Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Have you set out with a goal “to become a better person” or “to lose weight” at some point now or in the past? If so you are not alone. But according to a story by U.S. News & World Report in 2015, about 80% of people give up on these goals by February.

So how do we break out of this cycle of failed resolutions and into a cycle of achieving goals?

  • Be specific. What does it mean “to become a better person” or “to lose weight”? This year, when you write out your goals, get specific on what exactly that looks like for you. Does “lose weight” mean 10 or 50 pounds? Are you a “better person” if you prioritize the time for you and your spouse to have date night or if you read a new book each month? Get clear on exactly what success looks like for you.
  • Get clear on YOUR WHY. Motivation from outside of yourself will not keep you going beyond the first couple days, weeks or month. You need to tap into what will keep you going when it gets hard…because let’s face it, it will. Do you want to get healthy so that you can run around with your kids? Or so that you can travel and wander around the many beautiful cities of the world? It has to be personal and set a fire inside of you.
  • Expect that it will get hard. Last year, I read The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, I learned about the Emotional Cycle of Change. This principle states that no matter what changes you are trying to make, you will go through these 5 stages. You may move through them more quickly or slowly and the height of the peaks and depth of valley may change depending on the change you are creating, but you will hit them all. Take a look at the image below to see the 5 stages. The valley of despair is the one to watch out for. At this stage, you will start to believe that the effort to make the change is not worth the results. Push through. There is greatness on the other side.
  • Set the big goal, but also break it down. As a perfectionist, the big goal is often too overwhelming for me. And I find that is often true for my clients. One of my clients had a goal to lose 25 pounds in 6 months. But we knew that if she waited to take action until the last month to start working on it, she would never reach her goal. So we broke those 25 pounds down into smaller steps that we could track along the way. Then when she reached each of those steps, they became a win to be celebrated and keep her inspired.
  • Create a detailed plan. When I set a goal to run a 10k within 4 months and hadn’t run consistently in ~20 years, I had to create a training schedule. Luckily my uncle, who was also running the race, helped me find a resource that would get me to my goal with training programs. But I also had to plan how I was going to fuel my body with my pre- and post-workout supplements, what my daily nutrition would be to get me there and how I would mentally prepare myself to get through those runs…I listened to podcasts and audiobooks to distract or inspire me depending on my mood each day. What steps do you need to take to get to your goal? And if you can’t see the whole staircase, start with the first step or two.
  • Track the actions that will get you to your goal. When you create your plan, make a list of the activities you need to do to reach your goal. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you might track workouts, drinking a certain amount of water, nights that you get a certain amount of sleep, days you stick to your nutrition plan, etc. If you can hit ~80% of your target activities, you will likely reach your goals. Keeping this log allows you to course correct along the way. But don’t get too hung up if you only hit 50% your first week. If the week before you were at 0%, you are making huge gains already. Keep working to improve that percentage and you will be at 80% before you know it. Don’t shoot for perfect or you will quit before you even start. Trust me. I’ve been there.
  • Write down your goals and look at them daily. According to a Forbes report, a study was done in the Harvard MBA Program. Harvard graduate students were asked if they had set clear, written goals for their future as well as specific plans to achieve them. Only 3 percent of students had written them down, 13 percent had them in their mind, but not on paper, and 84 percent had no goals at all. After 10 years, they followed up with the same group and the 13 percent who had goals, but did not write them down earned twice the amount of the other 84 percent. BUT…the 3 percent who had written goals were earning on average 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined.

Resolutions don’t often work because we arbitrarily make a random statement with little time and attention given to the specifics or the plan. But setting goals does work if you do so with intention and consistency of action.

What goals are you working on for 2018?