Happy 2017, everyone! This past year was one of dramatic events on the global stage. Some of you will remember 2016 for the development or celebration of friendships or love, the achievement of professional growth or recognition, or the birth of new family members.
Some of you dealt with career changes, wanted or unwanted. Others among you encountered personal losses, and I witnessed the strength and generosity of our networks and professional community as individuals responded with support and kindness to news of such sad milestones.
For my first Weekend Poll of this new year, let’s take a closing look at how we did with 2016’s goals and resolutions. Let’s begin, though, with context on how these quarterly check-ins began.
Goal Setting: Good Habits vs. The Easy Way Out
In early January 2016, I wrote an article to lay the ground for discussion of goals and New Year’s resolutions. While resolutions can fade away, goal setting implies concrete planning on how to achieve one’s goals.
In discussing habit formation and goal setting, I pointed to business coach Tom Bartow. He focuses on the importance of being prepared to resist temptations that represent unwanted routines or habits. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, said or thought one of the following when faced with a temptation that runs counter to your goals?
- “It’s been a tough day/week/month/year”
- “They won’t notice my skills/dedication/talent, anyway”
- “I deserve/need/want it”
- “Missing this one deadline/workout/run/class/assignment won’t make much difference”
That’s the easy way out: So says Bartow, and he’s right. Such self-talk serves only to rationalise a decision that we know is counter-productive or contrary to our goals.
Form a positive habit and work on it until it becomes second nature: Can you stare down temptations that run counter to your goals? The idea is that each win against a temptation you know is contrary to your goal makes it easier for you to win the next such struggle … until you reach the point that it’s not a struggle, but second nature to hold strong to plans that result in achieving your goals. Want a bit of help? Bartow recommends taking a cold, hard look at whether you’ll be satisfied with your future if you give in to unwanted habits.
Establishing and Acting On Your Goals
Astute individuals and organisations conduct environmental scans on a regular basis, as part of strategic planning. To ensure the success of a strategic plan, an organisation needs to identify goals. Other steps include communication of goals, and determination of how to achieve them.
Communicate your goals, and the necessary steps to achieve them
Why communicate your goals? It helps to increase our sense of accountability. Last Sunday, on New Year’s Day, I completed my fifth annual Polar Bear Swim. This annual Vancouver event, in which the brave and ridiculous race into the chilly waters of English Bay, has become part of my New Year’s routine.
You don’t actually swim; you simply enjoy the great costumes and sheer madness of it all as you plunge into and then out of the water. Everyone makes a mad scramble to collect the badge that verifies your participation (and zaniness), and then there’s a communal mad dash to shed the wet layers and put on some dry clothes before making a food bank donation and collect a steaming hot chocolate.
On social media the last week of December, I publicly stated my plans to once again enter the Polar Bear Swim. Why? Vancouver has been experiencing a colder than typical winter, and there’s actual snow on the ground. None of this is normal for us.
By publicly stating my intent, I knew I’d hold myself accountable and follow through with the dip. This New Year’s Day, the land temperature was 2 degrees Celsius (35 F), while the water was a balmy 7 degrees Celsius (not quite 45 F)! Even though though it felt like the coldest dip yet, we had a great time and I’ve very pleased to now have five Polar Bear Swim badges.
By the way, the photo above is pre-dip, and I’m bundled in multiple layers alongside a bunch of friendly penguins and other creatures I didn’t know. It’s just a very friendly environment.
It’s the same with goals. As soon as you communicate them to even one other person, you’ve created a higher degree of accountability. You also open yourself up to new opportunities.
Identify targets, actions, metrics and timelines
“Are we there yet?” How will you know you’ve reached your goal if you don’t identify what success looks like?
The next step is to break down the elements that will contribute to success; what steps do you need to take, or what habits do you need to break or form? By what point in time do you want to achieve your goal? Project the satisfaction you’ll feel when you achieve that goal. What will that feel like?
Conduct regular assessments of your progress, and then make adjustments as necessary
In your work environment, you likely rely on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure progress against a strategic plan. You or your colleagues establish quantifiable metrics that help assess progress toward goals.
… and then you regularly review your metrics, including monthly/quarterly/semi-annual results. Otherwise, how would you know how you’re doing with progress toward your goals or plan? When you review results, you are measuring progress – or lack of. You may decide that you need to change the action plan in order to achieve the goals. You may modify the goals; they may have been too lofty or too easy. You may conclude that the goals were not realistic.
… which leads us these quarterly Weekend Poll progress checks
I’ve tried to incorporate all the above steps into these quarterly goal-related Weekend Poll progress checks, as a means of supporting goal-focused readers.
Beginning in mid-January last year, I asked readers a series of questions each quarter. I wanted to know whether you had established goals or resolutions for 2016, and the steps you took to achieve the results you wanted. I asked you to anonymously share word of your progress, and I hope it helped you with progress toward your own goals.
I’ve heard from readers that seeing the collective results has been helpful
… as has been the ability to read peers’ generous recommendations on how to get back on track if you miss a target or goal.
This weekend, I’m asking you to take a look at the year we’ve just concluded, and assess how you did on this front in 2016. When I publish the results on Tuesday, I’ll include quarterly comparisons of your responses to all the 2016 polls on this topic.
Are you ready? This weekend’s question:
How did you do with your 2016 goals or resolutions?
Please take a minute to complete the poll below. Since these questions reflect the same themes I posed quarterly last year, and we can compare progress from the start of the year. Check back here for poll results on Tuesday.