I typed “New Year’s Resolution” into Google. I got 43,700,00 results. Interestingly, I typed in “make an action plan” and got a whopping 241,000,000 results. No, I didn’t spend my day (or multiple lifetimes) reading them. What occurred to me was this – we don’t have a shortage of knowledge. So we must be lacking in something else. Miller and Marlatt from the University of Washington found that a strong commitment to change was necessary to keep resolutions. I believe there are 4 additional things I need to keep my resolutions. They are importance, motivation, competence, and skills.
So, the 4 things you need to achieve your goals/resolutions: importance, motivation, competence, and skills. Easy, right? Unfortunately, I am positive I have nothing new to add to this particular topic. I wish I did. I wish I had the secret sauce that could make achieving goals, resolutions, or whatever, easy. I don’t. However, from spending time researching this topic, seeing clients progress through their goals, and multiple achievements and failures of my own, I do think I have learned some things.
Importance and Motivation
These two go hand in hand. If something is not important enough, I won’t have the motivation. Take it off the table! If I am going to keep my resolutions, they will have to be important enough to keep motivated over time. Our goals have to be important if we can ever expect to achieve them. We simply won’t have the drive to get there otherwise. I realize this is a no-brainer, from the intellectual side of things. However, it gets bigger than that.
Think about your upcoming New Year’s resolution. How excited are you about it? Ask yourself an honest question: How excited was I six months after the last thing I was this excited about? Be honest. If the answer is a “not very,” then your goal needs to be more important. If it’s not important enough to excite you six months from now, it will not likely be one that gets kept.
Motivation comes from importance. It is vital that motivation be intrinsic – that is, something from inside of you. Motivation from others, external motivation, will only work for a short time. Namrata Kumari wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about why motivation fades over time. It will fade – almost always. External things can give us a shot in the arm every now and then. Things like praise from a spouse or a bonus at work will give us a boost when we’re down. But at the end of the day, motivation really does have to come from the inside and it is strongly tied to importance. I have to have a strong desire at all stages in order to keep my resolutions.
Competence refers to having a certain level of knowledge. Skills are the things I need to do to implement that knowledge. Sometimes I simply don’t know the things I need to know. Other times, I have the knowledge but don’t know how to implement it.
Competence comes from studying or being taught. When we set goals, we usually do a poor job of finding out if we need additional knowledge. Set some important goals that will keep you motivated. Then determine if you need new knowledge to reach them. If I am going to keep my resolutions, I will need to be willing to learn new things as I go.
If you have the knowledge you need, ask yourself, “Can I put this into practice?” Skills develop over time with, yes, practice. We learn to do the same thing better and more efficiently as we do it. Unfortunately, “better” does not always mean “better.” Sometimes we get better at doing things the wrong way. I don’t know who it was but someone once said, “Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
If we lack skills, we may need a coach. A coach is someone who can detect flaws in your skills and sometimes identify areas where you lack knowledge. If you’re trying to grow a business, you may need a coach who has grown more than you. If you’re trying to lose weight, you might need someone to walk beside you who has done it and knows the tricks. If you want to write a book, find a successful author and learn from him or her. I have to develop or acquire skills if I expect to keep my resolutions. Fortunately, skills can be developed through coaching.
Remember, when determining your New Year’s resolution, make sure it’s important enough to keep you motivated and that you know what competence and skills you need to develop.
How successful have you been with your New Year’s resolutions in the past? We would love to hear from you so leave your comments below.