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The Anti-New Year’s Resolutions: Systems, not Goals (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2 of a 2-part series (click here for part 1 to learn about why New Year’s resolutions don’t work.)

I love that freshly-washed feeling of the turn of a new year.  It could just be that I get more sleep in the 10 days between Christmas and New Year’s when the kids are off from school,  But I seem to have more energy to clear away any unpleasantness I’ve been tolerating. And like many people, I look ahead to the coming year.

Over time, I’ve changed my perspective on how helpful resolutions can be.  I’ve had my own varying degrees of success, and have stopped setting so many “goals.”  Now I focus on intentions or themes for the year.  Last year’s theme was “clarity” and this year’s theme is emerging as “release.”

If intentions and themes are too vague for you, then consider using “systems” rather than “goals.”

I learned about systems when I read cartoonist Scott Adams’ book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.”  The book is an insightful and entertaining tale of his trek to success.  (Spoiler alert:  fail until you succeed.)

He says a goal is a “reach-it-and-be-done-with-it situation, a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t” sometime in the future.

Deciding to lose twenty pounds is a goal.

A system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.”

Deciding to eat healthily is a system.

Adams offers an oh-so-true-for-me description of what it’s like to have goals and why they don’t work: “Goal oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.  Systems people succeed every time they apply their system, in the sense that they did what they intended to do.  The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn.  The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system.”

A personal example:  Some years ago I got tired of feeling like crap after a night out because I drank too much alcohol. I knew that I could have up to two drinks in a night, enjoy myself, and feel fine the next day.  Yet time after time I would drink two, say “what the hell” and order the third.

Eventually I figured out that if I started my night with a non-alcoholic drink and then alternated from alcoholic to non-alcoholic I could enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and not feel the desire to drink more.  After reading Adams’ book, I realized that I’d created a system.  Even when I’m a feeling a little indulgent, I can stick to my “every other” routine.

Systems aren’t based on temporary feelings.

Often goals such as “I’m going to lose weight!” come while standing on the scale. You react to a bad feeling about the number.

At that moment, we’re not actually faced with hunger or an offer of homemade cookies from a co-worker.  Later when we are, the sting of the scale has worn off and we can’t remember why it was so important to only eat vegetables all day.  If we again react to our current feelings, we’ll overeat.  Systems bypass the emotional check-in.

Here’s why it works for me. Usually, we  look inward to find flaws that interfere with reaching goals.  Then we put an effort into fixing flaws.  But there’s nothing wrong with us, so fixing ourselves is futile. If I don’t apply the system as I would have liked, I can simply look back and understand that I didn’t apply the system, NOT that I am a loser who can’t ever keep promises to myself.

Even though I know that the “New Year” is a time concept made up by mankind, one tiny blip in the eternity that is our universe, there is something powerful about turning the page.

This year, for each goal or resolution you want to set, think about a system that you can put into place instead. Put those systems into practice and over time you are sure to experience success.

Cheers!

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Why your New Year’s resolutions might be doomed to fail (Part 1 of 2)

If you’re a regular at a gym you know that all the equipment is taken from January 1 through mid-February as everyone is working on their new commitment to get healthy. But by the end of February, the gym is back to normal.

Only 8% of people who make NY resolutions actually accomplish them. Why do we so often fail, despite swearing up and down that this is the year we’ll persevere? Here are my top five reasons:

You’re fixing something that’s “wrong” with you.
Any action you take based on feeling bad will be temporary. Saying “I’m fat” may compel you to action today, but if you don’t see results over time, you’ll progress from “I’m fat” to “I’m lazy” and “I’m incompetent.”

There’s nothing wrong with you. What’s true: your actions haven’t aligned with your vision. Instead of choosing to “lose weight,” choose to “be healthy” and follow up with the actions of a healthy person.

You put too much stake in being disciplined.
If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times: when I ask people why they haven’t achieved their goals they say “I’m not disciplined” or “I’m just lazy.” They go on to wax poetic about how much better their lives would be if they could have more willpower. (Another form of “there’s something wrong with me.”)

Discipline is a RESULT of success, not the cause. When people believe that having discipline is a vital component of achieving every goal, they end up feeling inadequate. (You can read more about my viewpoint about laziness in this free guide about procrastination.) Don’t set up a barrier to success, as in, “I have to be disciplined to be healthy.” Instead, go straight to purposeful action.

You’re missing the big picture.
For the first couple of years after my daughter started school, the mornings in our house invariably ended with a meltdown or argument. I kept hoping that if I got up earlier or prepared better the night before, mornings would go more smoothly. Nothing seemed to help. Our relationship was souring.

I decided to focus on my real goal: stress-free, easy mornings we enjoyed together. I started by controlling my own reactions when she had her meltdowns. This allowed me to be patient, loving, and supportive – precisely what we both needed to create those stress-free mornings. My commitment to our relationship and enjoying that time together created the shift.

You want instant gratification.
If you expect results quickly and they don’t arrive, it’s easy to give up. Don’t discount small progress. It took my family over a year to get to smooth mornings, and we still have the occasional breakdown. When that happens I use it as a wake-up call to give our relationship more attention.

You don’t set yourself up to win.
I get it. The sky is the limit and anything’s possible. But if you haven’t been to the gym in forever, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to suddenly start going 5 x a week for an hour. Or if you have $25,000 in credit card debt, no savings, and no steady income stream, it’s dubious that you’ll pay that all off in a year and save $10,000.

Time after time I’ve seen people strive for something way out of reach, and give up. The question I ask is, “What would be a win for you?” The answer might be “Take a walk at lunchtime three days a week” or “Get a job that I love and pay off $5,000 in debt.”

The success we dream of IS within reach, and you can create it in 2019. My next blog will reveal additional pitfalls and how to overcome them to create consistent, sustainable, breakthrough results all year long.

Attend my upcoming FREE webinar
Set Yourself Up for Success in 2019!”
January 15, 2019, from 1:00 – 2:00 to learn:

  • Why the amount of time, money and resources you have has no impact on what you can accomplish
  • The top reasons why most New Year’s resolutions fail, and what to do about them
  • How systems – not goals – will ensure your success
  • Eight common ways we sabotage our success
  • Plus a live Q&A session at the end!

Sign up today!


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Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (Part 1 of 2)

If you’re a regular at a gym you know that all the equipment is taken from January 1 through mid-February as everyone is working on their new commitment to get healthy. But by the end of February, the gym is back to normal.

Only 8% of people who make NY resolutions actually accomplish them. Why do we so often fail, despite swearing up and down that this is the year we’ll persevere?

  • You’re fixing something that’s “wrong” with you.
    Any action you take based on feeling bad will be temporary. Saying “I’m fat” may compel you to action today, but if you don’t see results over time, you’ll progress from “I’m fat” to “I’m lazy” and “I’m incompetent.”There’s nothing wrong with you. What’s true: your actions haven’t aligned with your vision. Instead of choosing to “lose weight,” choose to “be healthy” and follow up with the actions of a healthy person.
  • You put too much stake in being disciplined.
    If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times: when I ask people why they haven’t achieved their goals they say “I’m not disciplined” or “I’m just lazy.” They go on to wax poetic about how much better their lives would be if they could have more willpower. (Another form of “there’s something wrong with me.”)Discipline is a RESULT of success, not the cause. When people believe that having discipline is a vital component of achieving every goal, they end up feeling inadequate. (You can read more about my viewpoint about laziness in this free guide http://lizwolfecoaching.com/resources/breaking-procastination/ about procrastination.) Don’t set up a barrier to success, as in, “I have to be disciplined to be healthy.” Instead, go straight to purposeful action.
  • You’re missing the big picture.
    For the first couple of years after my daughter started school, the mornings in our house invariably ended with a meltdown or argument. I kept hoping that if I got up earlier or prepared better the night before, mornings would go more smoothly. Nothing seemed to help. Our relationship was souring.I decided to focus on my real goal: stress-free, easy mornings we enjoyed together. I started by controlling my own reactions when she had her meltdowns. This allowed me to be patient, loving, and supportive – precisely what we both needed to create those stress-free mornings. My commitment to our relationship and enjoying that time together created the shift.
  • You want instant gratification.
    If you expect results quickly and they don’t arrive, it’s easy to give up. Don’t discount small progress. It took my family over a year to get to smooth mornings, and we still have the occasional breakdown. When that happens I use it as a wakeup call to give our relationship more attention.
  • You don’t set yourself up to win.
    I get it. The sky is the limit and anything’s possible. But if you haven’t been to the gym in forever, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to suddenly start going 5 x a week for an hour. Or if you have $25,000 in credit card debt, no savings, and no steady income stream, it’s dubious that you’ll pay that all off in a year and save $10,000.Time after time I’ve seen people strive for something way out of reach, and give up. The question I ask is, “What would be a win for you?” The answer might be “Take a walk at lunchtime three days a week” or “Get a job that I love and pay off $5,000 in debt.”

The success we dream of IS within reach, and you can create it in 2018. My next blog will reveal additional pitfalls and how to overcome them to create consistent, sustainable, breakthrough results all year long.

 Join me for “Goals vs. Intentions vs. Resolutions: Set Yourself Up for Success in 2018”, a “Bagels and Breakthroughs” networking and coaching event for entrepreneurs on January 31, 2018 in New York City.  

  • The top reasons why most New Year’s resolutions fail, and what to do about them
  • How systems – not goals – will ensure your success
  • Why the amount of time, money and resources you have has no impact on what you can accomplish

To register, click here.


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The Anti-New Year’s Resolutions: Systems, not Goals

Part 2 of a 2-part series (click here for part 1 to learn about why New Year’s resolutions don’t work.)

I love that freshly-washed feeling of the turn of a new year. It could just be the fact that I get more sleep in the 10 days between Christmas and New Year’s because the kids are off from school, but I seem to have more energy and impetus to clear away things I’ve been tolerating, and similar to many people take the opportunity to look ahead to what’s next.

For the past couple of years I’ve hosted a webinar entitled New Year’s Resolutions: Friend or Foe? (see below for details on this year’s webinar).  It’s designed to support people in taking action in the new year in a way that aligns with their vision.  Over the years, I’ve changed my perspective on how helpful resolutions can be.  I’ve had my own varying degrees of success, and have stopped setting so many “goals” and instead focus on intentions or themes for the year.  Last year’s theme was “relationship” and this year’s theme is emerging as “consistency.”

But what if you just plain want to get some stuff accomplished? Continue reading


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Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Part 1 of a 2-part series.  Click here for part 2.

Around the beginning of the year people feel a renewed commitment towards their goals because it feels like a fresh start. We are encouraged to let go of the old and embrace the new by making New Year’s resolutions.  This is why if you’re a regular at a gym you know that there is never any equipment available from January 1 through mid-February – everyone is working on their new commitment to get healthy.  However, by the end of February the gym is back to normal, with the regulars making the rounds.

Studies show that only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually accomplish them, despite swearing up and down that this is the year that they will stick with it. What goes wrong? Here are some reasons why resolutions so often fail. Continue reading


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The Anti-New Year’s Resolution: Systems, not Goals.

I ended 2013 uncharacteristically grumpy. I felt on the brink of tears or anger for much of the last couple of weeks of the year, without really being able to identify why. I found it depressing to look back at the year, knowing I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to, finding small solace in the few milestones that I could recollect. I’m not quite sure where I think I should be by now, but my feeling of dissatisfaction lingered and made me an unpleasant person to be around. Continue reading


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Usually a New Year inspires us to make resolutions and usually those resolutions include actions we’re going to take to get us more of what we want in life.  However, this year, I decided I’m going to declare 2012 as the year of “letting go.”  Instead of working towards some goal, I’m going figuratively lean back, open my arms and let go of…

Worrying about things that are outside my circle of control.

The need to control.

Self-doubt and the need for approval. Continue reading