By Dr. Elia Gourgouris and Kon Apostolopoulos

In the first part (Get Out of Your Comfort Zone) of our series, we looked at the staggering number of people (about 80%) that fail their New Year’s resolutions by February, with only 8% achieving their goals by the end of the year. We looked at the inability to get out of the Comfort Zone and beyond the Fear Zone as a primary factor for this “failure to launch”. Getting to the finish line, or the Growth Zone, is the ultimate goal, but we found there are still valuable insights and experiences to be gained in the Learning Zone.

In Part 2 (Making Transformational Change Stick), we talked about the ingredients of lasting change and the obstacles we need to overcome. The last ingredient on the list was creating an Action Plan to move from where we are, or have been, to where we want to be.

The difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.

Dr Elia Gourgouris

How do we create a life that brings us success, happiness, balance, and purpose? There is a process that we use personally and with our clients based on the book by Jinny Ditzler, titled Your Best Year Yet! The process is simple, but the outcome can be transformational.

Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

Where do we start?

Before we move forward, we need to reflect back and take stock of the previous period or year. We begin by asking the question: what were our biggest accomplishments? This can apply to an individual’s professional and personal life, to teams, to a company and beyond. In our busy lives, too often we allow ourselves to be swept forward to the next thing, to chase the next shiny object, the next target. We rarely take the time to pause and evaluate what has truly worked and what needs to change.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Steve Jobs

The next question to ask is: what were our greatest disappointments? Given we are imperfect beings, there will inevitably be ups and downs, missed targets, and things we wished we could do over. Successful people, teams, and companies have as many disappointments as the rest of us. The difference is that:

  1. They own it. They take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and failures. They don’t make excuses or blame others, but rather take full and complete responsibility.
  2. They learn from it. Disappointments are not failures unless you don’t learn anything from the experience.
  3. They let it go. After taking ownership and learning from the experience, successful people move on unburdened from self-pity and self-deprecation, lighter and wiser from the experience.

What did we learn? From our accomplishments we learn what worked well and what matters to us; those are actual lessons. From our disappointments, the potential lessons are what we need to do differently. They are potential lessons because we can choose to act on the knowledge or not.  Time after time, we coach and consult people and teams that are still trying to solve the same problem year after year. They learn nothing from the experience and still insist on repeating failed ways.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

Therefore, the lessons learned become the guidelines to create our best year yet. These guidelines are not our goals, they are the prism through which we view the future. They are the summary of our experiences from the past year, which along with our core values, help us to set meaningful goals.

Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

Next, we evaluate ourselves through the roles that we play in our life. On an individual basis that could be our role as parent, sibling, friend, colleague, leader, etc. From a company’s perspective, we can look at the parts of the organization, i.e. Sales, Marketing, Operations, HR, Leadership, etc. Even though the (self-)evaluation may be subjective, it needs to be honest and fair. The result will uncover area(s) that we need to prioritize if we are to achieve balance and our best year.

Looking to the future

The last part of the planning process is to create meaningful goals for the year. With a clear understanding of what’s worked and what’s important, we can now focus our attention on the future we want to create. The approach we have used successfully is to develop SMART goals for each of our areas/roles.

We encourage our clients to write their goals in a way that is very Specific and describes the desired outcome in detail. A way that is Measurable and allows progress to be tracked. To ensure each goal is perceived to be Attainable by, and is Relevant to the individual or team, while being Time-Bound to add the appropriate sense of urgency.

Consider this common New Year’s Resolution: I want to lose some weight. That’s an aspiration, but not a very SMART way of setting the goal. How could we improve the wording and add power to our statement?

  • My goal is to lose 10 pounds (OK)
  • My goal is to lose 10 pounds by the end of August (Better)
  • My goal is to lose 15 pounds of fat and add 5 pounds of muscle by August 31 (Best)

Being clear about what we want to accomplish, believing it, and setting a realistic plan and timeline will help you achieve the important goals you set.

Ambiguity is the friend of Mediocrity.

Kon Apostolopoulos

Commitment and Accountability

So, if writing our goals down is SMART, is that enough to succeed? That’s a great start but experience has shown us that sharing our commitment to our goals with others improves our likelihood of success, while adding regular follow up is a way to reinforce personal accountability and get you across the finish line. Don’t believe us? A study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a Psychology Professor at the Dominican University of California provided empirical evidence showing the value of taking the time to write down your goals, create an action plan, and develop a system of support to hold yourself accountable for achieving your goals. This study showed that 76 percent of participants who wrote down their goals and provided weekly progress to a friend successfully achieved their goals. Compare that to the 43 percent success rate of those that didn’t write down their goals! The right process will significantly increase the likelihood we achieve those goals and New Year’s Resolutions.

Knowledge without application is just education.

Dr Elia Gourgouris

If you, your team, or your company want to learn more or need someone to facilitate the process, assist you to clearly define your goals and objectives, and help hold you accountable, feel free to contact us.