Start 2016 off on the right foot with goals, plans, and a stronger discipline.

For some of us, 2015 was the best year yet; for others, it was the most challenging to date. Either way, it’s over and behind us. This is a new year. So, regardless of last year’s accomplishments and setbacks, the meter has returned to zero. You have an opportunity to set new goals and make 2016 your best year ever.

According to a recent survey, 92% of people do not achieve their goals for the New Year. They decide to quit too soon, lose focus, or just give up. Why? I believe people fail to achieve their goals because they lack three essential things: goals, a plan, and discipline. Let’s look at how to become a part of the 8% that do achieve their goals.

Goals

“A goal not written down is just a wish.” —Brian Tracy

In 1979, a research experiment was conducted at Harvard University to analyze the goals set by MBA students. The results were tracked for a decade, with the intent to monitor the progress and results of students who had written goals versus those who did not. The results were astounding. Here are some of the highlights from that study:

  • 84% had no specific goals
  • 13% had goals, but they were not written on paper
  • 3% had clear, written goals, and plans to accomplish them

Results of the study 10 years later in 1989:

  • 13% of the class earned twice as much as the 84% who lacked specific goals
  • The 3% who had clear, written goals earned on average 10 times as much as the other 97% put together

Having goals is great, but committing them to paper is even better. Imagine if you could earn ten times more money than you do today. What would you do with the extra income? Save for retirement? Plan a dream vacation? Save for your children’s college funds? Purchase a new car or home? Today, vow that you will start to accomplish your dreams. If you write your clear, specific goals on paper, you will be ahead of 97% of most people. You’re probably asking, “Well if it’s that easy, why isn’t everyone else doing it?” Truth be told, setting and committing your goals to paper is only the first step. Once this is done, you must decide how you will achieve these goals. Making this decision involves planning, which we will discuss next.

Plan

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” —Mark Twain

Getting started is sometimes the hardest thing for all of us. However, more times than not, getting started is exactly what you need to do. After you write your goals on paper, you must create a plan to achieve them. Oftentimes, most of us fear the planning process. Typically, it’s because of one of the following:

  • Fuzzy (non-specific) goals or no “why” behind the goal
  • Unrealistic or superficial expectations

If you can develop goals that are defined clearly and attainable, then your rate of success will increase tenfold, if not more. To illustrate, how many times have you heard someone say, “I’m going to go to the gym more so I can lose weight this year”. The problem with this goal is that it is not defined clearly. What does “more” mean? How much weight do you want to lose? By what date? How frequently are you going to go to the gym? Why do you want to lose the weight? A reworded and more specific goal might look like this: “I will work out 30 minutes per day, and I will make healthy eating choices”. This new goal manages your behavior, which is something that you can control. If you can manage your behavior, then you can manage your weight loss. For example, in 2013, I set a goal to complete the Certified Manager’s program. While completing this certification, I learned how to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals. Follow this outline when you define your goals, and you will be amazed at the personal progress and focus you gain as you strive to achieve your goals this year.

Discipline

“Discipline equals Freedom.” —Aristotle

Discipline is fueled by motivation and ambition. Motivation to pursue goals that have superficial meanings or only provide short-term gratification fades quickly and the lack of discipline will be evidenced. Thus, you need to develop the discipline required to work continuously toward the goals you are determined to achieve. Whatever you pledge to accomplish, promise yourself that you will forge ahead until you achieve your goal. Do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal—work out 30 minutes per day, study 1 hour per day, wake up 1 hour earlier, stay 1 hour later, spend 1 more hour a day with your kids. This daily grind to achieve your goals will help you measure your ability to perform each step as well as become accountable for your progress. Set benchmarks along the way to keep you motivated and help you make adjustments when needed. If you wait until the end of the goal period to measure your results, it will be too late to make the adjustments necessary to reach your goal. Daily discipline will keep you on track.

Let’s make 2016 our best year yet. Commit your goals to paper, develop a plan, be accountable, and discipline yourself every day to do those things that help rather than hinder you from achieving your dreams. The possibilities for what you can achieve this year are up to you. Time has no discrimination amongst any of us. We all have the same amount, no more, and no less. Success is not measured by what we accomplish, but by what and who we become in the process of achieving our goals. With goals, plans, and discipline, 2016 will be your greatest year of personal and professional growth.