The Missing Step of Your New Year’s Resolution

How to link your desired outcome to your very fist step.

How to link your desired outcome to your very fist step.

Today marks the beginning of a new year. 

On this day people of every ambition are choosing to set goals. I hope you took some time to set goals for yourself for this upcoming year. Here are a sample of mine:

  • Publish “Leading Volunteers”
  • Complete course work for Ed.D.
  • Schedule family time every quarter
  • Incorporate 8 hours of margin in schedule each week
  • Weigh under 200 pounds

These goals may not seem remarkable to you but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Lurking underneath each of these simple statements are a few key elements which will determine their efficacy. I have done my best to make sure that, from day one, each of these goals is achievable. It starts with what can, and can’t, be measured. I know that many of you just want to skim this article so here it is:

  • Know what really matters: determine personal values.
  • Measure your goals: quantify exactly what you want to get done.
  • Calculate creativity: discover each step of the process.
  • Schedule success: map out each step of your goal.
  • Iterate and optimize: change and improve your plan in real time

Step Zero: Know What Really Matters

This is step zero because it has to take place before you begin: figure out which things are most valuable to you. You must have a clearly defined value system in order to attach a true meaning to any of your goals. The only worth while goals in your life will be directly attached to a specific value.

Let me be a little more concrete for those of you who hate a step-by-step guide that begins in the abstract: you will never schedule a family vacation if quality time is not important to you. You will never loose weight unless healthy living is important to you. And you will never write a book unless creative expression is important to you.

Every meaningful goal is tied directly to a personally held value.

Your goals must be connected directly to a personal value. Otherwise they will never become a part of you and what you mean to do.

Step One: Measure Your Resolution

We all know that the things in our life that matter the most get measured. This truism of goal setting works in reverse as well: what gets measured matters. The concept is simple: to track the progress of a thing, that thing must be counted. 

What gets measured matters and what matters gets measured.

Your goals must be measurable or they are not proper goals. Each of my example goals above can be measured in some way. For example: I didn't just write, “schedule family time.” I wrote, “schedule family time every quarter.” I didn’t just write, “get fit.” I wrote, “weigh under 200 pounds.” You see the difference here? I know that you do. Just remember this: specific goals get specific results which vague goals get vague results. You never know if “write more” will ever result in getting a book done. 

Specific goals get specific results.

You will notice that some of my goals are yes/no type of goals. My first goal, to publish a book, is either done or not done. So too is my second goal of completing my course work. That is why our second step is so important: you must learn how to precisely count the cost for each goal.

Step Two: Calculate Creativity

Every piece must have it’s place and purpose

Every piece must have it’s place and purpose

The first step is easy, now begins the real work. This will require some calculated creativity but you must learn how to count the cost of each goal. It is as simple as taking your end result and working it backwards. 

When I want to publish a book, I need to know exactly what that takes. This is a process that I have gone through before (and something that everyone does differently). So when I say, “publish a book,” I really mean this: construct big idea, complete outline, set work count, research, complete writing, personal editing, peer review, professional editing, final review, print cover design, digital cover design, format and export for digital, format and export for print, order and review proofs, promote, and publish book.

Without a clear understanding of the process involved, my goal of publishing a book is useless. Sometimes you know what you need to do, other times you don’t. Figure out what you need to do in order to complete your project but don’t get stuck on this phase. Researching diets for three month’s won’t help you actually meet a goal of loosing weight. Start something and hold your plans loosely, let them evolve. 

Step Three: Schedule Success

You have the trappings of a great plan here. Now it is time to actually convert your ideas into action. You know why (Step 0), you know what (Step 1), and you even know how (Step 2). All you have left to determine is when (ya, obviously this step). 

This is one of the most critical parts of effective goal setting and is the exact spot where most plans fail. With the right information at hand, you can outline steps 0, 1, and 2 in a few hours or minutes. But this last step will require you to do say no to other things in order to say yes to what you want. My good friend, Greg Stern, told me that, “discipline is doing the things you don’t want to do in order to accomplish the things that you want to get done.”

Discipline is doing the things that you don’t want to do in order to accomplish the things that you want to get done.  — Greg Stern

Step Four: Iterate and Optimize

Shout out to the Stirling & Stone group for their excellent book titled, Iterate and Optimize. I want to give them full credit for the title and half credit to the idea (authors: buy their book). Your plan has to adapt to your reality or it will never succeed. Remember, you have been working on this thing in the abstract. Soon, your idealistic little goal will suffer an encounter with reality and it better become real flexible real fast or it is going to die.

Soon your idealistic little goal will suffer an encounter with reality.

Constantly assess your progress and adjust your plan in real time. Don’t be afraid to change your goals half way through the process. Writing half of a book this year is far better than writing no books at all. So too is loosing 10 pounds instead of 30. Don’t let your own pride or stubbornness force you to quit making progress on the things that are most valuable to you.

In the End

Your success will be determined by how well you can define the why, what, how, and when of your goal. By doing so you will set out to complete the things you set out to accomplish. Now quit stalling and get to work.