It happens every year around New Year’s Eve. This will be the year you change everything. Big, bold New Year’s resolutions are made deep in your mind—maybe you promise to lose 8 pounds, join a fitness club or make more money—your goals are set as a traditional way of starting the New Year. And truth be told, you’ve got the best intentions in the world and yes, you make a commitment, this will be the year you make things happen and change your life.
But soon enough life gets in the way. One urgent task after the next keeps getting in the way and you rationalize away the reasons you can’t find time to get to your New Year’s resolutions. It’s okay, you think, you couldn’t possibly have anticipated all the new stuff that got in the way of your goals. And by the middle of February, your New Year’s resolutions are an after-thought and you’re just doing whatever life throws at you.
But what if it didn’t happen to be this way? What if there was a specific method for accomplishing ALL of your New Year’s resolutions?
Your Biggest Mistake: Keeping your Dreams and Goals a Secret
A couple of years ago Gail Mathews, Ph.D., a psychology professor, conducted the most exhaustive research of its kind about goal setting. Dr. Mathews set out to determine how written goals impact the likelihood of success and the results were stunning.
The subjects in this study were divided into five groups:
- Group #1 were individuals who did not have written goals;
- Group #2 had written goals;
- Group #3 had written goals that they shared with a friend;
- Group #4 had written goals that they shared with a friend and had specific plans to accomplish their goals; and
- Group #5 had written goals that they shared with a friend, a specific plan to accomplish their goals and gave weekly progress reports about their goals.
Those persons who wrote down their goals (Group 2) were 39.5 percent more likely to accomplish them—just the act of writing down your goals (and nothing else) will increase your success rate by 39.5 percent! It’s simple: people who write down specific goals are far more likely to be successful than those who either have unwritten goals (your New Year’s resolutions, remember them?) or no specific goals at all.
Having written goals is a huge step in the right direction, but sharing your goals with a trusted friend and regularly updating them on your progress will have an enormous impact on your success. Individuals in Groups #5, who wrote their goals and sent progress reports to friends, were 76.7% more likely to achieve them.
“Without goals individuals just wander through life.”
–David J. Schwartz, Ph.D., The Magic of Thinking Big
The simple act of writing down your goals and sharing them with a friend makes all the difference in the world. Now you know where you’re heading and you have a friend to hold you accountable. Instead of jumping around from one “urgent” matter to the next, you stay focused every single day on your goals and you take small steps to accomplish them.
Visualizing the Process of Accomplishing your Goals
Okay, you’ll write down your goals and share them with a trusted friend. That’s not too much to ask, right? Now, you’ll have someone to hold you accountable for your goals and you won’t repeat the same old worn-out New Year’s resolutions without backing them up with a plan. Just the simple act of writing down your goals and sharing them with a friend adds a self-induced measure to perform them and that is a powerful motivator. But you’re just getting started.
“Write your goals down and keep them close.”
Gary Keller, The One Thing
Now that you’ve got your goals written down, you need a plan to accomplish them—we’ll call this your Action Commitments. What exactly do you need to do to accomplish each one of your goals? That’s right, it’s not enough simply to have goals, you need to create a map for accomplishing each goal that is specific, realistic and has reasonable deadlines. Just like a builder with a punch-list for a construction of a new house, you need a punch-list for your goals.
Holding Yourself Accountable to your Goals
Now, you’ve written down your goals, shared them with a friend and created a specific list of steps (your “punch-list”) that you will take to accomplish your goals. But there’s just one more step and it’s a biggie—you need to have weekly or monthly progress reports with your trusted friend. Your progress reports give updates on all of the activities you’ve taken toward your goals.
Now, you’re firing on all cylinders. You’ve taken three crucial steps to success:
- You’ve got specific, realistic written goals that you’ve shared with a trusted friend;
- You’ve got a “punch-list” of every step (“Action Commitment”) you will take to accomplish your goals; and
- You’re sending weekly progress updates to your friend (your “accountability coach”).
But here’s a little secret from the ultra-successful: laminate your goals and keep them on you at all times. Review your written goals every day—if you’re at a court conference just hanging around, take out your laminated goal list and review them. By having a laminated written list of your goals in your possession at all times, you will be confronted with your goals every time you get your purse or wallet to buy coffee in the morning.
Getting an Accountability Coach is one of the Best Things you can do
To blow away your competition, there’s one more BIG step you can take: get an “accountability” coach. Your accountability coach gives you objective feedback on your performance, ongoing accountability for progress, brainstorms new ideas with you, and keeps you honest and on track to your goals. You speak with your accountability coach once a week to review your goals, the progress you’ve made toward your goals and what you will do next (your “punch-list” or Action Commitments). You send updated progress reports to your accountability coach every week and she lets you have it if you’re slacking off.
For the past two years, I’ve worked with a tremendous accountability coach, Joey Bridges of JAB Consulting, a small business consultant extraordinaire and information technology teacher at the University of Southern California. Here’s how it works: Joey and I speak every week at a designated time for 15 minutes. During our coaching call, we discuss progress on our weekly goals, action steps and the plans for the upcoming week. The weekly coaching call keeps me on track toward my goals and makes me accountable and if I’m not taking action, Joey holds my feet to the fire. But even better, Joey is ten-times smarter than me and can solve any technology or marketing question (it is always a good idea to work with people smarter than you).
Do you think the ultra-successful are doing it alone? Of course not! And then why should you? But I know what you’re thinking: you’re the top lawyer in your town and you don’t need an accountability coach. But just think, Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer in the world, has a coach that he speaks with daily to iron out the flaws in his swing. If the greatest golfer in the world needs a coach, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea for you too.
Give Yourself Permission for a Thinking Day
I know what you’re thinking, where are you going to find time to write down your goals and the “punch-list” of steps you need to take to accomplish your goals? It’s simple: set aside one day from your busy schedule and block out your calendar for a “thinking day”. Then, go somewhere that no one can find you and turn off your cell phone, and don’t open your email—I prefer the Albany Law Library, but any Starbucks will do. Give yourself permission to set down in writing your business and personal goals. As author, Gary Keller, says, “This is when you reflect on where you are and where you want to go.”
You will need at least four goals to get started: quarterly goals, yearly goals, three year goals and one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (the one thing you want your life to be about more than anything else). Getting your goals on paper is as easy as setting aside a single “thinking day” and once you’ve got them, post them on the mirror of your bathroom. Force yourself to be constantly reminded of your goals, so they dwell deep in your subconscious.
“When life happens, you can be either the author of your life or the victim of it.”
–Gary Keller, The One Thing
Now you’ve got a roadmap for success. You know what you have to do and it’s just a matter of taking action. Resolve to do ONE THING right now, set aside a single day to write down your goals. Are you really too busy with work to be too bothered to create the goals for your law firm and your personal life? But is there anything that is really more important? Writing down your goals is the first step to living the life you deserve.
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