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Who do you think of when you think of someone who has been successful in their goals? Most imagine a person who is highly disciplined, smart. creative and tireless. We also tend to think of someone attractive in some way, and engaging. These are the images our minds tend to go to and, to some degree, they ring true. Yet, there are millions of nice, intelligent and winsome individuals who are not “successful” by their own definition, let alone by the sometimes cruel definitions of others. Deep down, they feel they are capable of much more, or that they have “plateaued” in their goal achievement long ago. Could this be you as well?
In fact, most of us can point to several areas of our lives that seem to be holding us back, struggles we have vowed to overcome for years, even decades without any sustained success. This is frustrating and costly on many levels. The question is why? Before we address the answer, let’s take a brief look at the latest research surrounding who succeeds and who doesn’t, by the numbers.
Top 5 goals for 2015
Research released by the University of Scranton (January, 2015) indicated the following goals were the most common for 2015:
|Spend Less, Save More|
|Enjoy Life to the Fullest|
|Staying Fit and Healthy|
What is the key to successful goal-setting?
Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University randomly assigned study participants into five groups:
• Group 1 was asked to simply think about the business-related goals they hoped to achieve and to rate each goal by several measures including perceived difficulty and past experience with similar goals.
• Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them in same way as Group 1.
• Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.
• Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.
• Group 5 did all of the above plus sent a weekly progress report to a friend.
How did they do?
Group 1 Accomplished 43% of their goals.
Group 4 accomplished 64% of goals,
Group 5 were the most successful, accomplishing 76% of their goals.
What can we immediately apply from the above findings to double our chances of success in 2015?
Is there a good reason to believe you will achieve your 2015 goals in the nine months remaining? The answer is clearly, “it depends.”
- Writing down your goals will help, sharing your goals with a friend will help you even more. But, partnering to be accountable with someone on an ongoing basis will give you 33% more likelihood of success.
- If you haven’t written down your goals formally, we can guess from the above data, that you have a far less than 43% chance of success. One study put this figure as low as 4%.
- If you have an accountability partner to review your goals with you frequently throughout the year, your chances swell to 75%.
- Those of us who are older may need even more accountability to counteract the mood dip we may experience in mid-life and the far lower rates of goal success (around 14%.)
Key Fire Your Excuses principles to help you set better goals
Let’s return to our opening discussion–who are those who do the best at achieving their goals? What we know now is those who are connected and accountable to others enjoy the best odds of success.
For this reason, we continually urge our audiences and coaching clients, “Don’t try harder in 2015, get more connected.” If you have had the same goal for 10 years, say to lose that 10-15 pounds, sorry to say, there is a near zero chance you will achieve it this year based on willpower alone. The same goes for finally finding that dream job. You will need to reach out to others who are living the life you seek or who are actively holding themselves accountable to others weekly to consistently perform at a higher level. What we have noted over the years is that willpower will sustain you for three months, six months if you are extraordinary, but rarely longer. Studies show that within two years, nearly all who rely on willpower alone will have returned to their baseline weight or lifestyle.
We also challenge our readers and audience members to “Walk the last mile of denial!” It is so easy to go 90% of the way on your own but, due to your blind spots or well-worn excuses, leave that last 10% wide open. Result– self-sabotage, failure and discouragement.
Lest we be too hard on ourselves, our lifestyle “set points” can become very entrenched and often protect us to a degree. Powerful emotions, often unconscious to us, are at play, not just our resolve. Each of us have skills and practice disciplined behaviors we routinely perform that others struggle to accomplish or avoid all together. And, we have some areas that others do not struggle with but have been our challenge for as long as we can remember.
Give yourself a hearty “high five” for your strengths and disciplines, but be completely honest about those areas that have little chance of changing without finding support. Everything changes when you admit, despite knowledge, degrees, position, income or talents, there are several big areas that you just can’t yet “muscle through.”
Stop trying to be a will power achiever–reach out for help. Buckminster Fuller said it best: “Environment is stronger than will power.” Bottom line: It is far more effective to change your social support circle than to muster up more will power.
Now that you know the facts, the rest is up to you. Will you “double-down” trying harder or will you reach out and change your environment this year? If we can help you in any way achieve your goals in 2015, let us know.
Dr. Bill & Dr. Marcus
This Wednesday we pause again to celebrate National Fire Your Excuses Day!
Each January 14th we observe “A Day Without Excuses.” This day, two weeks from the start of the new year, is when we invite all to review their yearly goals and to set in motion their actions to make the year extraordinary.
How to celebrate National Fire Your Excuses Day with your family, colleagues or friends
Honor your resolve to live excuse-free in 2015 by taking one or more of the actions below this Tuesday:
1. Plan…set your written 2015 goals- you do have them, right? If not, take a day to complete them. This is your first critical step. Then, share your goals with at least two people who will hold you accountable throughout the year. By the way, research shows that pure “will power’ lasts, on average, just 90 days before fading and the individual goes back to his or her “normal habits.” Don’t let this be you (again.)
2. Connect…join one group that will help you succeed. John F. Kennedy said: “A rising tide raises all boats.” Put your boat into the ocean by joining with others. The oft-quoted statistic–“It takes 21 days to form a new habit” is wrong. The average time is 66 days and in many cases far longer. So, you will need some help along the way. Give yourself the best chance you can for finally achieving that big goal this year by focusing your attention on reaching out early to enlist partners.
3. Move…Consider adopting the household rule: “No electronics before exercise.” if there is time for after-hours, recreational electronic use–streaming video, gaming, Facebook, etc., there is time for exercise. No excuses this year.
4. Learn…what skills are separating you from your dream? If you know you are unlikely to master them yourself-be brutally honest about this, who can you get on your team? And, who can you seek out for expert help?
5. Serve…All of us have more to offer than we believe we do, at times. Make one of your core goals to help someone EVERY week in a hands-on way in 2015. Which relative, friend, organization or cause needs your support? Fire Your Excuses! If you are already a giver by nature, spend 2015 learning how to LEVERAGE your impact. How could you take your serving impact to another whole level in 2015?
Key Principles to Remember This Year:
Refuse to minimize your use of excuses: Remember “Not all excuses are the same, some hinder us, some hurt us, and some kill us.” At the very least, excuses rob us of our dreams, impact and purpose. We can’t count the number of extremely intelligent and influential people we meet each year who are shortening their lives with their health habits.
“Don’t try harder in 2015, get more connected!” Do you have important goals that have eluded you for years? It’s time to admit that while willpower is needed, but it is not enough. Don’t just do what you always have done or beat yourself up for not being more disciplined. Get help!
Finally, what we have observed in our combined 60 years of working with individuals to achieve permanent change is this: “Everything changes when we walk the last mile of denial.” What is your “last mile?” If you are willing to do 90% of what is needed to change but are holding out on that 10%, in many cases, that small area will be enough to keep you from ever changing permanently. So ask yourself: What two or three actions have I been unwilling to take until now? It will make all the difference.
Want to turbo-charge your progress in 2015?
1. Receive our enewsletter. You can sign up right here on our site on the right. As your free gift you’ll receive Fire Your Excuses “Career” Chapter, and excuse-busting tips throughout 2015.
2. Join our Fire Your Excuses Facebook Fan Page community and read the stories of others who have been changing their lives permanently.
3. Pick up a hard copy or ebook version of Fire Your Excuses. “Your blueprint for permanent change for the cost of a movie!”
4. Take the free Fire Your Excuses Self-Assessment and see how your excuse profile compares with others across the nation and the world.
5. Consider a coaching session or program to help you stay on track throughout 2015. Click here for more details.
When people hear us say that a life of serving is the ultimate benchmark of having “fired one’s excuses” their thoughts often go to their level of involvement in local charities, international relief organizations and their kid’s sports equipment drive. We support such big serving activities too.
At their best, these campaigns and causes can have a tremendous impact on the classroom, the community and the world. They can teach citizenship, make a difference for those suffering with debilitating diseases and mountainous challenges, and help to rescue those suffering gross social injustices and poverty. But, at their worst, these big, public, serving activities can devolve into mandatory social obligations, feel far removed from real life, and even become “trendy.” Most of us have attended charity events that felt more like a place “to see and be seen.” Or, we have received correspondence from a company whose charitable or ecofriendly campaign appeared to be nothing more than a thinly-veiled marketing attempt to be seen as caring.
We’d like to encourage you to expand your view of service by going “small,” by thinking with us about creative, highly impactful and, in many cases, anonymous ways of “serving small.” This type of serving is one-to-one, impacting those you know well and those you don’t but with whom your lives intersect daily.
Here are 10 easy but powerful ways you can start serving small:
- Reach out to three of your LinkedIn connections each week and ask: “What are you working on (more formal) or “what are you up to these days? (less formal, for a closer colleague or friend.) Anything I can do to help?”
- Text three people and simply say: “I am thinking about you today, how are you doing with ______[insert challenge, big project, or blessing here.] If you are spiritually-minded you might say, “I know you are [dealing with a big challenge/decision, etc.] Just wanted to let you know I am think about you and praying for you today.”