Structures

How is your New Year’s resolution going?

Ugh. No one is really supposed to ask that question. Two reasons why: First, we don’t want to remind people that they might be failing to keep their commitment. Second, we don’t want to be held accountable for not keeping ours.

Goals are easy to make. Harder to attain. Have you ever wondered why?

I’m going to give you the quick answer in case one of your resolutions was to read less this year.

Successfully attaining your goals requires structure.

At work, I often present on time management to either my employees or to others seeking to develop that specific skill in their work life. As part of my presentation, I lead the participants through a self-discovery exercise that looks something like this:

How many of you brush your teeth every day? (Everyone raises their hands)

How many of you think it’s a good habit for a person to develop? (Everyone raises their hands)

How many of you developed the habit on your own?

This is where everyone pauses and thinks for a moment. Most realize that they didn’t develop the habit of brushing their teeth on their own.

How did you develop the habit of brushing your teeth?

They remember that as a child they hated brushing their teeth and their parents made them do it.

An external force (parent) exercising discipline (brush your teeth) on a consistent basis (daily).

This structure repeated over and over became an internal value and regular habit that most of us continue to practice in adulthood. In my work presentation, I go on to connect this to how the most important thing to do in successfully managing your productivity is to develop structures for getting things done in your work life.

Intentions never helped anyone become smarter, fitter, stronger, faster, and richer. Commitment to growth through a structure has and will help you accomplish actual goals.

Disclaimer: I’d like to pause for a moment and let you know that I have many opportunities to grow and many goals to achieve and am speaking from the perspective of a fellow traveler on this road of good intentions and unrealized goals. This is a no judgment zone.

Let’s review your resolutions from this last January. Pick one. If you are like most people your New Year’s resolution was related to your health, relationships, or career.

By next year I will…

…lose 40 pounds.

…be more intentional about loving my spouse.

…find a new career path.

Now, what was the structure you put in place to help you achieve those goals?

How is that working out for you? If you’re like the majority of people, you’ve already said farewell to your New Year’s resolutions and they are far off in the rear -iew mirror. You might have even whispered to them, “Bye… I’ll see you next year. Hugs and Kisses.”

Most of us set up goals without an external force pushing you to move forward in those goals. You haven’t developed the discipline but expect it to magically do so because of your good intentions.

But Rob, I signed up for a gym membership and told others what I was doing. Awesome. Did any of those folks offer to go to the gym with you every day and won’t let you give excuses like, “It’s so cold outside and much warmer underneath this blanket?” Are those folks calling you and bugging you like your parents did when you were brushing your teeth as a kid?

Let’s review.

You will succeed in accomplishing your goals if you set up a structure that will discipline you until you internalize the value of that particular habit and do it on your own.

Can you give an example?

Sure.

Let’s transition to the spiritual realm and talk about being a faithful steward of the resources that God has given you. You may have certain goals related to becoming a more generous giver. You also may not be giving at all and would like to start. Remember – no judgment zone here.

Let’s say you want to make it a goal to give more than you gave last year.

Here’s a recommended plan for developing a structure on how to do that.

  1. Write down how much you gave last year to charitable causes.
  2. Review your budget and write down how much you think you should increase it by.
  3. Set the date that you will start giving the new amount to the charitable cause.
  4. Set up an automatic payment so the commitment isn’t dependent on you remembering or deciding if you have enough. Any time you can automate something as a regular habit you are more likely to succeed in achieving your goal.

This structure has minimal effort on your part but maximum value. After a while you might find it easier to just increase your giving. You might find that you have extra funds to give to other charitable causes or specific initiatives.

We all want to accomplish our goals. We have the very best of intentions, especially at the beginning of the year. But the truth of the matter is that very few of us have strong internal discipline to do so on our own. We require structures and systems that will discipline us for a time to help us develop the habit that will achieve our goal.

What do you want to achieve in the next month or year?

What structures do you need to put in place to help you achieve it?