Have you ever had problems with executing personal development objectives, only to give it up soon after? If you answered no, then I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below this post. If you answered yes, you are not alone.
It is said that the month of January is responsible for 20%-25% of the entire year’s sales for most fitness clubs. And why not? Everyone makes New Year resolutions and most of the resolutions are geared towards fitness. February is not mentioned, indicating that sales drop off in February from the highs of January. Which means that a lot of people cannot keep up with their resolutions.
I was one of those people. I did it for three straight years, i.e. enroll in January and quit in February. The fourth year I realized that I was building a different habit and one that I was in danger of staying with (that of enrolling and quitting).
Most of you do not know that I had started a blog in 2011. I had not told anyone. Just like my fitness club enrolment, this lasted a few months and contained 9 posts. I was able to give up and quit the initiative as quickly as I had started it. No one knew I quit because no one knew I had started one in the first place. I had made it very easy for myself to quit. I had set myself up for failure.
This time around, I have tried to make it different. By letting you all know that I am writing this, I get your support which helps me to stay with it. I am now in the open and quite answerable. The support system is there and it will not allow me to quit easily.
The blog much like the fitness regimen is a self-development initiative. These take a huge commitment in terms of time, effort and sacrifices. So what does it take to keep going with something that has “denial” written all over it?
One answer is self-discipline. Self-discipline is a very abstract term and can be defined in multiple ways. One of my friends said that he couldn’t define it, but can easily recognize it when he sees it in someone.
I analyzed those initiatives in which I have been successful, which are few, such as getting my MBA and continuing with this blog to achieve my first milestone of 50 posts (almost there). I also analyzed those which I am still procrastinating on, such as setting up my will, most home-improvement projects, doing taxes in January every year and so on.
I have come up with the following eight steps to ensure a successful outcome:
1. What is your goal?
Write out your goal. Make it clear and unambiguous. To be successful, to make money, etc. are too broad, ambiguous and not measurable. A good goal should be SMART, i.e. S = specific, M = measurable, A = not ambiguous, R = realistic and T = time constrained.
2. Why is the goal important to you?
Next you should write out why achieving this goal is important to you. Take this step seriously. Unless something is important, one will not respect it. And unless one respects a task, one will not make the hard sacrifices required to accomplish it.
3. What would it take?
Estimate the effort and the cost. If you need to enroll in a fitness club or buy weights, you will have to spend some dollars. In keeping my blog going, I spend about 20-25 hours per week in addition to my full work week.
4. List sacrifices
Now that you’ve estimate the time and money your initiative would require, think about where that will come from. Everyone has a 24 hour time allocation per day and everyone is used to spending all 24 hours each day. So if you need two hours for a new program, you will have to pull the hours out of some other activity. You need to write that down.
5. Did you plan properly?
You also need to do the due diligence required for achieving the goal. Write it out in the form of a plan. Break it up into small chunks. Call them milestones and put dates against each milestone. Remember how to eat an elephant? In small bites.
These milestones will also ensure that you are going in the right direction.
6. Let some people know
Now, you must write the names of 3 persons close enough to you and who have your best interests at heart. Let these people know. They will keep encouraging you as you progress in your initiative. They will also tap your knuckles if you are slacking.
This system will position you for success – unlike my blog effort in 2011.
7. Measure Success
How would you know when you arrived at your destination? Achieved your goal? Write out this unit of measurement. It is important to know this, so that you can plan for celebrations when you get here.
8. List Risks
An advanced, but not mandatory tip, is to list out some risks that could thwart your efforts, should they materialize. You can also put in some mitigating steps for each risk. As an example, when I enrolled for my MBA, considering it was a 20 month program, I listed two risks that may cause me to miss a class or two, or even a whole semester. The mitigating step was to re-take those missed classes and extend the duration of the program.
To make it easy for you, I have enclosed a blank work-sheet that you can download, print and use. You only need to use this once to get the idea in your mind. As you know, once you accomplish something, your confidence grows enormously.
Just once, fill out the work-sheet and keep it in a place where you would see it every day. Out of sight is out of mind. You need to be reminded every day.
Is this difficult? Not at all. Is it easy? No – otherwise there will not be any procrastinators. The more relevant question is, can it be done? Absolutely.
I say this from firsthand experience, since this technique has worked for me. I have attached my own worksheet that I built for this blog, and you can see it here.
Send this to at least one person you know who is looking to achieve a self-development goal.