By Carolyn Landesman
It’s that time of year when you’ve made some new year’s resolutions and this year you will 100% follow through – right?
Some interesting statistics
As per the University of Scranton statistical studies on new year’s resolutions, 45% of Americans usually make new year’s resolutions of which 24% never succeed or fail. 75% maintain their resolution through the first week, 64% past one month and only 46% past six months. Hummm, are you going to one of these statistics?
- They don’t have a why
- They don’t believe in their dreams
- They don’t write their goals down
- They don’t have a vision for the future
If you want to set goals that mean something to you and increase your chances of success, you need to create new habits. The same old thinking won’t create a better life.
To improve your chances of your goals being realized, here are 5 useful tips.
1. You must have a why
In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ Viktor Frankl chronicled his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II. He described the psychotherapeutic method he used to survive. This involved identifying his purpose in life which helped him feel positively about his circumstances (even though they weren’t), and then impressively imagined the outcome.
Why did he survive yet others didn’t?
Viktor Frankl knew that his time in Auschwitz stripped him of an essential part of his humanity and yet he found a purpose or WHY to want to live. He also found, that even in the direst of circumstances, man still searched for the meaning in life. He discovered that the desire to find meaning is essential to the human experience.
“Circumstances do not make the man – they merely reveal him to himself”
Frankl identified three psychological reactions all inmates experienced in Auschwitz to a greater or lesser degree:
- They experienced shock during the initial admission phase to the camp.
- After becoming accustomed to camp existence, apathy began to set in and the inmates valued only that which would help them and their friends survive.
- They reacted to the de-personalization, moral deformity, bitterness, and disillusionment if they did survive and were liberated.
Frankl suggests that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. He believed that life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. From his experience, he concluded that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering.
The inner hold a prisoner has on his spiritual self relies on having a hope in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that hope, he is doomed.
What does this have to do with new year’s resolutions? Anyone can dream and many resolutions are just that, a pipe dream. Like Viktor Frankl, your new year’s resolutions need to have meaning.
Unless your resolutions have real meaning, they are likely to fail.
“He who has a why will endure almost any how.”
2. Dream big – really big
Remember the dreams you had as a child. Perhaps you dreamed of becoming a movie star, an astronaut, a cowboy or a ballet dancer. You may have wanted to get a cool bike or visit Disneyland and become a pirate. It was a magical world where you let your imagination run wild and everything was possible. You could sit for hours and just daydream.
Then something happened. You stopped dreaming. Perhaps you were told by your parents or a teacher “Stop daydreaming and get on with your work!” Reality set in and practical considerations gave way to your dreams. You learned about all the things you “couldn’t do” and “shouldn’t do” which led you on the path which brought you to where you are today.
What if your dreams really could come true? What if you could reach up and touch the stars. Now is the time to start day dreaming again. Dream big – really big!
3. Your goals need to be written down
In 1953 Harvard University conducted a detailed survey of its graduating senior class. Three thousand students filled out a questionnaire that specifically asked them to look at their expectations for the future. The university then tracked the progress of this graduating class for the next 20 years.
In 1973, Harvard University conducted a second questionnaire with two thousand of the same ex-students they were able to contact. When they compared the two questionnaires they found that in many areas of their life the results were quite predictable. In other areas, there were many surprises, the biggest of all being the shock they received when appraising the respondents’ net worth.
This is what they found.
Sixty individual ex-students of the students surveyed, had acquired an individual net worth greater than the combined 97% remaining respondents. Simplistically, any single one of those sixty people could have bought and sold the other 1,940 ex-students combined.
What was even more extraordinary, was the realization that these sixty ex-students did not constitute the “cream” of the 1953 graduating class. It was not the academic geniuses that had succeeded financially 20 years later. How they finished academically in their various classes at graduation, turned out to bear no relationship to their successes in life.
It took twenty years for Harvard University to discover that the 1953 survey unknowingly predicted this 3% – 97% split.
What made the difference?
The 3% who succeeded in their life, particularly financially, had written a clear vision for the future in 1953. Simply, by writing down what they wanted to achieve, and following up by setting clear goals and acting upon them, the study found that those students had predetermined their own success levels back in 1953.
Unless you have a powerful vision and you write your new year’s resolutions down, they mean nothing.
4. Create a vision for the coming year
When you create a vision for the future and write it down on paper, something magical happens. You begin to believe your vision can become a reality. When you follow this up by writing down your goals, it makes your vision step into the physical plane. Before this time, your vision has existed purely in the mysterious thought patterns of your subconscious mind.
A simple consequence of writing down your goals means your vision can become a reality. This mere act of committing to paper what you really want in life, is the one of the most basic secrets of success.
On the surface, the 3% of success in the Harvard study seemed like they were the “lucky ones.” They just did something different from the other 97%. They committed their vision and goals to paper.
To succeed in life – you don’t need the right conditions; you need the right fuel to keep you going. Goals are the fuel you need to light the furnace of desire and help keep you motivated along the way.
For many people, they struggle with having a purpose in life. They work hard but don’t feel like they are achieving anything. Mostly it’s because they haven’t spent much time thinking about what they want out of life.
Your personal vision is a statement of what your ideal for the future looks like. Your goals are the fuel that turns your vision into reality. Your vision is your destination and goals determine where you need to put your energy and time into making your vision become a reality. Goals focus your attention on the acquisition of knowledge and skills and help organize your time and resources.
Clearly articulated goals also help you avoid the distractions that can so easily lead you astray along the way.
Have you ever met people who have no apparent purpose in life? They live life on a day-to-day basis often living from pay check to pay check. If you were to fast-forward their life 5, 10, 20 years, chances are nothing would have changed.
They might even be full of excuses like…
- If only I had the opportunity…
- If only I had the right education…
- If only I had time…
- If only I had money…
- If only others understood me…
- If only I could win the lottery…
You get the picture.
That’s because they don’t have a plan for life and don’t set goals.
Without having goals of your own, chances are you are busy fulfilling someone else’s dreams.
5. Take affirmative action
Imagine you were planning a road trip to a place you have never been before. Chances are you buy a map and plot the route you will take to reach your destination. Goals are like this. They provide you with a road map of where you are now in your life, and where you want to go in the future.
Your “personal road map” helps to guide you towards your vision and your goals are the stops along the way. By having a road map for your life, you know exactly where you are at any given point and time and keep you on track. If you do get lost along the way, all you must do is to look at this map for your life and make the necessary adjustment to keep yourself on track.
Unless you fill the car with gas, start the engine and drive forward according to your road map, you would stay stuck wherever you are. It’s the same with planning this coming year, having a why, creating a vision, setting goals and writing them down means nothing if you don’t take affirmative action.
Of course, throughout the year you will come up against road blocks and you may feel like quitting. Challenges and obstacles will get in the way therefore it’s essential that your WHY is motivating and powerful enough to help you overcome these challenges.
On a final note
If you want to succeed in life, set goals that mean something followed by taking affirmative action. If you do, you are far more likely to achieve them.
In a Nutshell
- You must have a powerful WHY or purpose to keep you motivated
- Go back to your childhood and allow yourself to dream again – and dream BIG
- Your goals must be written down
- Create a vision for the coming year
- Take affirmative action to keep you on track
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