January: Make a Plan, not a Resolution

Resolution - Goal Setting mind map


As I recently said, in 2013 I’m choosing happiness. Does that mean being happy is my New Year’s resolution? Absolutely not!

Why? Because I actually want this to work.

What’s wrong with a resolution?

Over the years I’ve made plenty of New Year’s resolutions but I don’t think I’ve ever really stuck to them. I bet you probably haven’t managed many either. In fact it’s a bit depressing to think about them really, isn’t it? But let’s not be too down on ourselves because I’ve realised most resolutions are really doomed to fail before Big Ben has even finished chiming.

I promised myself that this year I was going to bring my years of project management experience to bear on my personal life. As soon as I put my work hat on to start thinking about what I wanted to achieve it was glaringly obvious that ‘resolutions’ weren’t the way to go. The most critical part of any project is the goal setting and planning phase at the beginning. You can’t just rush in and expect a good outcome. New Year’s resolutions are the equivalent of turning up in the office on a Friday afternoon and declaring everyone is doing a rubbish job, telling them to have fun over the weekend and not worry about it but to come back bright and early on Monday morning and just be better.

Well if it were that easy I’d have been out of a job a long time ago and we’d all be spectacularly happy, slim, fit, tee-total non-smokers with sparkling houses, who spoke three languages, gave up work to run a successful business from home (in our spare time), traveled the world, wrote a best seller and only fed our kids homegrown organic produce after spending our days on wholesome outdoor pursuits.

In reality, New Year’s resolutions just pile on the pressure without addressing any of the causes of your problems and just lead to you feeling bad a couple of weeks later. Expecting to wake up one morning and magically change something about your life that you haven’t been able to manage up until now with no real thought or preparation is a pretty tall order. I’d never try to run a project like that so I can’t expect it to work personally.

So what do I need to think about before I try to make changes?

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What is my motivation for getting there?
  • Where am I starting from?
  • What needs to change?
  • Is my goal actually achievable?
  • Do I have all the information I need to succeed?
  • What has stopped me making that change before and how can I prepare for or overcome that?
  • What sources of support are available and how do I access them?
  • What time or resources do I need and are they available?
  • When is the best time to start this and how long is it likely to take?
  • Is anything coming up that may affect my progress and how can I work around that?
  • Can my goal be broken down into smaller steps to make it more achievable?

So grab a note pad and have a go at answering these questions before you set your goals for this year. It may seem like you should capitalise on your enthusiasm and dive straight in but by taking some time to really think about the answers you’ll greatly improve your chances of success in the long run and that’s what it’s all about.

Good Luck!

[Next step: Where am I now? Doing a life audit]

Image: angietorres

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