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How 2021 Can Be your Year of Success

Image by Gerd Altmann

At the end of each year I do two things: 1) review the goals I had set at the beginning of the year, and 2) set my goals for the coming year. I include financial, personal, and business goals.

This year that first step was painful and cringe-worthy as it put a spotlight on what I already knew: 2020 obliterated most of my goals.

We were hit with many unforeseen challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, that were outside of our control. The key is to focus on how we respond and what we can control. As this year closes out (finally!), let's focus not only on how we can make sure 2021 isn’t just as bad for us or worse than 2020, but how we can thrive.

Resolved - for a few days anyway

74% of us plan to make at least one New Year’s resolution this year, usually involving health, finances, or productivity. But a resolution isn’t a plan, it’s a goal, and research shows we fail to hit that goal 90% of the time - usually by mid-February.

I always thought that New Year’s shouldn’t be a holiday because celebrating flipping the calendar page to a different year was silly. However, I have come to realize that it can be effective as a catalyst for change because it spurs us to reflect on where we are now compared to where we would like to be. That self-analysis is great but will only work if our goals are supported by planning and creating the systems and habits to get them done.

The problem is that while the current you envisions great results, the future you is driven by emotional and irrational impulses (hello lizard brain). Your current resolve is melted by the allure of immediate pleasures and comfort. That’s what keeps us fat and broke and unfulfilled.

The You Business

Think of yourself as a business. Your product is your happiness, which comes from achieving your goals and values. It usually is a by product of being healthy, fulfilled, and secure.

Successful businesses don’t just set goals, they develop a plan that includes action items and checkpoints, and they set up an environment to give their people the greatest chance to succeed. We need to do that for ourselves as well.

Be SMART - One of my resolutions for 2021 is to lose 20 pounds. Like a business, I need to make sure my goal adheres to the SMART format: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

My goal is specific, measurable and relevant. Is it achievable? 20 pounds is certainly realistic considering the extra COVID and holiday pounds I put on. To make it time-bound, I decided to be more specific - lose 20 pounds by June 30th and keep it off through the end of the year. (Of course, I also want to stay at a healthy weight well into the future.)

Plan - Determine the specific action steps you will put in place. For my goal it involves: 1) cutting out the chips and sweets I have with my lunch, 2) intermittent fasting 5 days per week, 3) continuing my exercise regimen. These are all sustainable and healthy long-term, not just quick-fix solutions.

Measure and evaluate - How will you measure your success (or lack of) along the way? How will you adjust based on what that data tells you? Also keep in mind that external factors may interfere, so be ready to make adjustments to your plan if necessary.

My plan is to weigh myself at the same time each week and maintain a weight log spreadsheet, which includes weekly goals and a 4-week rolling average. That will help me "keep my eyes on the prize."

Create an environment for success - Because humans behave in ways that we know are not good for us, we need to make good behavior as easy on ourselves as possible.

You know you have weaknesses. Just a little thought can reveal what triggers those weaknesses to overcome our intentions. How can you reduce the triggers? Think about how to change your environment in a way that increases friction and makes it harder to act on those moments of weaknesses.

For my goal, simply removing chips and other unhealthy snacks from the house makes it harder to give in. A trip to the store is a pain compared to just opening the cupboard and munching away. More friction equals less chance for failure.

Two things to remember

Finally, it’s important to keep these two things in mind as you work toward achieving your resolutions:

1) Don't give up when you slip up. You only compound the error by beating yourself up. Instead, figure out what triggered the failure and how you can minimize it in the future.

2) Keep your ultimate goal in mind. Being 20 pounds lighter is not what I really want. Being healthier and increasing my energy is. Keeping your larger goal in mind, including the benefits you will reap by achieving it, will motivate you to stay on track.

Have a healthy and happy 2021!

- Steve Haffner, decision performance and productivity expert

Want to learn more about improving your thinking and decision making?

Click here for my free book, 7 Strategies for Making Better Decisions


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