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Preparing for the New Year – How to Turn Your New Year’s Resolutions into a Solid Action Plan You Will Actually Achieve

Have you ever made ambitious New Year’s Resolutions only to find that three months in they have fallen by the wayside for whatever reason?

Part of the reason that we fail at achieving these goals is the way we approach them.

Many people start the New Year with an end goal such as, “This year I’m going to work out hard core 6 days a week! Yeah!”. That’s great but if you’ve only been working out with a box of cookies on the couch all year, it’s a bit unrealistic to think you’re suddenly going to jump in and sustain a 6 day a week hard core training program. I know this, because of course I have failed in the past in exactly this way.

These days, I take a different approach to these lofty goals. I don’t change the goal but I try to break it down into a series of steps that will need to be taken in order to get me where I want to be. For example:

If I want to work out 6 days a week how is that going to work? When am I going to work out? What will it look like? From there I may find steps that need to be taken before I start. In my case, due to my schedule I have to work out in the morning before work. The first thing I had to do before I could work out 6 days a week was to learn to get up 45 minutes earlier at least 5 days out of those 6. That’s no easy task and in the beginning there were days when all I did was get out of bed. But over time, the habit started to form and I did exercise on those days more often than not.

The next goal was to get stronger. You can’t work out hard core if you don’t have any muscles and can barely do one pushup and no pullups. It’s completely unrealistic to jump straight into a hard out metabolic conditioning or weight training program. Doing this risks injury and therefore the end of achieving the lofty goal for a while, which I have also done.

For about three months I stuck to a plan of getting up and doing some exercise every day, with a focus on moving my body and joints and building some strength. Then I moved onto six months of metabolic conditioning gaining strength and muscle definition. Only after that have I moved up to what some people would say is hard core but is still probably pretty cruisy for some. Now I am in a phase where I am strong and regularly up my weights.

If you turned this into a series of tick boxes it would look something like this:

  1. Get up at 5.30am consistently
  2. Exercise 6 days a week consistently
  3. Increase intensity of workouts stage 1
  4. Increase intensity of workouts stage 2 (where I am now)
  5. Cutting Phase
  6. Add plyometric training
  7. Increase intensity of cardio workouts… and so on.

Breaking the goal into a series of sub goals or milestones makes each horizon easier to achieve and has the double bonus of providing a reward at the end of each milestone, the reward of starting the next stage. Beginning each new stage means that I have already completed the previous stage which means I have achieved. Even if I don’t reach my lofty goal in that calendar year I have tangible proof that I am a lot further from the couch than I started.

You can apply this same concept to business and I do it all the time. Each large scale process improvement starts with a series of pre-requisites required to ultimately achieve the long term goal. My team and I refer to it as achieving the impossible. To achieve the impossible, you only have to address each obstacle in the way to the goal, one at a time, until the goal is reached. Even if the goal itself is not reached, the progress is often astounding.

If you’re dreaming of doing the impossible in the New Year, don’t just dream about it. Make a specific, target driven plan to succeed with milestones along the way. I can assure you, it works.

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