Over last month I met quite a few people who told me they were motivated to change their lives or careers this year. “It’s now or never” said one woman I met. She was determined to leave her job of 10 years this year before she hit 50.
I must have heard this phrase so many times, and especially in January, I couldn’t help asking myself “What will happen if she does not succeed? Will she close the door to her dreams and desire for change?” In my experience of coaching people, what often happens when we set an ambitious goal and then fail to reach it is that we beat ourselves up hard or we decide we are a failure, and we don’t dare to try again, as a result of our own harsh self-criticism.
This motivation from self-critical place is one of the reasons why only 8 percent of the people who make New Year resolutions are successful in achieving them…
When we try to create an external change or form new habits in our lives, we first need to make changes in … our minds. We also need appropriate tools and capacity to keep up our motivation and to handle the stress and discomfort that we inevitably feel when we try to step out of our comfort zone.
Here’re my tips to help you stay on track with your objectives for 2016:
1. Develop Critical Awareness.
Most of our goals are probably not completely new. We set them or a version of them earlier before. Do you know what went wrong last time you wanted to achieve your objective? See if you can assess as neutrally as possible in what ways you sabotaged your own success. At first you will probably come up with external excuses. Keep digging. Behind those mundane ones (eg not enough time, too much workload, etc) lie your real inner blocks. Was it fear of some kind? Was it it that you lost the motivation? How did you treat yourself when you failed to meet a benchmark set up by yourself? Did you give up?
2. Connect to Your Core Values.
New Year’s resolutions are goals and objectives, and as such they are usually a manifestation of our deeper values, needs and desires. For instance, if you want to change jobs, it will help to ask yourself “Why?” It might be that you want to earn more so you can realize a dream, or you might want more time with your family, or perhaps one of your Core Values is new challenge and intellectual stimulation.
Doing the Discover Your Core Values exercise will help you get clear on your life priorities. Imagining an older version of self (at the end of your life, or in 10, or 20 years) and then looking back at the life you’ve lived will help you come up with the main themes that you need to pay attention to now. Some examples of Core Values could be Service, Community, Family, Integrity, Fun, Kindness, Health, Personal Growth, Nature, Contribution, Accomplishment, Creativity, Adventure, Travel, Freedom. Our lives become so much easier when we know our Core Values: we anchor most decisions on them and we get motivated daily by them.
I recently redid the exercise myself and (re)connected to my Core Values: they’re not static and change as we evolve. Suddenly, the decision-making became easier. For instance, my motivation for hitting the gym 2-3 times per week or to eat healthy is now firmly grounded in my values of Serving/Making a Difference, as well as Fun and Adventure. I want to stay fit and healthy to be able to do everything I want to do and to increase my life longevity. Feel free to email me if you need support and help discovering your Core Values.
3. Set the bar high.
If you want something and have wanted it for long time, take that goal out of the closet and dust it off. Set a high expectation for yourself
4. Motivate yourself with encouragement.
How do you treat yourself when you don’t meet your goals? Or when you get derailed or forget to do something important? Are you hard on yourself? Most of us go straight into self-criticism and self-judgement. The thing is if you beat yourself up, you may become afraid of failure and you will stop trying… Fear of failure, performance anxiety, low self-confidence, all of these are associated with self-criticism, the biggest enemy of your motivation. You can, however, learn to motivate yourself with positive encouragement and self-compassion. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to your best friend. Even if you fall short of the mini-goal you set for yourself this week, treat yourself with kindness: acknowledge your effort, recognize the conditions that might have made it hard for you to succeed and make a plan of what you will do differently next time if meeting this goal is important to you.
5. Set realistic sub-goals.
Some people make goals that are too big and unrealistic to obtain immediately. For instance, the idea of losing 10 kg without sub-goals is just overwhelming. While I don’t think many of us set goals such as “I want to have a body like Kim Kardashian or Brad Pitt”, our goals can be sometimes too vague or too big.
If your objective is to change jobs this year, break this goal down into smaller, actionable monthly and even weekly steps, ie update LinkedIn profile, update your CV, contact headhunters, meet 2 people per week to network, etc. If you want a promotion, you can make a plan of action that includes getting feedback from your manager, adding a skill or two that is required for a higher-responsibility post, networking within the company, etc.
6. Factor in accontability and external support.
When we are after making significant changes in our lives, we need accountability and support to sustain our motativation, overcome doubts and other internal barriers. Who can you count on to hold you accountable to deliver on your promises to yourself? Maybe a friend or your spouse will volunteer. Another option that is worth exploring is hiring a coach. The coaching profession was born out of the universal human desire to reach our big goals faster without wasting time or getting off the track. Just like every successful athlete has a personal coach to help them reach their goals, most successful people in business and media invest into coaching for that extra support, candid feedback and accountability we all need. If you’re interested in learning more, read tips on hiring a coach here. I highly recommend that you find yourself a coach that holds ICF credentials and is a member of this most reputed international coaching organization. As one of those ICF-accredited and PCC-level coaches, I’d be happy to help, time permitting.
Yes, you’ve read this right. Introducing a short, 15-20 minutes long, regular daily practice of meditation into your life, will boost your focus, clarity, calmness and groundness that we all need to stay motivated and advance faster towards our goals. You will be less stressed, your interpersonal relations will improve, you will be less distracted, you will grow more compassionate towards yourself and others, and you will accomplish more in a shorter period of time, thus improving your work-life balance. Read this article to find out about other benefits of meditation, and contact me if you want to join a small group mindfulness class I’m starting to teach here in Paris.