I have a long history of setting goals and making resolutions that don’t last past the fifth of January. But over the years, I have achieved at least some of my goals – writing, revising and selling a book or two, amongst other things. I know that the most important thing in keeping resolutions is willpower and determination, but along the way I have found a few other tricks that help me. Maybe one or two of them will help you too.
1 Make it matter
We all have a list of things we ‘should’ change about ourselves, or ‘ought to try to’ achieve. Those ‘lose ten pounds,’ ‘read great literature,’ ‘clear out the garage,’ sort of goals never really get off the ground for me, because I’m only setting them because I feel I should. Unless I have some driving motivation behind them, they’re pretty much doomed to failure. For example, resolving to cut out wine in preparation for getting pregnant is far more likely to succeed than a half-hearted thought that I should cut back a bit so I feel less guilty when I see the government’s recommended intake posters at the doctor’s.
2 Focus, focus, focus.
My list of things to change or improve or work on in my life is lengthy. But I’ve learned that I have the greatest chance of success if I choose one focus for my efforts. So I look at my list, and decide which area stands to improve my life most if I focus my change on it. Just keeping that area at the front of my mind, and placing it above other changes with less impact, makes a difference.
3 Write it out
I’m a writer; I work well with words. Thinking about goals and resolutions isn’t enough for me. I need to write them down, in detail. Just the act of putting together the right sentence to describe what I’m trying to achieve helps cement the goal in my brain. I try to keep the principles of SMART goals and such in mind as I’m writing it. The perfect goal sentence, with a clear objective, timescale, and a way to know when I’ve reached it, makes the next part much easier.
4 Have a plan
It’s not enough to know what I want to achieve. I have to know how I’m going to do it. My main goal for 2012 is to sell a book to Mills & Boon. But just aiming vaguely at that goal won’t get it done. I need to break it down into all the steps I need to take – plotting, research, writing, revising, submission packages, etc. I have deadlines to keep me on track through the year, and I know exactly what I need to do to have the best chance of making this goal. In the end, an actual sale is out of my hands – that’s up to the good folks at M&B. But even if the book doesn’t sell, if I follow my plan I’ll know I’ve done everything I can to make it happen. And then I can come up with a new plan…
5 Keep it visible
As the year gets busy, it’s easy to let goals and resolutions slip from view. I know the best way to combat this is to keep my goals visible, and check in with them regularly. I’ve made a plan, so I know where I should be – but in the past it’s been knowing that I’m not there that has stopped me revisiting my goals. Which is when even the best plans fall apart. So eventually I check back in, take stock, and adjust the plan as necessary. But this year, I hope that by keeping my goals front and centre – by reading through them everyday – I’m more likely to stay the course and follow the plan. I’ll let you know how I get on…