Have you ever made a new year’s resolution? Have you ever kept one of these resolutions, followed it completely until you achieved your desired goal?
If you have, you are among the few. Most of us do not keep our new year’s resolutions, or even remember what they were a few months later.
We are very well intentioned when we make them. We pick something that is important to us on some level, something that we think will make our life better in some way. We make resolutions like saving money, losing weight, or taking that dream vacation. And we typically fail miserably.
“Scared? Good. We don’t grow when we stay inside our comfort zone.” — Unknown
So, who’s to blame? Some say that the idea of new year’s resolutions began with the ancient Babylonians who made promises to the gods in hopes of gaining favor with them. Others say it began with the Romans. They created our current calendar and named January after Janus. Janus was a two headed god; one head looked forward and the other looked backward. Do we blame them for starting this tradition?
A resolution, in general terms, is a decision regarding an action. It can be to do something or to not do something. It should be a decision we make about an action we can control. A resolution is synonymous with goal, ambition, target, and aim. So why are they so hard to keep?
Define the Action
The problem is usually a combination of our lack of understanding on why we made the decision to begin with, and our lack of understanding on how to act. Just because we know what something is, doesn’t mean we truly understand all the steps involved in creating the desired result.
We know, on a general level, what it is to save money. Or do we? Does saving money mean we give up our morning coffee? It depends on what you do with the money you didn’t use to buy the coffee. If it goes into the black hole of our wallet, then we haven’t actually saved it. If we use that money to buy something else, then we haven’t saved it. It doesn’t actually get saved until it goes into the specific and secured location you have designated for saving.
Not only do many of us skip this important step that takes us from not spending to actually saving, we frequently aren’t clear on what we are saving for or how much we need to save. Even though conventional wisdom tells us it is important to save, the details on why, how much, for how long, and what it will be used for are all a bit fuzzy.
So, we’ve made a goal to do something because it is important to us, but we can’t really describe why it is important because we don’t understand the actions surrounding the resolution. It is really hard to continuous commit to something we don’t truly understand, and therefore we fail.
In order to achieve success in our new year’s resolutions or any goal that we set, we need both a meaningful decision and to act on that decision. A lot of people will tell you that to be successful, you need a plan. And there are all types of plans out there to choose from.
- Savings plans
- Weight loss plans
- Personal development plans
- Career plans
- Business plans
- Strategic plans
- Improvement plans
- The list goes on and on and on.
You can make a plan for everything and anything. Personally, I love plans. But plans are worthless unless you understand why you have the plan (why is the decision important?), you understand the actions that support the plan, and – the piece everyone forgets, you consistently take those actions.
Plans themselves cannot succeed or fail. Plans are just the guides. Success or failure comes down to your ability and commitment to implementing the actions in the plan. Plans don’t succeed, people succeed.
Know the Why Behind the What
All too often we declare that we are going to create a plan. It may be a wellness plan for our personal health, a business plan to start our freelancing gig, or an employer who assigns us to create a plan for the company.
As I said before, there are a lot of different types of plans out there to serve every occasion. Usually the first thing we do is assign a name to the type of plan we think we want and then search for a template to use.
I am here to say you are starting in the wrong place.
Before you ask, “which plan do I need?”, you should be asking “why am I making a plan?”
If you are going to put the time and effort into planning, you should at least understand the purpose. What are the reasons behind the plan? Here are some questions to ask to get you started:
- How will this plan help me / the company towards my mission? And yes, individuals should have a personal mission statement. They are not just for companies. (Learn more about mission statements in From Idea to Reality.)
- Does this plan align with my / the company’s values? Again, yes, individuals should be able to identify their values. (Learn more about values in From Idea to Reality.)
- Do I have, or can I get, all the resources that will be needed to accomplish this plan?
- Is this plan for something I have done before? If so, why do I need a new one? What will be different this time?
Your reasons for developing a plan might be as simple as having a desire to increase your personal wealth, or as complex as designing technology that will pack and teleport your luggage each time you travel.
What is important is that you can justify the need for having a plan. While you could write a plan for every decision you make, not every decision needs a plan.
Get Specific on Motivation
Being able to articulate why you need a plan to help you execute a specific decision is one of the keys to having a plan that is meaningful. It is much easier to stay motivated and implement a plan when the plan has meaning to you.
You may have to ask yourself why several times before you get down to the real reason you need a plan. But once you discover your core reason it will make it much easier to design your plan in a way that will keep you motivated in the right direction.
- Why do you want to create a plan?
- To lose weight.
- To become healthier.
- To have more energy.
- To be able to keep up with my kids.
- To be able to create memories together.
- Because spending time with my kids is one of the ways I show them I love them.
Six whys. That is what it took to get from the goal of losing weight to the motivation of showing your children you love them. When it comes to keeping the motivation of executing a plan, showing your children you love them is much more powerful than a generic desire to be healthy.
Understanding why you are creating a plan is something you will be able to use throughout your plan to help keep you motivated and on track.
The biggest reason that plans fail is because we fail to execute.
We fail to execute because we allow other decisions to take priority. Not because those other decisions are based on our priorities, but simply because we haven’t clarified why the goal is important, so it is easy to let it slide when things become busy.
Don’t let a cloudy vision rob you of the things that are important to you. Know why you are making the decision or setting the goal. Know why it is important to you. Know why you need a plan to guide you through the actions. Know why you want the outcome to be your future reality.
Whether it is a big WHY or a little why, make sure you know the why.
Putting It All Together
Simple though it sounds, creating a plan can be a challenging endeavor. It involves understanding the decisions around creating your plan and understanding how to identify appropriate actions to support the decision. In its most basic form, that is all a plan is: a decision and the actions needed to carry out that decision.
The plan is your set of GPS instructions. You might have maps as resources, but it is the step by step instructions that are your plan for getting from point A to point B. The instructions are extremely helpful, but they don’t have any value unless you get up off your butt and follow them. You won’t magically arrive at point B unless you take some action. Plan are instructions for which actions are your best course.
In some ways, having a well-designed plan and a clear motivation for that plan is like having a crystal ball. It shows you what the future holds. A plan provides you with a path to the future that you have chosen, and it lays outs everything you will need to make that future your reality. If you want to rock 2020, know your why and your what, then create your plan.