Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

26 12 2011

So it’s that time of year again, when we re-evaluate our lives, decide what isn’t working, or needs to work better and solemnly vow (or sometimes drunkenly vow) to do better in the coming year.

Having just completed an MBA subject called Managing Change (which was fabulous by the way, really interesting and practical), I decided to apply the change models to my New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of resolutions in the sense of the types of changes we make to our daily lives rather than a bucket list type of resolution. These are the types of changes that take daily effort – daily decisions to do something differently. And for that reason they are harder to achieve. So my aim is to make the change as easy – and as automatic – as possible.

Now generally, change models more or less cover the same sort of key points. For ease, I will use Kotter’s Change model, because it is relatively succinct and is quite well known amongst change models.

So how can change theory help with setting – and more importantly, achieving, your New Year’s Resolution goals?

Step One. Create Urgency
In organisational change management this is often referred to as the “burning platform”. In your resolutions, you will need to have some compelling reason why this change is needed, and need NOW! If you can’t do that, then you need to either rethink your goal, or develop a burning platform. Often it takes a health scare to motivate people to lose weight / eat healthily / get fit / give up smoking. The only person you need to convince of the urgency is yourself – so keep going until you have your compelling reason.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition
As the Beatles song says “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Your coalition is there to help you achieve your goals, keep you on track and keep motivated. They may be friends – or they may be your personal trainer, a careers coach, a financial planner. It may be your bank, setting up automatic pay deductions into a savings account. Get your team together and set it up so it automatically drives you towards your goals. Make it as easy for yourself as you can.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change
You need to have a clear vision about what you are heading towards. What is the change you want and where will you be when you have achieved it? This needs to be a vivid, clear compelling picture – in NLP terms, a bright, brightly coloured picture with action and sound and excitement. You need to be able to summon it in your mind and see it as a real picture.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision
In organisational change management, communicating the vision is vitally important – you need to share it effectively to get people on board. For your resolutions, the only person you need to convince is yourself. (If your goal is to change others you might need to rethink how realistic it is.) There are many tricks for keeping your goal in the front of your mind – creative visualisation techniques, meditation, posting key words or photographs of your goals in places where you will see them. Whatever works for you. Make sure it is always there to remind you when you make those daily decisions – what shall I eat today, will I get up early to exercise, shall I spend my savings on this dress…..

Step Five: Remove Obstacles
You know yourself, you know what has prevented you achieving the goal in the past. Your current self needs to safe-guard against your future self’s poor decision making / tiredness / lack of motivation. If you want to lose weight, make sure you are stocked up on food you do want to eat when you are hungry, and the junk food is not around. If you are going to exercise, make sure there is an easily available option that is not going to fall victim to too tired / too cold / too hot / too far / too rainy / etc. If you have a friend or relative who habitually undermines you, work out how you are going to deal with them or avoid them. If your obstacle is time, then make space for your goals – get up 15 minutes earlier, do it in lunchtime or stay up an extra 15 minutes. Plan for the obstacles and make sure they don’t get in the way. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Too often our goals are BIG goals. Losing 30kgs. Giving up smoking. Saving $20,000. These are great and worthwhile goals, and it is important to have inspiring worthwhile goals. But give yourself a plan – a ladder – to get there. These are the small goals which add up to the big goals. So maybe your first goals is to lose 2kgs in the first week. Or to cut out alcohol entirely. Or to save $200, or $20. Plot out how the small goals add up to the big goals – a chart or a diary can help to keep you on track. And celebrate the little wins, but don’t crucify yourself if you don’t quite make it or you backslide one week. Just refocus on your plan and keep going.

Step Seven: Build on the Change
Celebrate the little wins – but keep it in context. The little win is a win because it is one step in the bigger plan. Don’t let the little win be more important than the big goal, and don’t stop when you achieve the little goal. (And don’t do a George W Bush and declare victory too early.)

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
So you’ve made the changes and are well on the way to achieving the goal? Great. The next step to making it easy is to make it part of your normal life. Don’t think of it as a diet – it is now the normal way you eat (that’s why crash diets don’t work long-term). It’s not a fitness fad – you now exercise every day. You now meditate when you get up every morning. Integrate the changes into your normal routine and they will become less effort.

What tricks do you have to stay motivated and achieve your goals?

Want more on how to stay the course with your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable








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