Your New Year’s Goals Will Probably Fail: Develop this Business Growth Mindset Instead
Is your New Year’s resolution to finally launch your business and achieve the entrepreneurial success and freedom you know you deserve? Sorry to burst your bubble, but research shows you’re probably going to fail. Not because you’re not capable, but because New Year’ goals rarely pan out in the long-run.
Now, I know this isn’t a fitness blog, but bear with me for a minute. There are two types of gym-goers: those who go consistently all year long, and those who go hard every January for a few months before seemingly dropping off the face of the planet until the following year.
If you’re in the first group, or if you work in the fitness industry, you see (and dread) this pattern. Gyms are PACKED in January, still busier than usual in February, and almost completely back to normal by March.
New Year’s, duh!
Swarms of people have resolved to lose weight, eat better, and finally get that bikini body or those chiseled abs. But guess what? Most of these people don’t last. They fail at achieving their goals. And not only do they fail, but they fail year after year. They get stuck in an unproductive cycle: new year, same goal.
Doesn’t it suck to never fulfill your dreams?
I’ve never been a New Year’s resolution girl, myself. But I have set many goals and failed at them miserably. I’ve started more businesses than I care to admit, but most of them never got past the planning phase.
Something that would happen in my life would inspire me to make a change. Maybe I had a particularly shitty week in my shitty 9-5 and I’d proclaim “That’s it! I’m starting my business and getting out of this hell hole!” Or maybe my bank account was running on ‘E’ and I had bills piling up. I’d think, I wouldn’t be in this position if only I had my own successful business.
See, I was letting some outside factor—some moment in time—motivate me to start. And that’s okay, except that I’d start off strong, but all too soon my progress would taper off. My business dreams would dwindle and I’d be back in the same old rut until something else would happen and spur me into action. Something HAD to change.
Motivation is a wonderful thing. But what I lacked was discipline.
Without discipline, motivation takes you nowhere
Think about riding a bike. When you’re going downhill, everything is great. You’re coasting along with ease, wind in your hair, feeling the rush of the building speed as you effortlessly make your way to the bottom of the grade.
But what’s that ahead?
A GIANT uphill stretch. You’ve gained some momentum, so this shouldn’t be too bad… But partway up, you begin to lose that momentum and you’re slowing waaay down. In order to reach the summit, you have to be willing to put in work. You have to pedal hard and fast. It takes energy, it takes willpower, and it might even be painful.
Maybe you have to get off your bike and walk it to the top. It’s slower, and it totally sucks that someone else made it up that hill with apparent ease, but you’ll still make it.
What you DON’T want to do is get off your bike, call your friend, whine about how hard it is, and have her pick you up and drive you home.
The hard truth
That was always my problem: dreaming about and planning a business was easy—it was like coasting downhill. But doing all the hard bits—overcoming fear, dealing with rejection, facing the unknown—that required discipline. I didn’t want to hurt! I didn’t want to lose sleep, give up social time with my friends, or sacrifice a movie night with my husband.
So maybe my j.o.b. hadn’t been that horrible for the past few weeks or I’d get all caught up on my bills. Those externally motivating factors weren’t enough to keep me pushing forward, so I’d slowly let go of my goals. I’d get to it…someday.
Remember those January gym-goers? That’s their problem, too. “New Year, New You!” A fresh start. A moment in time that motivates them to “get in shape.” But as the weeks go on, they realize they don’t want to lose that hour of sleep to hit the gym before work. Or they don’t want to give up those greasy goodies at happy hour with their colleagues—it’s just too hard watching everyone else eat that stuff while they eat a salad. The motivation of New Year’s fades away, and they’re back to their old habits.
The good news is, with the right mindset and enough practice, you can create new, more productive habits.
How to become a self-discipline master
You can’t rely on motivation forever—it’s fleeting. For long-term business success, self-discipline is non-negotiable. If it seems completely elusive to you, though, I have a few things you can start practicing TODAY to help ensure you’ll make it past your sticking point and accomplish your goals.
1. Become a schedule bitch.
Set goals and deadlines…and post them EVERYWHERE. Write them on a calendar, buy a daily planner, put them in your phone and set alerts and reminders. Planning is key. When I first started doing this, I felt so ridiculous scheduling my entire life. But OMFG did it make all the difference. Every time my phone buzzed and I saw just one to-do task for that hour, life didn’t seem so overwhelming. Planning and execution leads to habit-making. And habits are crucial to creating real, long-term change.
Take it a step further by writing motivational blurbs with your alerts. For example, if you want to get up early to write a blog post, set your alarm description to something that will help you leave the comfort of your warm bed. Find what motivates you—whether you need inspiration or a more aggressive form of persuasion (GET OUT OF BED YOU LAZY FAILURE!).
Okay, no negative self-talk, but you get the idea. Become your own drill sergeant and reap the many rewards. A kick in the ass doesn’t hurt for that long, but it definitely helps you get shit done.
2. Share your goals.
Share them with friends, family, and anyone who will listen. Putting your dreams out there will not only create a support network, but it will help hold you accountable as well. Once you share your goals with others, you are more driven to achieve them. Sometimes it’s a matter of pride, other times it’s about not disappointing someone important to you.
I will offer this warning, though: if there’s somebody who’s always trying to bring you down, know that if you share your goals with this person, they will likely poo poo your ideas and generally try to make you doubt yourself. Gosh, aren’t frienemies the worst?
If you can look past their naysaying—if proving them wrong actually drives you—then go for it. Share away. But if the added drama stresses you out, or their words DO affect your confidence, perhaps it’s best not to include them in discussions about your life and business goals.
3. Stop striving for perfection.
Easier said than done, you say? No, it’s not. There’s no such thing as perfect, so just push send on that email pitch to a potential client already. Do it now. Oh, you think if you tweak the headline just a bit more it will guarantee a response?
Do you know what will guarantee NO response? If you never send the damn thing!
Are you still waffling? (Mmm, waffles – apologies to you New Year’s dieters out there.) I’m going to be a hard ass and crush your dreams right now: you will never succeed in business if you don’t take action before you feel “ready.” One of my favorite pieces of entrepreneurial advice goes something like this: if you wait until you’re ready, it’s already too late. You’ll either never feel ready, or someone else who took a chance will beat you to the punch.
4. Create your own motivation.
Find ways to continually motivate yourself, since we know that is what drives us initially. Don’t let external factors that you don’t have control over be your only sources of motivation. Do you want to earn enough money from your business to buy a house? Great. Slap up a picture of your dream house on the fridge. Want to live a location independent lifestyle? Hell yeah, we all do. Post pictures of your top travel destinations around your house so you’re constantly reminded of where you “could be” if you take action now.
I worked with a woman once who was saving money to travel across Asia practicing yoga and martial arts. We worked in a super shitty job—boring, low pay, old boys club type of place. She had a map of Asia and several pictures in her cubicle to remind her why she was there and to spend/save her money wisely.
And you know what? She did it.
She had to delay her plans a bit (because I quit and she had to find and train my replacement – oops!), but she accomplished what she set out to do. We don’t want to rely solely on outside motivation, but we can create our own to keep us pushing forward, to keep us disciplined.
5. Tell yourself you can.
Want some woo woo? Here goes: spend just a few minutes browsing successful people’s social media profiles or blogs. Preferably people in the same field or niche you want to succeed in. Don’t spend more than 15 minutes doing this, otherwise you’ll just be wasting time and probably become overwhelmed comparing yourself to where they are now. Remember, they were once just starting out, too. Now ask yourself: if they can do it, why can’t I?
I used to read so. damn. many. blogs from people I admired and think:
Yeah, I already know this.
Sure, but that’s not the only way to do it.
Gosh, this person has such bad grammar, and look how successful they are!
Then it clicked – if I already have tons of knowledge in this area, or if I know of other ways to do what they’re doing, then holy crap, I do have something to offer! And I sure as shit know I can write better than that person, so if bad grammar isn’t stopping them from achieving their dreams, what the hell am I doing with my life? (Side note: No judgement for the bad grammarians out there, I’m just making the point that you don’t have to be “perfect” to be successful.)
Go look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a badass. You’re intelligent, you’re capable, and you have so much to offer. See? Woo woo. But it’s a proven confidence booster!
Moral of the story
Don’t be like the January gym-goers and let your dreams fade into the background. Don’t let New Year’s traditions or a shit week or an empty bank account be your only sources of motivation. If you want to see serious business growth this year, get focused on what you want for the long-haul and start practicing self-discipline today.
Want to learn to how to set goals you’ll actually follow through on?
Download my Do the Damn Thing Goal-Setting Worksheet!
Are you a habitual starter who lacks the discipline required to make it to the finish line? What is your sticking point? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Hi, I'm Erin!
I help creatives flee the 9-5, build businesses they love, and live life on their terms.
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