By Chelsea Corless
With around 25% of people giving up their New Year’s resolutions after a week, it’s time to do something differently if you want to achieve those 2019 goals [1].
Most people start off the year with hope.  Hope for a better year, hope to be healthier, happier, more successful personally and professionally. But to reach those 2019 goals, you’ll need more than hope.  You need a plan.  And a much better plan than that one you made during your post-holidays malaise last year.
Here we share 5 steps for planning your way to a better 2019.

1. Find a goal worth changing for

What is it that you really want? What is worth getting out of bed and working hard for? It’s easy to say you want to exercise more, drink less, empower your direct reports, find a job you love. However, these are outcomes, they’re not reasons to change.  The real question is why do you want these things? This should be about bringing something positive into your life, not avoiding something negative. This isn’t an easy question to answer, but if you can connect your goal to an overarching purpose, that Sunday gym session, or Monday morning coaching catch-up with your direct report, starts to look more appealing [2].

2. Identify the smallest, most impactful change you can make

Identify the one small change to your behaviour, that will have the most impact in helping you achieve your goals.  It’s a simple idea, but one that takes thought to get right. We call this type of change a ‘keystone’ change, because these new behaviours have powerful flow on effects that help you make positive changes in other areas of your life.
For example, more than a decade ago, researchers hit on an extraordinary finding: to support obese clients to lose weight. They found that asking their clients to keep a food journal was a more effective weight loss intervention than putting them on a healthy diet. Why? Because food journaling gave people the insight they needed to understand why they ate the way they did, which in turn gave them the knowledge and control they needed to change their eating habits long-term [3].
Keep these two criteria in mind when trying to identify a keystone change.  The new behaviour should meet one or both of these criteria:
>> It provides insight into your own motivations and behaviours, helping you gain control over your actions. For example, journaling, reflective practice, seeking feedback, regular sessions with a mentor or coach.
>> It helps you manage the feelings and experiences that are negatively impacting your ability to sustain positive behaviours more broadly. For example, regular exercise exercise helps manage[4] mood and stress, which in turn can support better sleep, and feeling rested makes you less likely to crave that caffeine hit or 10am muffin.

3. Make your new behaviour a habit

The ‘habit loop’ is a powerful method of behaviour change that has been used (wittingly or unwittingly) by successful goal achievers for decades[5].

The cue prompts the behaviour, and the reward reinforces to our brains that the behaviour is something we should do again. In fact, once a habit is established, we start to crave the reward, and the behaviour that gets us there. It’s easy to see how you start to crave a sugar hit, but you can also start to crave that gym session, or feedback from your direct reports.  Yes, that can actually happen.

4. Plan for failure

Everyone slips up at some point. However, research consistently shows that when we have a clear idea of when we’re likely to slip up, we can better manage these points of weakness [6].  So be honest with yourself, and write down all the ways you could likely trip up while pursing your goal. Then, before you look at the list and throw in the towel, make a plan for how you will manage these bumps.

5. Reflect and try again

When is the last time you spent time to reflect on how you were going? Take even 2 minutes every week to reflect on:
>> How am I going achieving my goals?
>> Do I remember why I want to do this?
>> When was I successful?
>> When did I slip up?
Then, celebrate your successes, make a new plan to help you manage your failures, and get ready to try again.  The only true failure in goal change, is failing to keep going [7].
You can download your own Goal Planning Template here.

[1] Norcross, J. C., Vangarelli, D. J. (1989). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1(2), 127-134.

[2] Parks-Leduc, L., Guay, R. P. (2009). Personality, values, and motivation. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(7), 675-684.

[3] Hollis, J., Gullion, C., Stevents, J., Brantley, P. (2008). Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 35(2), 118-126.

[4] Knapen, J., Vancampfort, D., Morie¨, Y., and Marchal, Y. (2014). Exercise therapy improves both mental and physical health in patients with major depression. Disability and Rehabilitation, 37 (1-6) early online.

[5] Duhigg, C. (2009). The power of habit: why we do what we do in life and business. New York, NY: Random House.

[6] Adam, A., Fayolle, A. (2016) Can implementation intention help to bridge the intention–behaviour gap in the entrepreneurial process? An experimental approach. The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 17(2), 80-88.

[7] Dweck, C. (2009). Mindsets: Developing talent through a growth mindset. Olympic Coach Magazine, 21(1), 4-7.