Promises, Resolutions and Goal setting

“And today I’d like to welcome 2015 to the show. 2015, I understand you’re the new year on the block and two weeks ago you made some bold resolutions…

…and promises which you claim will help us live to our full potential and transform our lives. How will you ensure you keep these promises?”

Wouldn’t it be lovely if a new year were responsible for delivering on all the promises we made to ourselves? To go to the gym or practice yoga, to supercharge your productivity or finish the decorating?

If you’re reading this, I think it’s fair to say that, at some time or other, you’ve gone to sleep promising yourself that tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow will be the day when your transform your life. Sadly the only thing that changed was your new found feeling of disappointment because you’d broken a promise to yourself.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. For all of you who made promises to yourself, here’s how you can actually follow through on them.

Make Sure The Reward Outweighs The Inconvenience
Dogs are great at demonstrating this. We think dogs like learning new tricks, but what they like more are the motivational treats they get for learning. However, like people, they’re not all driven by the same motivators.

Scenario 1:
Dog looks at dog trainer and thinks “He’s offering me chicken to learn this new trick? CHICKEN?! I LOVE chicken more than ANYTHING. Teach me, teach me!”

Scenario 2
“The trainer’s only got chicken treats. There’s no way I’m getting out of my bed for some chicken. If he had a tennis ball…, I’d do anything for a tennis ball… I LOVE tennis balls more than ANYTHING. Chicken Schmicken, I’m off for a snooze.”

Dogs are very open in their motivations. High reward = High motivation. And people are no different which is why it’s important to be honest with yourself when setting goals or making promises – Does the Reward Outweigh the Inconvenience? If it doesn’t, you’ll quickly be introduced to your internal saboteur.

Understanding Your Internal Saboteur
If you’re in the market to change your life, it’s likely that you’ve read something along the lines of The Top 10 Habits of Highly Productive and Awesomely Successful People. One of these people gets up at 5am, so you decide to do the same. The alarm goes off, but your internal saboteur hits the snooze button. How can this have happened? You wanted to get up at 5am. You’d promised yourself you’d get up at 5am. But you didn’t do it. Why?

The Reward didn’t outweigh the hardship

You failed to get up at 5am because you valued sleep MORE than you valued achieving your goal. That’s not to say you don’t value your goal, but at that moment, the reward did not outweigh the inconvenience. You were in control of achieving your goal, but you weren’t motivated enough, and you valued the alternative more.

Personal goals are easy to sabotage because accountability rests with you. To succeed, you need to know whether the reward outweighs the inconvenience or hardship.

So how do you ensure the reward outweighs any inconveniences?

Firstly, stop copying other people’s habits! Everyone’s motivator is different (think chicken treat vs. ball), and everyone perceives hardships and inconveniences differently. A 5am start is fine for me, but you may consider 5am to be the middle of the night.

I recommend visualising the rewards and the inconveniences because this will help you pinpoint obstacles. Let’s go back to the dog and the blog examples.

Goal of dog is to get the treat
Inconvenience is learning the trick
Reward for inconvenience is the treat

In human terms, this would read:

Goal of human is to write the blog
Inconvenience is getting up early
Reward for inconvenience is the blog

Obviously it’s the final statement that’s important. When you read your final sentence how does it make you feel? If you feel motivated – hurrah! You’re well on your way to achieving your goal. If you don’t feel motivated your internal saboteur will take control, and you’ll break your promise. All you need to do, is play around and adjust the inconvenience until you feel motivated. For example:

Goal is to write the blog
Inconvenience is writing in the evening
Reward for writing in the evening is the blog

So, to answer the opening question – how will you ensure you keep your promises, resolutions or goals? Have a conversation with yourself and be truthful about how the reward makes you feel when compared with any inconveniences. Make adjustments and find the winning combination.

How do you ensure you achieve your goals? We’d love to hear them.