January Check-In: Your resolutions might not be enough

It’s the last week of January. If you made any resolutions for this year, there’s an 80% chance you’ve either already given up on them, or failed to start.

That remarkable statistic isn’t made up, and it’s not surprising. The reason 80% of people who make resolutions can’t seem to get off the ground with them is because they’re either too vague, too open, or too unstructured.

Think about it: January is THE month to join a gym, set up a budget to save money, make a decision to seriously research getting into business, be nicer to your spouse. In fact, fitness centres count on January to keep their bills paid for most of the year (I’m sure of it). The trouble is, it’s one thing say you want to do these things. Taking action on them is another thing altogether.

For this reason, I strongly advocate people stop setting resolutions and start making goals. Goals give you something to work towards. Instead of saying, “I resolve to spend less this year,” make it a goal to instead to save $10,000 in a high-interest account.

Instead of saying, “I resolve to get in shape,” make it a goal to lose 20 lbs.

Instead of saying, “I resolve to look into the possibility of considering perhaps opening my own business doing something I love,” make it a goal to get a sale or a client (three sales is better).

If this level of specificity seems daunting, remember this: you haven’t achieved anything yet, and likely won’t if you keep your objectives vague. Here are 5 tips to refocus your energies before the first month of 2015 ends and you find yourself squarely in your comfort zone for yet another year:

1. Take Smaller Bites

It would be phenomenal if we could all say, “I’m going to lose 100 lbs this year,” and make it happen.

We can’t. Which is why so many people fail to follow through on their resolutions in the first place. The promise is too big, and the plan too vague, to make any real or lasting changes feasible.

But there’s something about the power of compounding that makes taking smaller bites a lot more palatable. Think about it: can you easily save $10,000 this year? Not necessarily. But it might be more reasonable for you to reduce your personal spending by 20, 50, or even 80%. That can compound over time into a HUGE savings and a lot more cash flow.

By the same token, you might not be able to get your million-dollar business locked in by the end of 2015 (especially with only eleven months to go! Yikes!). But you can conceivably increase your income by $250, $500, or $1000 a month.

You might not be able to target those 100 lbs. But there’s nothing stopping you from reducing your daily eating habits by 250 calories over the course of several months, or increasing your daily activity by incrementally working up to a 30-minute walk every day.

These are only small examples, but they demonstrate the power of compounding activity. Over the course of the year, how many small changes can you implement that will gradually — but predictably — move you forward? You might not reach a monumental goal this year, but you’ll set the stage for some incredible changes the following year.

For more on the power of compounding effort, check out Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect.

2. Be Specific

This one is immeasurably important, because it requires you to set your sights on something tangible. If you want change, you have to know what you’re changing for. Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, recommends going beyond numbers and directly into causes.

Think about this: If you’re focused on “saving more money,” you won’t really have an incentive to do anything. It might last for a few weeks, but your motivation will wane when something shiny comes along.

You could change it up and give yourself a number. Saving $50 or $100 or $1000 a month is a noble goal as well. But there again, things come up, and you might have more wants than needs. Wants are very addictive, and satisfying itches to scratch.

But what if you have something in mind? Let’s say instead you want to save up $10,000 towards a downpayment on a new home? Now THAT’S something you can implement. When something comes up, like a new cell phone or spinning rims (for example), you can say to yourself, “What’s more important? This gadget now, or the dream home I want to own?”

See the difference? Make your goal and your motivation one and the same, and you’ll have a much easier time hitting it.

3. Be Honest

Tell your friends and family what you’re doing, and elicit their support. You’ll find that if you say, “I’m saving up this year to buy a XXX,” they’ll be more understanding than if you just say, “I can’t afford it. I’m trying to save some cash.”

One is frugal. The other is cheap. Get it?

If everyone else is on your team, they can help keep you accountable and support you in your endeavour. And if they don’t, or if they insist on you getting back into your old patterns (because some people are more comfortable if you’re as unsuccessful as they are), avoid them. They’re not on your side, and shouldn’t be on your team.

Sucks, but it’s true.

4. Get a Program

This is my favourite of all. Guys love a program; a set of steps they can follow that will walk them through each phase of a challenge.

For money, I do suggest Ramit Sethi’s book. He specifically addresses twenty-somethings, but anyone can get started. It’s a program.

Take a 30-day chunk, and follow it. The Internet abounds with 30-day courses on how to start an online business. There are lots of four-week fitness programs. Learn a language in a set amount of time. The point is, if you want to step forward you have to actually take a step, not just make a vague promise to think about it and then regret not doing it.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few great examples:

Money: Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week is a great guide to starting a side business. The promise of fewer hours worked aside, the reality is this book takes you step by step through the process from idea to marketing to delivery.

Money: Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich will show you how to strategize to spend less, earn more from investments, and grow a portfolio you can be proud of.

Money: A program I highly recommend is Instant Niche Marketing. This short video series tells you exactly how to locate and capitalize on profit-pulling niches for your budding online business. You can’t do anything if you haven’t at least figured out what to sell.

Fitness: Your Personal Reset Button is my own weight loss program. It’s a 10-week protocol designed to reset your fat burning hormones and torch extra pounds like crazy. There are optional follow-up programs as well, enabling you to carry forward into finer toning and muscle building.

In fact, The Man Sphere’s digital gift store is stocked with some of our top-recommended programs. You should check it out: http://www.themansphere.com/digitalgiftstore/

5. Get a Coach

This is the most effective strategy of all. It’s also the most expensive.

When looking for a coach, consider what it is you want to accomplish. If it’s financial, get good business coaching. If it’s fitness, get a qualified or experienced trainer.

The reasoning is simple: they’ll not only handle #4 above and provide you with a program, they’ll also ensure you follow it AND have good instruction on its implementation.

Coaching can be found online or in your area. The important thing is to make sure that you find a coach who specializes in the type of change you’re hoping to make. Chat with them…most offer a free consultation, and the better ones will let you know if what you have in mind is a fit for their program or not.

The bottom line is this: Resolutions without movement are futile. They’re little more than empty promises to yourself. But setting concrete, achievable goals, taking them in small bites, following a program, and getting sound advice are much better strategies for making real and lasting change.

If you’re not sure how to start setting those goals, that might be the first program to consider. Check out Your Guide to Successfully Setting Goals, and get started. Make this your first one-month program to follow, and you’ll be on your way to your most successful year ever!