New Years Resolutions 101: Don’t put the cart before the horse

It’s a new year. Have you set your resolutions or goals?  Most of us do, but then give up on them by the end of January.

One key reason I see people fail at goal setting in the leadership and career coaching we do (and for myself as well) is because we put the cart before the horse.  We set a goal and don’t have any method put in place for measuring progress towards it or achievement of it.

Maybe a couple of examples will help:

1.  I’m so guilty of this, so I’ll use myself as an example first.   In 2013, I set a goal for my family to sit down at the dinner table and eat together on average four times a week.  And as you can read about in this post, in 2013 this goal was a total flop.   One of the main reasons it was a failure was because I put the cart before the horse.  I didn’t put in place a way to track it and therefore my progress towards it, which lead to no motivation and no results achieved.

I reset this goal in 2014, with a plan to track progress towards staying on track for this effort because I felt like making dinner together as a family a priority and a habit is important to my family’s health in so many ways.  Thank goodness for my mother-in-law and one of her Christmas presents to me at the end of 2013.  It was a simple weekly calendar booklet that had a magnet on the back.    I set out to plan our weekly meals on this, design a grocery list around it and then simply check off the days we had achieved a meal at the table.  It was stuck to the refrigerator as a visual reminder all year.

As you can see here, the “5” at the top is the number of days we ate together.  Not all weeks were this good, but overall, the goal was met.  More importantly, I’ve established a habit that will hopefully keep this priority going without setting a goal for it (and hopefully my mother-in-law knows how much I love this simple tool and has another one waiting for me this Christmas).

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2.  One of the clients I love working with went about establishing an accountability culture in 2013, and created a performance dashboard to track their progress.

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You can read more about their story as a company here.  As I now work with this team coaching their managers, I love setting goals with them because they have already established ways to measure performance.   It is not uncommon, when setting goals with companies and individuals for one of the goals, or sub-goals of a large goal, to first put in place a way to measure and track performance towards the desired outcome. With this company, the horse is already there and it helps pull the cart.

If you are looking to set your New Year’s Resolutions or make sure they are achieved, don’t put the cart before the horse:

  1. Put in place a mechanism for tracking goal progress and attainment.
  2. Make the tracking mechanism visual and put it where you see it ALL the time.
  3. Monitor and record performance toward the goal with your mechanism at least weekly.
  4. Recalibrate if your mechanism is creating more work, thus decreasing motivation. Don’t get rid of the goal, just find a more efficient way to track it that leads to synergies in other areas.

If you need help doing this, our goal setting worksheet, which includes a section for “measurement” of each goal may help you.

How are you measuring your goal(s) for 2015?

Mary Ila Ward

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