And how to protect yourself from your fears.
Every October I create a new note in Evernote and begin planning the new year. When I tell people I have begun planning next year they ask me why so early? The reason is simple. Giving myself two or three months to think about what I want to achieve gives me enough time to analyse the reasons why I want to accomplish something and to understand why I have not achieved it before.
One of the biggest reasons for failing to achieve goals is because when we set a goal we do not anticipate the difficulties we will face. A goal, by its very nature, is going to be difficult. If it was not it would not be a good goal to achieve. Goals need to be challenging, they need to test you, push you and help make you a better, stronger person. To do that, a goal needs to pull you away from your comfort zone and into places you feel afraid of, uncomfortable in and ultimately towards a place you have never been before.
Analyse Why You Are Afraid.
And it is the fear you need to analyse. What is it that you are afraid of? Why are you afraid of it? And why do you want to accomplish this goal? These questions are as important as making the goal itself. The reason you either have not made whatever it is a goal before or you have tried before but failed is that of that fear. If you do not understand where that fear comes from and why you fear it, you will not accomplish the goal next year either.
On a purely logical level, giving up smoking is easy. You just stop buying and smoking cigarettes. But of course, as any former or current smoker knows it is not that easy. Nicotine is addictive and incredibly comforting to a smoker. It’s that comfort that smoking gives in times of stress the smoker is afraid of losing. Fears about what they can do when they come face to face with a stressful situation without their cigarettes are what prevents most smokers from quitting. If you decide you want to quit smoking in the last week of the year, you are not giving yourself enough time to anticipate those difficult times and so you will not have any strategies for when the temptation to smoke becomes overwhelming.
If your goal is to quit your current job and begin your own business, the fear of losing a regular salary and not knowing where the next payment is going to come from is a genuine fear. The fear of failing is another strong pull to stop you from achieving your goal. Both of these are legitimate fears and without enough time to think through the consequences and develop some plans to overcome those fears, you will either not make a determined enough effort or you will fail very quickly and then decide owning your own business is not for you.
You will experience moments of weakness.
Setting goals is fun. It is energising and can get you excited about what your ‘new life’ will be like. Those feelings can disappear very quickly when we come face to face with reality. This is why when you allow yourself enough time to write out all the things you want to achieve you can objectively look at your list and think carefully about what you will do when you have a ‘moment of weakness’. For smokers, you can create a list of all the reasons why not smoking will benefit you and keep that list somewhere accessible at all times of the day. Or you can arrange with a trusted friend to be there to talk you out of smoking whenever the urge hits you.
Don’t try and achieve all your goals at once.
Another reason for starting early is so you can build a long list of all the things you want to achieve. This means when December comes around you have a list you can reduce down to the top three or five goals you would like to achieve. Another reason for failing to achieve your goals is because people often set too many. Three to five goals is a realistic target as this allows you to start a new goal every two or three months. Starting all your goals at once is just a recipe for failure. A better way is to focus on one goal at a time and when the new habits have taken root, you can begin the next goal. As Tony Robbins says “we overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade”
To give you an example of this in play, six months ago I began studying Korean language. My goal is to be fluent in the language by June next year and I have given myself one year to accomplish that goal. When I decided to set this goal, I knew I had tried to learn Korean before and failed every time. This time, before I began, I looked back to see why I had failed before. I saw that I had tried studying at night and that was where there was a significant problem. Evening times can be unpredictable for me. Most evenings I will finish my work around 10 pm. But after I do finish work I am tired and just want to head to bed. That is not a good mindset for spending forty to sixty minutes for studying a language.
Also On my goals list for this year was to begin waking up at 5 AM and joining Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club. Robin recommends that between 5 AM and 6 AM you do 20 minutes exercise, 20 minutes planning and 20 minutes studying. I hate exercising first thing the morning, but I enjoy exercising in the afternoons and I do all my planning in the evening. However, I saw the opportunity to use the time between 5 AM and 6 AM to study Korean so I modified the 5 AM Club to give myself one hour of Korean study divided into three segments.
In the final quarter of 2018, I also had on my goals list to start meditating. Again, I saw the opportunity to use my 5 AM Club time to incorporate fifteen minutes each day for quiet meditation. So now, I wake up at 5 AM do forty-five minutes Korean study and fifteen minutes meditation to finish with. I’m now three weeks into this new routine and I am loving it. I now wake up excited and I really enjoy my 5 AM Club time. Back in December last year when I was planning this I anticipated the difficulties I would face, built strategies to overcome those difficulties and so when I began I was ready and had backup plans to deal with those weaknesses and difficulties. I used to hate mornings. I was a night owl. Now I love them.
If you want to build a set of goals that you can achieve next year, start building the list of things you would like to accomplish now. Spend November adding to your list and when December comes reduce your list to no more than five goals that you strongly believe you can achieve. Then spend December deciding when you will begin achieving those goals and what you can do to overcome the moments of weakness you will inevitably experience. Good luck!
If you want help in discovering what you want out of life and in achieving your goals, Take a look at my Time And Life Mastery online course. It is a course designed to help you discover what you want to achieve in life and then show you how to turn those goals and dreams into achievable goals. Now is a great time to take the course. It has over 70 lessons, a comprehensive workbook and will give you the building blocks to building an amazing life. Full details can be found here.
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