Achieve Your Goals

Goal achieved!

It was December 31st, 2018, and Sally was happily celebrating New Year’s dinner with her friends. During dinner, the conversation went to our new year’s resolutions. Everyone started to mention theirs, and Sally, in the excitement of the moment, set one for herself as well. She said: “I’m going to wake up early and go to the gym at 6 am, 5 days a week!”.

And that was that, like many Americans, she had just set a new years resolution. The first few days went great, she would wake up early and excited, get in her car and arrive at the gym at 6 am. But this wouldn’t last long. After a couple of weeks, life started to get in the way. First, missing a couple of days, then a couple of weeks, then a month went by, and just like that, she just stopped going. And that was the end of it. She had failed to achieve her goal. But she is not alone. According to research by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

Sally thought: “Well, it’s just a new year’s resolution, this is not the end of the world, I’ll just try again next year. But this 8% success rate is an indication of a bigger problem in our society.

In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse and counselor, writes that the top 2 biggest regrets people have before they die are:

  • “I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations”
  • “I wish I didn’t work so hard”, meaning that they allowed work to take over their lives, causing them to spend less time with their loved ones

So what does this tell us? If Sally can’t achieve a new year’s resolution such as, going to the gym at 6 am, how can we expect her to achieve her goals and dreams for the future? If this books’ findings serve as any indication, this means that sadly, she probably won’t.

So what does this tell us? If Sally can’t achieve a new year’s resolution such as, going to the gym at 6 am, how can we expect her to achieve her goals and dreams for the future? If this books’ findings serve as any indication, this means that sadly, she probably won’t.

Why does this happen to Sally? When she wanted to achieve a goal on her own, (in this case going to the gym at 6 am) she relied on her willpower, and to put it simply, willpower doesn’t work.

Brian Resnick, a science reporter at the website, Vox, wrote an article called “Why Willpower is Overrated”, where he mentions two studies – one published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the other published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science. On both of these studies, participants were given smartphones that would go off at random, asking them questions about desires, temptations, and self-control they were experiencing at the moment. Both studies came to the same conclusion: “The people who experienced fewer temptations overall where the most successful”. The conditions around them are what affected them the most – their environment. Conversely, willpower wasn’t what made them succeed on the test.

So now you might be wondering, “If relying on her willpower was not the answer, then what should have Sally done instead”? In his book, “Willpower Doesn’t Work”, organizational psychologist, author, entrepreneur, and speaker Benjamin Hardy argues that instead of relying on our willpower, we should outsource our motivation to the environment we create around us. An easy way to do this is by installing several forms of accountability. According to a study by The American Society of Training and Development, you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.

Now that we know what the answer is, how can Sally implement it? Well, for her it could be something as simple as making a commitment with a friend to meet up at the gym at 6 am, or investing up front and hiring a personal trainer, and, if she wanted to go above and beyond, she could also find an accountability partner, which is a person who will do 3 things:

  • Help her identify a goal
  • Help her verify the steps needed to accomplish that goal
  • Make sure she stays on track

In his website, The1Thing, entrepreneur and author Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty, which is one of the largest real estate companies in the world, shows you how to create an accountability sheet to use with your accountability partner, where you set your annual, monthly, and weekly goals. In his own words “This is not a to-do list, this is a list for personal and professional action items and goals that, when completed, will allow you to live the biggest life possible”. This is the same method used at his company, where results can speak for themselves. The most important part about this sheet is that there is a 50/50 balance between business and personal goals, which takes care of both regrets mentioned at the beginning of this article (pursuing dreams and living a balanced life). In order to stay on track, he recommends having a weekly call with your accountability partner at the beginning of the week to review and update that sheet. You can even download this worksheet here.

And that’s it. Something as simple as ceasing to rely on yourself and instead relying on the environment you create around you, can be the difference between being part of the 92% of people who don’t achieve their goals, and being part of the top 8% that do. Now that you know how easy it can be, I’ll leave you with this question:

  • We talked about what Sally could do to succeed at her goal, now, what is the smallest step YOU can take today to apply this to your life?

To subscribe to my blog, enter the information below.