see at a glance what awaits you.
At the end of every day, move the tasks you’ve completed into the Done section and move the tasks that are going to be due the next day into your Today section.
One last piece of advice:
Even with the best preparation and a perfect system, your success will rely heavily on your continued motivation and commitment. Here’s one last piece of advice for you:
Look at your mind map again and try to identify a theme for the upcoming year. It could be something like “Wholesomeness” or “Fearlessness” or “Personal development”. A theme will create more focused energy which will help you to keep going.
That’s it. Let’s give it our best shot and try to make real, positive change!