5 ways to follow through on your goals

Setting New Year’s resolutions is easy, but keeping them can be a real challenge. Here’s how to master the art of follow-through and make your goals a reality

5 ways to follow through on your goals

Source: The Follow-Through Factor, McClelland & Stewart

Let’s be honest, our commitment to our New Year’s resolutions is about as solid as our promise to "get together for coffee" with a former colleague we never liked. We all make them, yet studies show only 12 percent of us actually keep our New Year’s Resolutions. But this year, we can change that if we just do one thing: talk about our resolutions, to whoever will listen.

One of the most effective ways to get yourself to stick with your goal is to start telling stories about it. The catch is you don’t have a story to tell unless you follow through on your ambition. Saying what you hope to accomplish "some day" gets boring, fast. But, telling people about your wins and setbacks in pursuit of a goal keeps your audience hooked. And once we have people’s interest, we don’t want to lose it. 

What do we want to accomplish in the new year? For many of us, it’s to have more fun, more adventure, and less stress. For others, it’s about losing some weight and getting fit. And this New Year’s Eve, many of us will be raising a toast to the hope of a new job, to learning a new skill, managing our money better, and getting organized.

It’s all looking good until about mid-January. Then, by mid-month, when we become swamped with bills, still can’t find the nutmeg and aren’t having much fun, we get disheartened. No wonder why so many Canadians suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder)’it’s not just lack of sun that gets us down; we’re also reeling from our annual New Year’s resolution hangover.

But you have a choice. You can either bury your resolutions in your messy junk drawer under the take-away menus, or you can learn how to follow through. It’s not a difficult technique to master, either. The good news is you don’t need piles of money, loads of time, endless energy or know-how. The less-than-good news is you will need to run an obstacle course to reach your goal. But there are simple techniques for getting over the hurdles.

Here are five simple tips to help you follow-through on your goals, no matter what.

1. Don’t let money become an obstacle

If your resolution requires money, and you don’t have it, it’s not a deal-breaker. Think in smallest increments possible. This may work out to be more expensive in the long run, but who cares? If this is the only way you can inch forward on your goal, it’s the right plan for you. Not investing in your ambitions also comes with a price tag.

2. Make time for your resolutions

Ask yourself this: "What can I say ‘no’ to so that I can say ‘yes’ to putting in time with my resolution?" Like money, time is always in short supply, and holes in schedules never appear. Give your resolution the same respect as appointments’book the time, and show up.

3. Get over your fears

Wait for confidence and you’ll be waiting a long time. Fear may never go away, but neither will your ability to problem-solve around worst-case scenarios. It’s called survival, and it’s how you got this far, despite the many fears nipping at your heels.

4. Take it one step at a time

If you don’t know how to fulfill your resolution right away, that’s okay! You don’t have to have a clue; usually it’s a learn-as-you-go process. The only thing you need to do is ask yourself, "How do I figure out which foot to put forward next?" You move forward one small question at a time.

5. Ignore the naysayers

People may tell you your resolution is crazy, but who asked them? People claim to know you better than you know yourself, and guess what? They don’t. They only know what they think you should do, and that’s got nothing to do with you. You don’t have to justify a resolution to anyone!

Bottom line: This year, keep the promises you make to yourself and the new year is guaranteed to be more interesting for you than if you just spend it disappointed about what you didn’t accomplish. Follow through with your goals and you’ll have some great stories to tell!

Gene Hayden is a creative strategist and professional business coach. Her book, The Follow-Through Factor, offers practical strategies that work with your realities, not against them, to get you where you want to go. It teaches you how to win the tug-of-war against demands, doubts, and circumstances that can prevent you from reaching your goals.

Excerpted from The Follow-Through Factor by Gene C. Hayden Copyright © 2010 by Gene C. Hayden. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.