Jobs: Take alternative route to resolutions in new year

Tired of making new year’s resolutions and never seeing any progress in your goals? Here are three alternative ways to instigate positives changes in your life:

Set HARD goals

“People make resolutions every year, but within three months 85 percent have abandoned those resolutions,” said Mark Murphy, founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, a national provider of leadership training headquartered in Atlanta. “The health club industry knows this best. Gyms will be jampacked in January and empty by April.”

Businesses set annual goals, as well -- often the same goals year after year. “Yet when we’ve asked employees on the front line about whether those goals are going to help them achieve great things, only 15 percent said yes,” Murphy said.

In researching the science, psychology and behavior of goal-setting for his book "HARD Goals: The Secrets to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” Murphy determined that to achieve their goals, people need to change the way they approach them. Goals must be HARD goals, or Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.

Heartfelt: “Take mental ownership of your goals and find ways to get emotionally attached to them,” he said. “People achieve a lot more when they care about the goal.” Losing weight because our doctor said we should isn’t motivating. Losing weight to avoid another heart attack and live to see your son graduate has emotional power. “A goal memo isn’t going to engage employees. A CEO who holds a town-hall meeting and shows why he cares about a goal is more likely to get workers behind it,” Murphy said.

Animated: “Don’t just write out a goal -- draw a picture of it,” he said. “If your goal is to find a job, illustrate what that workplace looks like and what you’re doing.” Getting specific and visual will help you discover what you really want. You’ll tap into your passion.

Required: Create more excitement and a sense of urgency by breaking your goals into smaller pieces. You want to lose 20 pounds? Start by eliminating 300 calories from your diet every day this month. When you’ve lost 5 pounds, go ahead and buy the skinny jeans that fit. If your goal is a distant one, find ways to derive some benefits now. Buy yourself a new running jacket when you increase your mileage, for instance.

Difficult: “Goals need to be mentally challenging and take you out of your comfort zone," Murphy said. If your goal is to become a manager, start reading about management. Take a class. You’ll find yourself becoming an expert. “People don’t leave goals easily when they’ve invested time and learned something,” he said.

CRAVE Your Goals

Tricia Molloy encourages her audiences and clients to let go of self-defeating beliefs and create their lives by design. The speaker, mentor and author of “Divine Wisdom at Work: 10 Universal Principles for Enlightened Entrepreneurs,” who is also president of Working With Wisdom, an Atlanta corporate speaking and training firm, uses the acronym CRAVE to help people be more positive, focused and productive.

“I tell people that even adopting one of these principles or taking one action step will put them closer to achieving their goals,” Molloy said.

Clean out the clutter: “It distracts, confuses and drains your energy, whether it’s physical, technical or emotional,” Molloy said. “The universe abhors a vacuum. When you clean out your file cabinet or clean up negative relationships, you’re making space for something better in your life.”

Raise your vibrations: “ ‘Vibrations' is another word for feelings, emotions and attitudes. Like energy attracts like energy, so you want to vibrate at a high, positive level,” Molloy said. If you watch the news before bedtime, try reading a good book or listening to music instead. You’ll feel better.

Affirm success: “Research shows that we speak to ourselves 10,000 times a day, and 80 percent of that talk is negative,” Molloy said. Turn negative thoughts into positive affirmations for better results. “Instead of giving in to nerves, tell yourself: ‘I love to network. I always meet interesting and helpful people.' Your subconscious will believe it,” she said.

Visualize your goals: Top golfers first see the hole in one in their heads. “Visualize yourself having a perfect job interview and you’ll be more confident and focused during the real one,” Molloy said.

Express thanks: Start a gratitude journal, adding one new thing each day. Being thankful for what you have now and for future successes will make you more aware of making good choices. “Writing a success list of this year’s accomplishments will make you more focused and confident when you write out a new list of goals,” she said.

Choose a theme

“Following the deaths of two close family members, I felt stuck and unable to do anything but go through the motions at work,” said Jane McMullan Howe, executive coach and principal of CoachAtlanta. “I was too embarrassed to ask for help because I was a professional in the change business.”

Howe knew she wasn’t leading a fulfilling life and needed to change, but she couldn’t bring herself to write resolutions. “I knew there had to be a better way. I couldn’t cope with a list. I felt like all I could handle was one word, so I chose the word ‘action’ and make it my annual theme,” she said.

Keeping that word in mind helped her to push through when she was hesitant to try new things. She joined a writers group and published her first article. She also joined an exercise group and went out with friends more. Action changed her from a couch potato to a woman on the go, she said.

Howe found it freeing to choose a theme instead of making a list of resolutions. “There are no deadlines or the guilt that comes with breaking a resolution. A theme is based simply on what you want more of in your life. You’ll know what feels right for you and you’ll be amazed at what starts to happen,” she said.

Howe wrote “Themes: The No Resolution Solution,” a self-development guide to help individuals streamline their desired change into one word or phrase. Available on the website, it includes the stories of 15 others who have used the process successfully.

It tells how the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006 by adopting the theme “Whatever It Takes.” “One woman adopted the theme of ‘No Bull’ and put a ceramic cow on her desk to remind her,” Howe said.

“You can have fun with a theme, use symbols or pictures to remind you," she said. "You can even have a theme party with friends who will help to hold you accountable.”