There’s something about making plans and setting goals that energizes us. We feel in control of our destiny; responsible, even inspired as we think about how much better things will be when we lose that extra weight, max out our retirement savings, organize ten years’ worth of photos. But there are a lot of miles between setting goals and achieving them, which is probably why less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually kept.
As an executive coach, I see this happen all the time with otherwise high functioning leaders; they know where they want to go but the road from Point A to Point B is littered with failed attempts. Why? Because they made a plan for success, but they didn’t write it down. Let me give you a personal example of how I’ve seen this play out.
When my son was 16, he got his drivers’ license and, like most kids that age, started lobbying for a car. My wife and I had two perfectly serviceable vehicles but he wanted his own, so we told him that would happen when he fulfilled three requirements; kept his grades at a certain level, let us know when he was coming and going, and did a specific set of chores on a regular basis.
He set off with this plan in his mind and, months later…he still didn’t have a car. My wife and I had conversations with him every few weeks, but he could never seem to get those three things done at the same time, and because the car wasn’t waiting for him in the driveway he didn’t believe it would happen.
Finally, after six months I handed him a sheet of paper listing the three things he needed to do. I also told him “his” car had been waiting for him in an off-site garage all that time. He was so mad but after he calmed down he did the three things on the written list and got his car. And, because doing those three things were contingent on keeping the car he kept doing them.
What changed for my son is the same thing that can change for all of us; writing down the plan makes it real. In fact, one study found that people across all walks of life are 42% more successful when they write down their goals.
You see, talking and thinking about your goals and plans uses the right side of your brain; the creative, imaginative side. Writing down those plans and goals welcomes the left side of your brain, which is the logical side. I think we can all agree that plans will be most successful when we use our whole brain.
Where you write your plan down is up to you. Some of my clients have a journal or notebook set aside just for this purpose. Others have a whiteboard or even a detailed, colorful vision board to motivate them.
Whatever format you choose, the goal is to be really clear about what success looks like for you.
Who and how do you want to be when success is achieved?
What development steps do you need to take in order to get there?
Be thoughtful, be realistic, then write it all down and put yourself in the driver’s seat.
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