Don’t make resolutions, and 6 other tips for success in 2019

—Amy M. Gardner

Tuesday wasn’t magical. 

There, I said it.  Yes, the new year is exciting – time to turn the page on 2018, and look forward to the blank slate of 2019.  If your inbox is like mine, you probably had an onslaught of emails Tuesday and Wednesday with subject lines like “New Year, New You,” “New Year, New Discoveries,” or my favorite: “New Year, New Shoes” (because evidently, the 2018 me is good enough, but my shoes aren’t?!). 

But beyond the emails trying to get us to whip out our credit cards, the new year is a good time to reflect on last year and think about how we’d like the next year to be different.  Here’s the catch, though: You probably tried that last year, yet all of the new shoes in the world won’t help you make progress on your goals in 2019.  Instead, you need a dose of reality, and what we call the CAN-DO Formula.

First, the reality check:  I met with a prospective client last spring.  As we started our conversation, I suggested we talk first about his goals for his career, and then whether they were a good match for coaching, and finally whether they were a good match for working with me.  “Oh no,” he said, “that isn’t necessary.  I already know my goals, that they are a match for coaching, and that I want to work with you.”  “OK,” I responded, “then what can I help you with today?”  “Well,” he said, “I want to decide when we should start – either December or January.”  Now very confused, I asked him “is there a reason you want to wait?”  He confidently responded, “It’s too late to work on my 2018 goals, so I’m shifting to 2019.”  

Again, this wasn’t December or even November – he had given up on the year in the spring!  With 8 months to go, he had decided to curl up in a ball and not try.  That’s the danger of getting too wrapped up in January 1 and “resolutions” – when you have the inevitable misstep, whether giving in to the chocolate cake, not following up with a potential client, or not raising your hand for a plum assignment at work,  it’s too easy to throw up your hands and give up on the year.  What that really means, though, is that you’re giving up on yourself.  You’re telling yourself that you can keep tolerating your current situation, and that you don’t deserve better.  In fact, you’re so sure this is all you deserve that you’re not going to use this year to try to improve.  Imagine if when you were 8 years old you had just decided “it’s March, and I haven’t learned multiplication yet.  I’m just going to hold off until next year.”  Or if when you were learning to walk, your parents declared “You’ve fallen 50 times already this year.  Let’s just try again next year.”  Ummmm, no.  So if  something like 80% of people give up on their resolutions by mid-February, what should you do instead?  Naturally there’s much more to goal achievement than what I’m going to suggest, but these seven dos and don’ts can get you started:  

  1. Don’t make resolutions.  Yes, a career and career transitions coach is telling you not to make resolutions.  Why?  Because resolutions are things you make and then try to keep.  But that all or nothing thinking won’t get you there.  Make goals instead.  With goals, it’s expected you’ll have setbacks, but you don’t “break” them – you have slip-ups, and then get back to work.  

  2. Do tie your goals to the calendar, but stop assuming January 1 is magical.  It isn’t.  January 1 is the same as any other day, except that we’re more likely to have it off from work.  This thinking that certain days are different than others – “I can’t start my diet today, I have to start Monday” (Sound familiar?) or that January is somehow more likely to be successful than starting a quarterly goal April 1 just isn’t true, and it doesn’t work.  

  3. Don’t tell the world your goals for the year.  As Derek Sivers explains in his TED Talk, telling everyone your goals means you’re less likely to achieve them.   And, as Walt Disney famously said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”  You need a small inner circle you can trust to share your goals, your accomplishments, your setbacks, and who can help you brainstorm next steps.  That group is inevitably not your entire family, all your Facebook friends, or all of your coworkers.   

  4. Don’t think that setting a goal means your work is done.  You’ve probably heard the line “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  That’s true, and a goal without a wish is also just setting yourself up for failure.  

  5. On the flipside, don’t assume that because you don’t know every single thing you need to do to achieve a goal, you can’t set it.  Sitting here now, you don’t have to know every step to achieving a goal you want to reach by June.  Take the steps you can take now, and have faith that you – and your supporters – will figure out the rest as you go.  

  6. Don’t assume it will all be sunshine and rainbows, and don’t beat yourself up when you have setbacks.  As Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success.”  You will inevitably have setbacks as you work toward your goals.  Think upfront about how you might handle some of those so when you have one of those setbacks, your first instinct is “oh, right – I knew there would be bumps.  What strategy should I use?” rather than giving up when you’re far closer to success than you were before you set the goal.  

    If, for example, your goal is to exercise three times per week, think about what you will do when the weather is bad, or when you are traveling.  If your goal is to get your work done on Fridays so you don’t have to work on weekends, plan what you’ll do if you have a particularly busy Thursday or what you’ll say to a new assignment late Friday afternoon.  

    When you encounter the inevitable setbacks, it may help to think about the baby who gets back up and tries again as she’s learning to walk.  She doesn’t give up, so you shouldn’t either.

  7. Do develop the right tools, which brings us to the CAN-DO Formula.  

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The CAN-DO Formula is made up of key elements needed for goal achievement.  The acronym’s elements are:

  1. Clarity and Coaching to create well defined goals that fit your overall plan.

  2. Accountability to make sure you make progress.

  3. Network of like-minded achievers to advise you on the technical realities of your goals.

  4. Dedication created by personal investment in yourself to ensure you achieve your goals.

  5. Opportunity to have the space to create the focus you need to execute.

Of course there’s a lot more to the formula than this Cliffs’ Notes version, and there are lots of different ways to follow it.  Maybe you light a candle, sit in the bathtub for an hour with a glass of wine, then snuggle up with a blanket in front of a fire, and spend a week reflecting, journaling, and looking forward, devising plans, drawing on an accountability buddy and your kitchen cabinet of advisors, maybe you hire coaches, trainers, and a pit crew of support to help you on the way.  You even carve out time every day to make forward progress on your goals – maybe while a driver takes you to work, or maybe your personal assistant sits with you each day to help you make progress.  

Or, maybe you’re on planet earth and think “reflection” is that thing you see as you stand in front of the microwave, willing it to go faster so you can shove some lunch into your mouth and get back to work. 

Regardless of where you are on those two ends of the spectrum, you can use the CAN-DO Formula to get going on your goals.  And if you’re closer to the planet earth end of the spectrum, consider whether one of Apochromatik’s Future in Focus 2019 Masterminds might be a good fit for you.  Through a 6 month program, you’ll create well-defined goals that fit your overall plan, have weekly accountability check-ins to help you make progress toward your goals, be helped by a small cohort of like-minded achievers to help you brainstorm and act on the follow-through, investment in the mastermind helps force you to be dedicated to following through on your goals, and you’ll have the space created for you to be able to focus on yourself and your career.  Can you get the same results on your own?  Maybe.  But if you could have, wouldn’t you have already?  Stop tolerating.  Make 2019 the year you don’t fall for the resolutions nonsense and do finally achieve the goals you’ve been afraid to admit you have.

Mark Twain once said “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”  Let’s go.    

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