By Daniel Bobinski
Perhaps you’re one of those managers or supervisors who sets new goals for your teams at the beginning of each year. For many, it’s a tradition. Millions of people make “New Year’s Resolutions.” Some are work related while others are personal. Unfortunately, come springtime, many people cannot recall the resolutions they made just a few short months earlier.
As we start off the new year, you may have a desire to change the way you’re doing something. Or perhaps you want to start doing something altogether new. If so, what follows are three techniques that have proven themselves valuable whenever they’re used.
1. Clarify your goals in writing every day.
2. Keep your focus on the path you must take.
3. Find someone you trust and stay accountable.
Let’s start by talking about clarifying your goals in writing every day. One famous success story here is Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip. As noted in Priorities magazine, Adams wrote out by hand the following sentence 15 times a day: “I will become a Syndicated Cartoonist.” Yes – 15 times a day!
Writing down goals is an important part of the process, but writing them out every day by hand is ultra-powerful, and neuroscience backs that up. According to Bottom Line publications, “Writing down goals is better than just thinking about them. It stimulates the ‘filtering’ part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).” This RAS is the same activator that notices when someone whispers your name and you can pick it out from across a crowded room. Your RAS cues your attention and helps direct your focus.
Bottom Line goes on to say that, “When you write your goals, the RAS begins collecting pertinent information and routes it to the conscious part of your mind. You become aware of opportunities you would never have noticed otherwise.” Then, when you recognize those opportunities, it’s much easier to step into them.
So step one is to establish specific, measurable goals and write them out every day.
The second step, picturing yourself doing the activities needed to achieve your goals, also has a strong influence on your RAS. It’s powerful because people go where they are focused. Think back to when you learned how to drive. Driver’s education instructors tell their students to focus on where the car will be in the next 10 to 12 seconds, not on the road right in front of the car. It’s looking at where you want to be.
Focusing on where you want to be will help you even when things aren’t moving as fast you’d like. For example, years ago I used to ride my bicycle to work, and on the way home I had to ride up a long hill. Near the top it was everything I could do just to keep peddling.
My goal was always to reach the top without stopping, and that precluded taking in the scenery. Instead, I was giving it all I had, and my focus was the ground a few feet in front of me. Sometimes I would see a small rock in my path and I would think to myself, “I’m going to miss that rock.” Except I didn’t. When I was looking at the rock, I usually ran over the rock, even though my thoughts were “I’m going to miss that rock.”
After a few times of that happening, I remembered that we go wherever we’re focused. From then on, whenever I saw a rock in my path I would simply focus on the ground a few inches away from the rock, and behold, my bike tire would go where I was looking, thus avoiding the rock.
This same practice is powerful for achieving goals. One glance in the right direction doesn’t do it. To achieve our goals, we need to focus on the path between us and our goals and not look away for too long.
Finally, let me talk about having an accountability partner. A word to the wise: Choose this person carefully! It should not be your spouse (too close to you) nor someone who is not concerned about your success.
A good accountability partner should be someone you trust, and someone who has experience in pressing through obstacles to reach their goals. It is probably best if this person is outside of your chain of command, but still has an appreciation of what you’re trying to achieve. It should also be someone whom you don’t want to let down.
Finding the right person can take some time, but it’s important to find someone who meets this criteria, plus someone who has time to connect with you regularly. Meetings don’t have to be long, just consistent. You can even meet over the phone or online.
Once you’ve identified your accountability partner, connect with that person a minimum of twice a month. Weekly is even better. Talk about your progress, but also talk about the obstacles you’re facing. It’s also best if your accountability partner does not lecture you.
Ideally, he or she should patiently ask you pertinent questions to help you think through your own solutions and actions, offering advice and pointing out cautions only as needed.
Also, don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to one accountability partner. There is a proverb that says, “Plans fail for a lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”
Still, if all you have is one, that’s way better than none.
Bottom line: There’s no reason to be shrugging your shoulders three months from now for why you didn’t make progress on your goals. You will go where you’re focused, so if you want the best chances of success, write out your goals every day and get focused on the path for what needs to be done. Then get an accountability system in place, and soon you’ll be achieving your goals and thoroughly enjoying the success.
– Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. runs two businesses. One helps teams and individuals learn how to use Emotional Intelligence. The other helps companies improve their training programs. He’s also a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-375-7606.