Last week, we published an infographic of the most popular New Year’s resolutions of 2013. Changes to health and money habits and behaviors accounted for two-thirds of all resolutions. While health and weight loss habits are obviously the most common thing for people to resolve to change in their lives, the success rate is not very high. Only 8% of people are successful in achieving the goals they have resolved to meet. We are two weeks into 2013, and where are you at?
Sometimes when we focus so hard on one element of our life, we miss the “forest for the trees.” Instead of making one hard resolution for yourself this year, which you may have already failed at, I suggest that you try what I like to call the five-pronged approach to goal-setting. Much like a fork that has multiple tines to hold your food in place, poking a single chopstick or skewer into your lunch might not yield successful results.
Let’s “dig in” a little further on what is necessary to stay motivated to succeed with your goals.
In the book CHANGEOLOGY: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions, Dr. Norcross guides readers through the 5 proven stages of successful change:
- Psych (contemplate): you know where you want to go, you’re just not quite ready to start
- Prep (preparation): setting actual goals and realigning priorities to reach those goals
- Perspire (take action): “walking the walk”, you modify your behavior and environment
- Persevere (manage slips): forgive yourself but move on quickly
- Persist (maintain change): not a static stage, requires constant adjustment and attention
What are the elements of the five-pronged approach to goal setting? Let’s take a stab at them:
- Physical Goals
- Intellectual Goals
- Spiritual Goals
- Financial Goals
- Social Goals
Physical (weight, smoking, exercise, sleep, etc): Health, weight loss, and wellness goals account for 52% of the New Year’s resolutions reported in a December 2012 study by Dr. John Norcross from the University of Scranton. Those in the study were asked what elements of the resolutions were the most difficult. 26% of those said that getting started/motivated was the hardest part. If you make small, manageable, and measurable goals, you will be more likely to succeed than saying “I want to be a competitive eater AND a triathlete next month” (which is both counterintuitive and impossible to achieve in such a short amount of time.
Intellectual: Even when you’ve got a college degree under your belt, it is prudent to never cease in the pursuit of knowledge. Even if you’re not on a physical college campus, strive for a goal of lifelong learning. How can you do this? Read books to learn a new skill. Listen to webinars and podcasts about topics that interest you. Develop your talents and cultivate your curiosities. Enroll in community education classes or free online courses. Offer to teach another person about something you are knowledgeable about. Stay informed with current events. Zig Ziglar said, “A year from now you will be the same person, except for the books you read and the people you meet.”
Spiritual: A large number of Americans identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Whether or not you affiliate or identify with a specific religion, there is an undeniable element of spirituality in the human psyche. Spiritual goals require delving into the most private thoughts of your heart and mind. You can accomplish this through small and simple steps. Explore your core values, such as integrity, honesty, kindness, morality, equality, and peace. Meditate to take away the stress from your life. Practice positive self-talk. Find simple things that bring joy to you. Serve others who are less-fortunate.
Financial: 14% of Americans resolve to improve their finances and get out of debt each year, but it’s tough to step away from the credit card. The most common way to get on track is to start a budget, which can be as simple or complex as you would like. Evaluate your needs and wants. Develop more frugal habits. Avoid debt and impulse purchases. Save up for big-ticket items instead of drowning yourself in payments and high interest rates. Find a good balance between consuming, saving, and debt reduction. If you can pay off your debts in a year…great! If not, set obtainable goals to chip yourselves out of financial burden.
Social: No man is an island, no matter how introverted you may feel. Developing relationships with others is part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which indicates that humans have a basic need of love, affection, and belonging. Evaluate your life and the relationships you have with family members, classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and teachers. Strive to improve friendships, romantic relationships, and family relations, and reach out to people from your past that you have lost contact with.
Think you’re ready a bite out of this theory? Reply in the comments and report which goals you have made for each of the five areas: physical, intellectual, spiritual, financial, and social.