Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Why Goal Setting Works and New Year Resolutions Don't

I find that I'm in the minority amongst coaches. Just about every newsletter I've received lately talks about setting goals for 2008. Mine doesn't, and I'll tell you why. Setting goals for 2008 is just another way of making new year Resolutions. Everyone starts off with great intentions and enthusiasm.

But I wonder where they'll be in February?

The problem with new year Resolutions, as I see it, is the level of emotion involved (and possibly the level of alcohol!). People believe that a new year is like a new slate or new chapter in their lives. Let's do things differently! Then, as they try to do whatever they want to do differently, their past life catches up with them and they realise that they can't discard the previous year so easily. Old habits die hard - and old habits are so much more comfortable to live with! Oh well, there's always next new year to try again.

Setting goals at any time of year, both for me and for my coaching clients too, involves a lot of questioning. I want to know WHY they want to make changes, WHAT they want to achieve (and why, again). I want them to start living their lives as if they have already reached their goals. We also work back from that achievement to the steps they need to take right now to be moving towards their goal.

OK, so there is emotion involved in both situations, but the main difference is that, not only is there an intention, there is also a plan to follow.
The other big difference is that, with goal setting, you don't set off until you're ready to do so.

In December 2005 I announced my goal of giving up smoking in 2007. People thought I'd failed because I didn't give up on 1 January - but I didn't say that. On 30 May I smoked my last cigarette - and I haven't had a puff since. I'm very proud of myself but I know I still need to be vigilant!

The point I'm making is that the time has to be right for you when you're pursuing a big goal. Having the extra pressure of the date being set for you can make it needlessly more difficult to achieve that goal.

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