As January draws to a close, many people realize their New Year’s resolutions are falling by the wayside. Why is this such a common experience?
David DeSteno is the author of the forthcoming book The Truth About Trust. In a recent column, he points out that you cannot really “trust” yourself to implement your goals. He outlines his research demonstrating that goals we set for the future are often linked to emotions present when we set new objectives. He adds that as these emotions fade, so does our drive to accomplish the original goal.
For example, at New Years you might feel overweight and want to be thinner so you resolve to have a salad at future dinners. Then, as time passes, your enthusiasm for salad fades. Even if you are successfully eating salads during the first week of January, at the start of week 2, potential distractions may arise. As you get closer to that fast food restaurant on your drive home from work, your desire for that cheeseburger grows. This distraction threatens to circumvent your ultimate goal of weight loss.
Most alarmingly, DeSteno asserts that, not only will we break these promises we make to ourselves, but we will then create a story that justifies our actions and, subsequently, forget about our failure. Why? Because we don’t want to believe that we are untrustworthy.
As an Executive Coach I am interested in the results of DeSteno’s research because so much of what I do involves setting goals with clients to achieve metric outcomes. DeSteno’s findings underscore how important it is to add interim steps to ensure that those goals are realized. One effective tool is to remind a client, or for a client to self-manage and remind him or herself, of the emotional enthusiasm they felt when they initially set their goal. Emotions fade as time passes, so the ability to reignite their present day apathy into their former passion, increases the chances of successful goal completion.
Here are a few other coaching tips to optimize successful goal completion:
- Visualize the future and why your goal will help you in the long run.
- Make it fun! If you are going to the gym, bring music you like.
- Utilize task management systems and apps so they help you stay connected to your goals.
- Set smaller, manageable goals every day that serve as stepping stones to your ultimate or what I call “BIG” goals. Breaking up a big project into smaller pieces makes it less intimidating and allows you to retain your initial optimism.
- Enlist a friend or family member to hold you accountable.
Let me know if you have other ideas for achieving goals that have worked for you!