Earlier today a friend of mine told me about #18for2018 – an approach shared by US author Gretchen Rubin that encourages setting new year’s resolutions you actually intend to keep. It’s pretty common when new year rolls around for each of us to set one or two huge and extreme goals: quit drinking alcohol completely, go to the gym every day etc. (they may not be extreme for everyone, but they certainly would be for me). 18 for 2018 encourages you to set 18 smaller, more manageable goals that you are committed to achieving.
I love the principle behind this idea, and it aligns blog I wrote previously on the benefits of consistent 1% improvements. This concept also reminded me of the not-so-strenuous new year’s resolutions I set myself a few years ago – which included learning how to cook veggie lasagne and to finish watching the ‘Lost’ TV box-set (both satisfyingly checked off the list now).
I love the idea of setting goals in both the positive and future focused context. Rather than deciding that you need to lose the weight gained over a few too many turkeys over Christmas, focus on what habits you want to create in the future. This could be taking up a new sport, eating more home-cooked and healthy meals, or a combination of both. I recently read and loved The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which argues that habits can be so deeply and subconsciously ingrained in us, they are impossible to simply stop – they need to be replaced with alternative, more useful habits.
One of my favourite coaches (who I frequently quote in my blogs) Steve Chandler recommends a no-nonsense, systematic approach to change. If you don’t like the result or output you’re creating, you need to change the system generating these results. In 2017, I didn’t like the progress I made towards writing and publishing my first book. I didn’t write consistently, and big stretches of time would pass where I hadn’t even looked at my work. This would demotivate me – resulting in finding it even harder to pick up and start writing again.
So I have created a new, simple system. I am going to write every single day. Regardless of whether or not I am tired, or if I feel like it, I am going to write. The purpose of writing every single day is not to produce great content each day, but to integrate writing as a habit into my everyday routine. I want to take away the emotional decision-making surrounding the question or whether or not I am going to write that day.
If I commit to doing it every day, I will do it every day. I might write a few hundred words, or it could literally just be one sentence (on New Year’s Day I exercised this right and wrote approximately 10 words – but still – I wrote). The key for me is consistency, not necessarily the quality or quantity of what I’m writing. Hopefully that will follow later, but for now I am focusing on simply forming a new habit.
Here are my top 5 tips for setting effective and long-lasting goals for 2018:
1. Keep them positive and future focused – Focus on what you want to do, create, start and continue. If you want to stop something, think about what you can replace the habit with. Try (where possible) to make the goals fun and achievable.
2. Reflect on your why – Think about the motivation behind your goals, and only set goals you are committed to keeping.
3. Create accountability – Share your goals with a coach, a friend, or a colleague. Find others who have set similar goals for 2018 and to offer each other encouragement.
4. Be specific and write it down – One of my favourite statistics is that we’re 42% more likely to do stuff that we write down. This makes sense – just as you’d write a shopping list before you go to the shop, write down your goals to remind yourself of your commitments.
5. Break into smaller goals – If you have a big ambitious goal for 2018, break it down into smaller, mini goals. I would argue the smaller the better. Set specific targets for milestones throughout the year to keep you engaged and committed.
And finally… remember goals don’t have to be all or nothing. If you aren’t happy with progress towards your goals, start again. Try and view each separate day as an opportunity to make change happen, and don’t use past behaviour to set your future expectations.
Want to discuss how a career coaching programme could help you achieve your goals in 2018?