At the beginning of each year, millions of people and companies make “New Year’s Resolutions.” And every March or April, most folks can’t recall what resolutions they made. The main reason? They did not focus on their goals.
Focus is a powerful thing. When race car drivers train, their coaches tell them two things to do in case of a spin out: Turn into your spin, and focus your eyes on where you want your car to go. Bicycle racers are taught to look ahead on the trail or track for where they want their bikes to go, and driver’s education instructors tell their student drivers to focus on where the car is going to be in the next ten-to-twelve seconds.
As these examples show, whenever we have movement, we need focus. The same applies to us as we move through life.
One glance in the right direction doesn’t do it. Life is a series of images vying for our attention, and distractions abound. (Why do you think companies continue to pour so much money into advertising campaigns?) To stay focused, we must choose to be proactive – Old habits die hard!
I suggest three actions to help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions:
- Write out your goals on a daily basis. Review them over and over.
- Picture yourself as you would be after you’ve achieved them. If you can’t think it or see it in your head, you can’t do it.
- Get yourself an accountability partner.
Write Out Your Goals and Review Them Often
One famous success story on the value of writing out goals is Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip. As noted in Priorities Magazine, fifteen times a day Adams wrote out the following sentence: “I will become a Syndicated Cartoonist.” Fifteen times a day!
The power of writing goals is quite scientific. 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.
Bottom Line also tells us 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.”
If You Can’t See It, You Can’t Do It
Psychologists will tell you that when the picture in your head is different from what you have, you are more likely to act so your mental picture becomes a reality.
As an example, many Olympic athletes now train mentally as well as physically. One sports-training website instructs athletes to “concentrate and visualize themselves [practicing] over and over until it becomes perfect and routine … Picture yourself doing it slowly and perfectly at first then at different angles … Visualize your fingers, arms and all your muscles performing in exactly the way you want them to.”
As I’ve taught in goal setting workshops for years, “you have to see yourself doing something before you can do it.”
Get an Accountability Partner
No man is an island. An accountability partner helps you stay focused. Warning: Choose this person carefully! It should not be your spouse (too close to you) or someone who may not keep a trust.
Meet with your accountability partner at least twice a month (more is better) to talk about your progress, the obstacles you’re facing, and any other thoughts about your personal or professional life. Your accountability partner should not lecture you or tell you what to do, but rather ask pertinent questions to help you think through your own solutions and actions.
There is a proverb that says, “Plans fail for a lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” I say even one advisor is better than none. The fact that you know you’re meeting with someone to discuss the progress on your goals is usually enough to help you take action toward achieving them.
Bottom line: You go where you’re focused. Write out your goals, visualize yourself accomplishing them, and get someone to help you be accountable toward achieving them.