Goals for 2018: Myths and Realities of New Year’s Resolutions

Let’s take an informal poll: How many readers dread the idea of making New Year’s resolutions?

(Hands go up all over the Internet.)

Why do you suppose that something intended to be positive has such a negative connotation for so many of us? Perhaps we know instinctively what the science confirms: The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions fail. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of our resolutions never make it to the second week of February, and Statistics Brain says only 9.2 percent of us feel successful in keeping our resolutions overall. Those numbers are morose, to put it mildly.

However, setting goals for a new year is more than just a good idea—for your law firm, it’s critical to your success. But there are better ways to set goals than by making promises we know we won’t keep.

I start by discussing “goals,” rather than “resolutions,” because goals are more practical, more attainable and less lofty.

Next, any goal-setting exercise needs to be grounded in reality, not in fantasy—so let’s dispel two common myths around goals and resolutions to help you create achievable goals for 2018.

MYTH: Smaller goals are more easily achieved than big ones.

REALITY: People fail at small goals, too.

True enough, you need to set attainable goals, but you can aim too low, too. Thus aiming low doesn’t guarantee success any more than aiming high prohibits it. In fact, you can accomplish more with ambitious goals—even if you don’t achieve exactly what you were aiming for.

The key to succeeding actually has nothing to do with the size of the goal. It has everything to do with the path you create to take you there.

When you set a goal, also set some mile markers so you can track your progress toward the goal.

MYTH: Bad habits can be overcome by willpower.

REALITY: Bad habits are replaced by better ones.

If you have a weakness for cookies, I can almost guarantee you pass by a plate of cookies every day and not eat some. You can’t beat a bad habit by sheer force of will because willpower had nothing to do with you starting the bad habit.

Our habits, both good and bad, are formed by repetition; we do them until we no longer think about them. As Charles Duhigg explained in his bestseller The Power of Habit, changing a bad habit, then, involves blazing an entirely new trail, so to speak—preferably one that doesn’t pass you by a plate of cookies.

In terms of business, you don’t improve your productivity by simply willing yourself to become more productive. You and your staff must actively change the routine and workflow in your office, then practice that new routine until it becomes second nature. Presto! A better habit replaces a bad one.

Remember that the purpose of setting goals is to breed more success for you and your company. Avoid the self-defeating cycle of unrealistic New Year’s resolutions based more on guilt than on desire.

By combining realistic goals with developing actionable habits, you’ll be on the road to a new year of success.

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