Achieving your goals is about creating new habits
With the distraction of modern life, the setting and achieving of goals over the medium and long term can be difficult unless you have solutions to cope with the urgency of competing priorities and the appeal of instant gratification. The ability to balance all that we have going on in our daily lives, whilst also progressing our short, medium and long term goals may simply require a few small changes in behaviour.
The challenge of changing behaviour
Creating new positive habits can make significant differences in your life and give you the skills to turn what was previously perceived as impossible, into the possible. But how easy is it to change our behaviour? A few statistics from Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project(1) reveals that change, unfortunately, is not that easy…
- 25 per cent of people abandon their New Years’ resolution(s) after just one week
- 95 per cent of people who lose weight on a diet, regain it
- Most alarming is that after surviving a heart attack, only 1 in 7 people make any enduring life changes around eating or exercise.
We are all creatures of habit. While some behaviours can become so ingrained, such as smoking or eating fast food, that it is difficult to stop even when we want to, we have a better chance of being able to break some habits by choosing to create new patterns of behaviour. For example, going for a walk with a friend or family member each day instead of watching television is a great way to substitute one ‘poor’ behaviour for a more positive one.
Make SMART goals
The easiest way to turn an idea into a goal is to raise the level of commitment you are prepared to make by referring to specific outcomes. Goals should be SMART:
- Specific: Make your goal clear and unambiguous. E.g. Do you want to simply travel more in the next couple of years, or was it that you wanted to take a six-week European holiday in September this year. That is the difference in being specific.
- Measurable: Measuring a goal assists you to stay on track as you make progress towards achieving it. E.g. Instead of just losing weight, why not commit to losing 7kg’s.
- Achievable: Goals need to be a stretch from where you are now, but also within your reach. E.g. If you’ve never run before, it may be unrealistic (and is probably dangerous to your health) to attempt a marathon as your first ever running event, so why not progressively train for a 5km race in three months time instead, with the view to completing a marathon at the end of next year.
- Relevant: Goals need to be important and tailored to your circumstances E.g. How much in accumulated savings do you need to meet your living expenses in retirement.
- Time-based: A time-based goal is more likely to establish a sense of urgency. Unless you keep yourself accountable to a deadline, the achievement of a goal may slip over to next year’s resolution list.
So where do you start?
One of the easiest ways to set a goal is to start with the end in mind, and then work backwards by ‘chunking’ the task into bite-sized pieces, so as time goes on you can begin to see the progressive achievement of the goal. In setting SMART goals, one of the things you need to avoid is the temptation to set so many goals that you begin to feel overwhelmed and/or distracted.
According to the NSW Government’s Small Biz Connect portal(2), prioritising your goals allows you to be more effective in managing your time. The first logical step would be to understand the tasks (i.e. bite-sized pieces) that you are required to complete and approximately how long it will take you to complete them. A suggestion would be to create a list of all your major tasks. You should then estimate the length of time required to complete these tasks and finally rank each task, in order of priority or importance, to set an order of completion.
Some may find writing a list daunting, however, it helps to ensure that you don’t forget any tasks, as they have all been noted down. Further, by organising priorities and time, this may help to alleviate stress and anxiety over completing everything in the required time. A sense of accomplishment and achievement is also attained when you have completed a task and cross it off your list.
Don’t beat yourself up if you suffer a setback
We can all relate to those previous attempts where, despite the best of intentions, we fell short of our goals and as a result we felt horrible – perhaps even disgruntled – about it. One of the lessons you can take from such a setback is to accept the outcome and learn to embrace the best within yourself. Chris Gardner(3), the man on whom the film ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ was based, in his retelling of his battle to come out of poverty and homelessness, offers advice to embrace the best within us:
- Make a choice to let go of judgment and accept who you are at your best.
- Choose to break generational cycles.
- Choose to accept that you are allowed to be happy and have abundance
- Choose to learn from the past
Now, it isn’t easy to act on this advice, apply these choices and make time for what’s important when daily life stresses get in the way, which is one of the reasons why so many people now choose to engage someone else to keep them accountable to their goals.
Talk to a professional
Whether it’s your finances that are a priority, your marathon training plan or even that no sugar diet you said you would start, you may need to talk to an expert to understand how they can help. This support can be in the form of a friend you meet for a coffee, a personal trainer at the local gym or a financial planner to keep your financial goals on track.
By enlisting the help of others you can then free up your time to make better choices and to start the journey towards creating new positive habits. Take John for example:
John is a small business owner married to Kate a teacher and they have two children 13 and 10. John is trying to: Run a business; be a good husband; be a good father; keep a handle on the finances; keep fit; maintain his friendships; mentor his staff; fit in a family holiday at some point; and, maintain the condition of his home…..Something has got to give!!
With his energy focused on so many activities, where would John find the time to make better choices and start making changes to his lifestyle?
Today we call it outsourcing, the Babylonians(4) called it “…one of the cures for a lean purse”, but the message is clear – outsource the things that you are no good at or not qualified to do so that you can have more time to focus on what’s important to you and what adds value to your life.
So for John it meant joining a small business peer group, hiring a trainer for his staff, seeing a financial adviser and matching exercise with his friendship group. By doing this he freed up time for what was really important to him – being a good husband and father.
Tips to create new habits
In the above example, John was able to free up his time to focus on making change and you can too. But it’s important to remember that change takes time and there will be some resistance along the way. Try these tips(5) to help you on your journey:
1) Recognise and accept that it takes time to lock in a new behaviour
2) Be precise about what you want to achieve: Set SMART goals
3) Don’t try to change everything at once: Focus on one or two priorities at a time
4) Expect setbacks, but focus on a positive outcome rather than the negatives
5) Enlist the support of others
If your personal financial circumstances require some coaching and goal-setting, speak with one of the Adviser fp team today (CLICK HERE) to see how you might benefit from the assistance of a Financial Planning professional.