Did you make New Years’ resolutions this year?  If you did, by mid-February you’re likely to lose your resolve.  In fact, according to US News & World Report, 80% of people that make a New Year’s resolution lose their steam and fail to reach their goal over the course of the year.  Does it matter if you don’t reach your goal? Counterintuitively, it depends on what happens during the process of pursuing the achievement of your goals.   

Jim Rohn, a godfather of motivational speakers, posits that goals don’t matter in and of themselves.  He says, “The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.”  What does this mean for you and how do you use this idea to your greatest good?

Step One: Make Big Goals

It is sad that there is so much truth in Thoreau’s statement that most people live lives of quiet desperation.  A lack of a compelling vision that creates concrete goals is a major reason for this sadness and depression.  Without a challenging and exciting goal, each day can easily blend into the next.  Jim Rohn reminds us, “Don’t set your goals too low. If you don’t need much, you won’t become much.” 

Find the courage to chase after big, scary, thrilling dreams. In your professional life, that may be reaching the CCO role, speaking in front of 100 people, publishing an article, or committing to joining a networking group…and showing up to each meeting. 

In your personal life, you could choose something scary that you aren’t sure you can do.  Last year I decided to complete my first marathon.  I genuinely didn’t think I could do it, but the idea excited me.  Committing to the vision was the first step to completion.

Step Two: Commit to Your Goal with Unwavering Faith that it Can Be Achieved

Once you’ve decided what you want, commit to your goal with unwavering faith that it can be achieved.  Committing to your goal doesn’t mean that you won’t have moments of fear and doubt.  It means that even in those fearful moments, you remind yourself that your goal is possible.  When I’ve found myself afraid that I won’t achieve my goals, I remind myself that others have achieved the goal before me.  Remembering that my goal to finish a marathon wasn’t outlandish helped me to believe it was possible.  After all, my goal wasn’t to be the first person to colonize Mars – it was to complete a marathon, something people do every day.  If you don’t’ choose to believe that your goal can be achieved, it won’t really be a goal – it will be a wish or dream.

Step Three:  Commit to Doing One Thing Each Day that Brings You Closer to Your Goal

Author Hal Elrod writes that one must exhibit “extraordinary effort” in the serious pursuit of a goal.  He then defines “extraordinary effort” as doing at least one thing each day that moves you forward.  There is no need to burn yourself out by pushing each morning and night.  Instead, map out what you can do today that will bring you closer to your goal.  The more often you complete the mini-action, the more momentum you’ll have.  You will truly be closer to the achievement of your goal each day.

Step Four: Relax and Let it Be OK to Fail

After making all of the effort to define your big, scary goal, then committing to believing that it is possible, and beginning to take extraordinary effort, the next step is deeply counterintuitive.  Relax and make it OK if you don’t meet your goal.  How do we handle the paradox of committing to daily extraordinary effort, while allowing it to be OK to fail?  Relaxing can make the process easier and more fun.  It takes the pressure off. 

Putting forth extraordinary effort while knowing it will be OK if you fail seems paradoxical.  How can one co-exist with the other to create good results?  The answer is this: the growth that you experience from putting forth consistent effort will grow you into a better version of yourself. 

Let’s say that your goal was to speak before 100 people this year.  Perhaps you applied to speak at four conferences, and were only accepted as a speaker at one.  If you put forth extraordinary effort, you probably thought deeply about the topics other compliance officers would want to hear about.  Each proposal you wrote was probably more compelling than the last, and each probably took less time as you went.  For the speech you prepared, you likely researched the topic, put together interesting slides, practiced your speech, overcame your nerves and fear, then presented the best you could.  Who cares that you only spoke before 40 people?  The speaker you’ve become in the pursuit of your goal is almost certainly a significantly better speaker than you were before you set your goal.  You have become the better speaker despite not reaching your goal.

Not an Excuse for Excuses

Be careful not to use this strategy as an excuse for excuses.  It only works if you put forth the extraordinary effort required to grow you into the larger, better version of yourself.

Once you’ve completed the period in which you worked to meet your goal, set another one.  Make this goal more audacious than the last, and commit once again to the extraordinary effort required to achieve it.  Keep doing this, because as Rohn says, “You can have more than you’ve got, because you can become more than you are.”