Why Your Resolutions, Intentions, or Goals Will Fail Again

    It’s that time of year. Here you are in the New Year and you have made those dreaded resolutions. For more than half of the people reading this, your resolutions have already failed. Do not be too concerned the vast majority of the world will fail to keep to their resolutions before the month is over. The truth is very few or our resolutions are ever achieved. So you decide that instead of calling them “resolutions” you will “set goals”. However, at the end of the day the only thing you have done is used a different name for the same results.

    What happened? Why did you fail? Why did your personal goals and your business goals just dissolve like an alka seltzer? Quite simply it is because you are “hoping” that your mind will cause you to change your behavior. It rarely if ever works in reality. It is time you get honest with you and admit it. It does not matter if you call them “goals” or “resolutions” you are really saying these are my…wait for it…”intentions”. What do we know about “intentions”

    “Good intentions are not enough. They’ve never put an onion in the soup yet” ~Sonya Levien

    “Hell is full of good intentions or desires” ~Saint Barnard of Clairvaux

    “Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed them. Yes, and furnished too.” ~Aldous Huxley

    The fact is all your good intentions are meaningless. No matter what you and your mind have made up it’s not working.

    Let’s look at why they fail and how to avoid it.

    Why Your Goals fail:

    1. Writing your goals down just wastes paper

    Many people believe that if they write down their goals that this will help. Not true. As with the majority of anything we write down we put it away never look or the truth is we lose it, or forget about it.

    2. Telling your goals to someone else is a waste of breath and no one really cares.

    You can tell people your intentions, but quite honestly do you think 365 days from now they really will remember or much less care what you told them? Do you really think your friend or fellow employee is all that interested in remembering your goals for the year? Who wants that responsibility?

    3. Sending a reminder to yourself eventually becomes a meaningless reminder.

    Reminders are like strings tied around your finger to remember something. After a while you habituate to the string or the reminder and it no longer has meaning. It’s true. Do wear watch? Do you always remember you are wearing it? Do you feel your watch on your wrist all the time? No, if you did it would distract you from something else. Do you have a busy street near your house? Do you notice the traffic all the time? Most of the time? No, you probably do not notice at all after a short while. Why, because it is the bodies way of allowing us to attenuate to things more important. Daily reminders after a while blend into the daily framework.

    4. Thinking or intending to do something rarely translates into behavior.

    Just because you “think” or “intend” to do something rarely does our thinking really translate into behavior. I have intentions to go to Italy, stop eating so much, cut out sweets, get into better shape, and the list goes on. I may do it for a while, but the truth, my behavior betrays my thoughts and intentions because very rarely are they truly connected.

    5. Big goals are just that…too big.

    Most of us try to make big changes. Truth is most humans do not like change. We certainly as humans are not accustomed to big change. Your body can’t handle it. You wouldn’t run a marathon the first day if you have never run before in your life. What makes you think you can do some major business change immediately?

    When Goals have the Best Chance of Working:

    1. When Your Goals Can Be Measured by Results

    If you are going to make a goal make sure you can measure it. It would be better if it could be measured every day. If you can’t measure results then what do you really have? Your business

    2. When you set incremental goals that lead to the overriding goal

    I may be dating myself here, but I remember while a graduate student at Washington State University watching the decathlete Dan O’Brien train (yes Dan and Dave from the 90’s). I remember Dan having his goals of what he needed for each event in order to win. His daily training was broken down into everything he had to achieve during his day in order to reach the final goal. He had to perform a specific set of behaviors. Such as, lift a certain amount of weight, run a in a specific time, throw a particular distance, etc. Each day was a specific set of behaviors that ultimately would lead him to his overriding goal. (By the way, he did not lose because he did not reach his goals, he lost because either he or his coach talked him into a bad decision that cost him the opportunity to go to the Olympics).

    This can be done in any business. If you are in sales, then chances are you have set a goal for how many sales you want to make that year. Now break that down even further, what does that mean you have to do every month? Now break that down to every week. Now break that down to every day etc. and so on. What are those daily behaviors that you must do on a daily basis to achieve the goal? Does that mean making a certain number of calls, sending a specific number of emails, letters, etc? How many do you have to do?

    3. When You have Consistent Feedback on the Progress of Individual Behaviors.

    Thermostats are really effective when they are working correctly. If they are working correctly they monitor the outside temperature all the time. Your specific behavior that leads to your goals most be a correctly working thermostat. Nobody wants this job to be your “goal thermostat”, consider hiring someone who will regularly not let you off the hook, and hold you accountable even if you do not want to hear it.

    4. When Your Goals are Connected with What YOU Normally Do.

    Our brain and our body is resistant to change. It especially does not handle change that is inconsistent with our previous behavior. Hence, if you are trying to make a change that you do not value you will probably will not make the change. Values are connected to your daily behavior. If your goals are consistent with what you daily do you will not change. Hence, you can set goals to make more money, but if your daily behavior is to spend it chances are you going to fail. You may want to set a goal first of spending less money you will more than likely be more successful.

    In a recent article in Psychology Today entitled “Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work” written by Ray Williams he points out that Goals are truly a waste of time. There really is no research out there that supports that goal setting works for the majority of people and businesses that try and do it. In his book entitled “OOPS! 13 Management Practices that Waste Time & Money” Aubrey Daniels sites studies that suggest that the as employees fail in their goals their production actually decreases. However, he suggests something I practice and that B.F. Skinner has said since the beginning of operant conditioning. People are more likely to achieve their goals if they have been given feedback and positively rewarded in the past for achieving them. There is no secret here folks. It is not about changing your mind. It is about changing behavior. It is also not brain science it is behavior change. Change your behavior you will change what you do. There is no “silver bullet”, there is no “fat pill” for immediate change. It is a slow arduous process that requires daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute feedback and reinforcement to make even the smallest changes.

    Do not be frustrated after all someone had a goal that you would grow up, and how many years did that take?

    To your success!


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