The fundamental reason many people fall of the wagon when it comes to resolutions is quite simple – the goal they have set themselves is not a priority for them. If something isn’t a priority for you or there are things higher on your priority list you will find excuses rather than success! Don’t get me wrong, there are other important ingredients to a winning goal (eg. being achievable, having a plan in place and rewarding yourself for staying on track), but underneath all of that, if your goal and the outcomes aren’t important to you then you’ll find something else to focus your precious time and energy on. Choosing a goal that is in line with your priorities is the underlying key to success in meeting your goals.
‘Should do’ vs ‘Want to do’
At this time of year I hear a lot of resolutions from people. When it comes to health and fitness everybody knows that they SHOULD be focusing on ‘eating better’ or ‘getting fit’. After all, there is no shortage of health benefits for doing these things. But knowing that something is beneficial and actually seeing that as a priority are two very different things. Even if your doctor or partner or mother (or dietitian) is telling you something would be good for your health, you need to WANT to put in the work to get the benefits.
This is where a good old pros and cons list can come in handy. If you’re unsure whether something is really a priority for you or it is just something you feel you should do, write yourself out a list of all the benefits and downfalls of making your change. While you’re at it, write out the pros and cons of NOT making the change too, as this will give you a better idea of what is important to you. It’s not just about comparing the number of things in each list though – some of the things on your cons list will be perfectly easy to overcome if the things you have listed as benefits are important to you. This short exercise can shed a lot of light on your priorities and help you start planning your goals, so it is well worth the time to put your thoughts on paper.
What are your priorities?
Whether we consciously think about them or not, we all have priorities – things that we hold with higher importance than other things that are demanding our time. For the most part there is no right or wrong when it comes to priorities. However, given that they underpin the way we spend our time and what we focus on it would make sense to stop and reflect on them now and then – and the start of a new year is a great opportunity to do so.
4 questions to ask yourself to check that your goal fits your priorities:
- “Did I decide this was my priority, or did someone else?” - Do you WANT this, or just feel that you SHOULD? You’re much more likely to stick to your goals when the motivation comes from within rather than being nagged by others. As we’ll talk about in part 3 of this series of posts, having people around you for support is also important, but you need to have decided on this priority yourself!
- “Is there anything higher on my list of priorities that may affect my ability to spend time and energy on this?” - If this isn’t your highest priority at this particular time, it needs to be close to the top of the list! If you’ve got lots of other things taking your attention away from this goal then it is going to make it harder to get traction on your change and keep it up.
- “What benefit will I get from focusing on this goal?” – What will you gain from making this change? What will you lose if you don’t make the change? If you don’t see the benefits outweighing the costs then you’re more likely to break your resolution.
- “Is now the right time to do this?” - Timing is everything, as they say, so have a think about what else is going on for you right now. There is never going to be an absolutely perfect time to make a change – we don’t live in captivity and there are plenty of other things going on in our lives day-to-day – but be realistic with yourself. You can make a change at any time of the year, so if January doesn’t work, you’ve got 11 other months to start your change in. Pick one.
So what are your priorities? Do you want to feel healthier, get control of your money, focus on family time, or work on growing yourself? You can’t do it all at once, so where will you focus your energy right now? What will your theme be for 2014?
This is Part 1 of a 3 part series on making realistic resolutions. Come back later in the week for Part 2: Can you achieve your goal?