Do you know what the #1 reason why most people fail to achieve their goals?
With the New Year in full swing, most of us are in the process of creating a few resolutions to jump start ourselves into 2016. For some, your New Year's resolution might be something small like eat less sweets. For others, we might be thinking about tackling something bigger like a career change.
For those of you who have big dreams, achieving those goals might seem scary. In fact, it might be so daunting of a dream that you end up putting it off until it's a distant memory; but, alas, you will look back and kick yourself for not trying and missing out on a great opportunity or experience.
You've probably experienced this yourself: "Goals are great! Let's set some. Oh, nevermind..."
"I want to look my best for Valentine's Day. I plan to lose 10 pounds by February. I will go to the gym everyday." And, 1 week later you are calling that same gym for a refund on your new membership.
Why do we do this oh so often?
Change is difficult which also makes achieving goals hard. That is--unless you do it right. Most people have heard that goals should be SMART: Specific, Meaningful, Actionable, Realistic, & Timely.
Following the SMART formula is a great way to set goals, but SMART doesn't tell us how to achieve those goals. The SMART formula merely gives us a framework to follow while creating goals.
In the exercise example, you can see that the goal was specific (10 lbs), meaningful (looking good), actionable (going to the gym), realistic (2.5 lbs per week isn't that bad), and timely (by the beginning of February). So if you followed the SMART formula, you should be good to go? Right?
Wrong! If that was the case, then so many more of us would actually accomplish our goals! The gym wouldn't be busy only the 1st 3 weeks of January. It would be packed all year around! So what's missing here?
How do we execute our goals and ensure success?
In my humble opinion, the missing ingredient is quite simple. However simple it may be though, we tend to avoid it like the plague. This missing ingredient is so easy to implement, but it is also intimidating. Queue foreboding music here. What am I hinting at here? I'll give you a clue. It is scary because we risk judgment--judgment from ourselves and our friends.
So what is it??
Accountability is scary because it requires us to put ourselves out there for the world to see. You are telling yourself, your family, and perhaps even your friends what your goals are. So, it is almost certain that they will hold you accountable for those goals. Now, they might not force you to do what you said to do; but, you will feel a level of guilt if they ask you about your goal and you are embarrassed to share your failure.
We tend to limit ourselves and focus on the negative. I would argue that fear of failure is the #1 reason why most people fail to achieve their goals. Why? Because if you fear failure, you have already failed. If you think you might fail, you won't share your goals and you won't be held accountable. With no one to be accountable to (not even yourself), then the goal only existed as a fleeting thought. Actually, it wasn't really a goal at all. It was a thought you wanted to pretend was actually a goal.
Now that you understand why accountability is so important, let's take a look at how to put accountability into action.
Accountability is two-fold. When most of us think of what it means to be accountable, we immediately think of an accountability partner.
Accountability should have 2 parts to be complete:
1. Accountability to yourself & 2. Accountability to others
First, it is easy to forget to be accountable to yourself. Someone wise once said, "Check Yourself." And, check yourself, you must young padawan. You can hold yourself accountable by setting smaller achievable milestones along the way and checking in daily on your own personal progress. This can be done by keeping a record in a journal, setting up calendar alerts, and setting aside personal time each day to focus on your goal.
Second, you need to enlist the help of others to keep your own accountability momentum going. Who cares if you fail if you are the only one who knows about your goals? The people you tell about your goal will be your cheerleaders and champions. You don't need to tell your friends that they are accountable for you; you just need to tell them what your goal is. From there, spread the word. Don't just tell one person. You need to tell everyone. Why? Sharing your goals with as many people as possible results in strengthening your own personal accountability. Also, having multiple cheerleaders creates positive momentum which can be lost if the one person you told suddenly goes on vacay and doesn't give 2 hoots about your goals.
Since I love step-by-step guides, I mapped out what I think a proper goal setting AND achieving plan would look like.
- What goals would you like to achieve? Make a list.
- Envision your success. If you were to achieve your goal, what in your life would change? Imagine all the wonderful benefits you will receive after completing your goal in the future.
- Start small. Pick 1 goal and stick with it. Make a decision. Don't waver.
- If you get stuck at this stage, it is probably due to fear of failure. Go back to step one and visualize your success. Now look at the consequences of not achieving your goals versus your newfound success. Which is better?
- Make a decision and push forth!
- This is where the SMART formula comes in. Make sure your goal fits the SMART criteria.
- Create a path. How will you get from point A to point B? Be as specific as possible.
- Break down the larger goal into manageable chunks that are easy to implement.
- Make a list of action items and create a calendar.
- Write your goal and the steps to success out. Use this as a personal reminder.
- Check yourself daily. What did you achieve today? What will you achieve tomorrow?
- Tell your family and friends about your goal. When appropriate, update them on your progress. Their encouragement will help keep you going.
- Ask someone close to you if they would like to be an accountability partner. Together you can both achieve your goals.
- Take Action
- JUST DO IT! Each day, pick a task and finish it.
- Procrastination is your enemy. Procrastinating a goal is like driving with your emergency brake on--you won't get very far and you will feel like an idiot when you finally arrive.
- Schedule calendar reminders. Put post-its everywhere if you have to. Forgetting is not an excuse.
- Celebrate the little wins each and every day.
Sounds easy enough right? Yes and no. It really comes down to what you are willing to do to achieve your goals. If you can't get past your own fear of failure, then no measure of guides or how-to books will help since you will avoid change. The good news is, you can overcome your fear of failure. Imagining your future accomplishments and focusing on the positive rewards will lead you down the quickest path to success. Go ahead, kick that negativity to the curb!
Now, I am going to make myself accountable. Here are my (simplified) goals for 2016.
What are your goals for 2016?
Let go of fear today. Be accountable. Take Action.