If you’re feeling some anxiety or struggle about goals for the New Year, here’s my advice for relieving that pressure: fail fast and avoid the drama. Just avoid making goals altogether. Seriously, you say?
I remember my parents’ generation making New Year’s resolutions, but they rarely stuck to them for a full year. Today, I believe that’s why making resolutions is less trendy because people realize how hard they are to keep.
The concept of stretch goals for personal and professional growth can be inspiring and hopeful, but the reality is that they’re very difficult because it requires us to do something different, to break old habits, and adopt new behaviors. Reprogramming our brain is counter to human nature, which likes to follow the old paths.
Creating goals requires some measure of worthy sacrifice. [Tweet this quote]
Think of a time in your life when you made a worthy sacrifice. The arrival of a new baby in a family is a great example. Babies inconvenience everyone around them, and yet couples quickly make drastic changes in their mindset and behaviors. This type of sacrifice is obviously a willing investment with a valuable payoff!
Just thinking of the word sacrifice can be painful, but if the goal is strong enough, then it’s worth it.
Ironically for worthy goals, giving up an old mindset or behavior can actually lighten the load mentally, emotionally, and physically! And it’s an authentic and inspiring example in leading others, too.
The Elevator Isn’t Working
Years after my mom’s passing, she is still a legendary schoolteacher and leadership example in the community where I grew up. One of her students made her a sign that hung on a wall in her class and ultimately in our home. It said* –
“The elevator to success is not working. You’ll have to take the stairs.” [Tweet this quote]
That sign made a great point, and seeing it often sealed in my mind the principle that success is usually a series of steps that require diligent, hard work for any profession. Michael Jordan would shoot baskets for hours. Pro golfers typically hit hundreds of balls a day. Business owners and senior leaders typically work long hours to cover all their responsibilities. In all of these examples, the sacrifice was ultimately worth the cost because these leaders passionately believed in their goals.
As I related in Leading with Honor, our senior POW leaders sacrificed regularly in order to set a high standard of resistance to the enemy for the rest of us. We all had to sacrifice to achieve our goal statement to “Return with Honor.” The sacrificial cost was worth the goal in this life-and-death example, and it still dramatically affects my personal and professional life today.
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3 Helpful Goal-Setting Tips
Here are three tips that will help us achieve our goals this year –
- Remember how you have sacrificed in the past and the reward that came from your suffering.
When you have eaten nothing in a Vietnam POW camp but a bowl of thin soup and a piece of bread or cup of rice twice a day for weeks, months, years, you know you can eat almost anything and survive well on a lot less than the typical American diet. What seemed like sacrifice became the accepted way of life because it was the only way to achieve our goals. You also have examples where you’ve paid the price—reflect on them.
- Use determination and discipline to overcome your fears.
When you sacrifice (and even suffer) to achieve an important goal, it’s fear that you have to combat. As a writer, I have to fight off the “fear of failure” voices in my head telling me “this is no good” and “who would read this?” We must fight back, knowing that once we kick fear out of the way, we’ll find that sacrifice helps us reach beyond ourselves and find success. Lean into the pain of your doubts and fears and do what’s needed to achieve your worthy goal.
- Make your goal public and enlist a support team to encourage you along the way.
The wisdom of the ages is that you should never fight alone. In the POW camps, we would risk our lives to reach out to isolated teammates. Victory is usually a team effort and especially when you’re fighting discouragement.
Who will encourage and support you when things get tough, and help you stay the course?
My Sacrificial Goal for 2016
One of my goals for this year is to finish a new book. I’ve been thinking about how I’ll alter my schedule to write more; how I’ll have to say no to some good things I want to do; how I’ll have to stay focused and just sit down at the computer and write. To stay accountable, I’ll give you public updates each quarter on my progress. It’s a worthy goal, and thankfully I have a great team to help me.
So what’s your decision? Are you willing to sacrifice this year to grow, change, achieve, and reach a higher level? Please respond and make your commitment public right here.
FREE OFFER! Aligning you and your team with a set of common values is essential for achieving your goals. Download a free copy of the Honor Code, and share with your team!
*The source of this quote is usually attributed to salesman, Joe Girard.