It’s January, which officially means the season for reflecting and planning. I’m one of those geeky people who love this time of year. In fact, I’ve got an entire day blocked out later this week to think through goals, dreams and plans for this New Year.
Typically this entire process ends up just being that – a process. I get more excited thinking about the future than actually putting the effort in to making lasting change. I’m embarrassed to say it’s the classic failed cycle of the New Year’s Resolution. I see this same pattern with the leaders I coach and the organizations I work with as well. Everyone gets really excited creating the vision. They see the potential and the future looks great. But once the planning’s over, the hard part starts – the work.
Behavioral changes don’t just happen by accident. They require internal transformations first.
You see, there are subtle ways we sabotage the changes we want to make. If we don’t remove those internal blockers, we’ll never achieve lasting outcomes.
I intimately learned this lesson last year. Last year was different. My family accomplished a milestone goal. We became one of the 20% of Americans who are debt free. My entire approach to this goal was different than my usual run-of-the-mill goals. This goal required that I show up differently and clearly address my blockers.
Here are the internal transformations I made which changed my behavior and ultimately allowed me to achieve my outcome:
1. I was 100% committed.
The question was no longer if I could do it, but how. Failing was not an option. Typically, I’d approach goals as something that would be nice to have. This left the door open to waffling or losing focus. That door was slammed shut with a padlock on it.
Getting out of debt was happening no matter what. I’d reached the point where I was “sick and tired” of worrying about paying bills and feeling shame for poor past decisions.
2. I willingly stepped outside my comfort zone.
Due to the clarity and commitment I had to the goal, I was able to immediately see whether an opportunity was going to take me down a path toward or away from my goal. I took extra (less than exciting) side jobs to bring in additional income. I said “no” to a lot of social opportunities because that money needed to go elsewhere. I sold things I no longer needed.
As time went by, I noticed that I’d significantly changed my mindset around money, debt and necessities. This allowed me to see alternative solutions I’d never noticed before – allowing more creativity and speed in the process.
3. I was completely focused on the end goal.
I visually reviewed progress milestones and course corrected on a bi-weekly basis. This allowed the plan to become part of my every day thinking and being. I wasn’t willing to put it on a shelf and just hope I got there somehow.
4. I didn’t try to do it alone.
Our entire family was on board. All of us participated in the sacrifices as well as the celebrations. My husband and I were completely aligned with the decision-making and actions necessary to achieve this goal. We were there to hold one another accountable, celebrate interim milestones, prop one another up when things got hard, and then directly contribute our full incomes to the achievement of the goal.
This team support was vital, as those internal blockers and “old ways of doing things” tried to sabotage us. This was hard and it took us a full year.
YOUR TURN: Take a minute and think about milestone goals you’ve achieved. Can you identify the internal transformations you made?
As you begin thinking through this year’s goals, what internal blockers hold you or your organization back? These must be addressed if you’re going to succeed.
Typically, it’s really easy to identify the outcome you want to achieve:
- Increase revenue by 15%
- Acknowledge my direct reports on a monthly basis
Strategy usually drives the actions or behaviors you need to take to reach the outcome:
- Sell 50 more products per month
- Put a repeating event on my calendar to remind me to acknowledge team members
But the internal blockers are only identified when you ask yourself:
- Why haven’t I been doing these behaviors before now?
- What’s gotten in the way of these outcomes happening?
That’s the hard work. That’s the internal shift. That’s what will make all the difference between actually transforming and achieving your goal or losing steam by the 2nd or 3rd month.
If you don’t address the blockers then it’s easy to compromise on the behaviors.
- You may accept less than 50 additional sales and hope for the best next month rather than follow up with your sales team to address the shortage.
- You might ignore that acknowledgement calendar reminder because things got busy.
In other words, you’ll just do more of what you’ve been doing because nothing internally shifted. Those internal shifts are what make the outcomes permanent changes, not just something you tried for a while.
As you think through organizational or personal goals I encourage you to remember this formula:
Outcomes = Behaviors + Internal Transformations
That’s the formula we followed. It sounds simple. But it’s not easy – it’s work. Here we are a year later and $82,000 is paid off. It’s mind boggling to think about. It was a HUGE goal. While I’m grateful that we accomplished it, I’m more excited about the fact that I’m a different person. Those internal transformations my husband and I went through give me the confidence to know we’ll never go back into debt.