Start Your Goals by Overcoming Your Gremlins

The year is quickly coming to an end — and many of us are already looking ahead to 2020. Leading up to the New Year, nearly half of us will be setting resolutions, while the rest will continue on with business as usual.

For those who start resolutions, only 77 percent will keep it up for a week, according to a two-year study conducted in 1989 by John C. Norcross of the University of Scranton. A follow-up study by Norcross in 2002 showed that 71 percent kept it up for one and two weeks.

That means almost a quarter of us don’t even make it seven days. Why can’t we stick to it? Lack of willpower and failure of stimulus control (the presence or absence of something that controls a behavior) were two of the main hindrances.

Those who make resolutions and make it to the six-month marker, however, were 10 times as likely to keep them than people who never made a resolution at all.

So that leads us to an even more important question: If setting goals makes us more likely to achieve them, what prevents people from even showing up at the start line?

From my experience as a certified professional coach, I’ve learned that our own personal obstacles often stand in the way of starting goals. Those obstacles come from our Gremlins, Associations, Interpretations and Limiting beliefs (GAILs).

Identifying your GAILs is one of the first steps toward overcoming them — and starting goals that could add real value to your life.

  • Gremlins — We all have a voice in our heads that has a worst-case scenario ready for any situation. This voice will always be there, but we can begin to recognize when the negative thought comes up and reframe it to be positive. For example, let’s say you’re a new parent and your goal is to get back to feeling like yourself, starting with making time for old friends. You text a friend to meet up for coffee, but you don’t hear back after a few days. That inner gremlin might tell you, “That person doesn’t like me anymore.” In reality, that person may just be swamped at work or going through a personal crisis. Try to think of one to two reasons why you’re a great friend. Then wait a week and try to follow up with your friend again.
  • Associations — There’s a reason that our past is sometimes referred to as “baggage.” We tend to carry it with us wherever we go. Maybe you took a bad fall off your road bike and haven’t ridden it since. Your goal might be to get back to riding once a week, like you used to do. To help push past the negative association you’re carrying first, think about all of the positive things that happen when you ride your bike. You get to be outside, which has inherent mental health benefits. You also enjoy riding with a particular friend or an organized group, which has helped you forge strong relationships with others based on a common interest. After thinking of all the positive associations with bike riding, take action to diminish some of the negative ones. Take your bike in for a professional tune-up regularly to ensure it’s safe to ride. Sign up for a class that teaches you what to do if you blow a tire during a ride. The best way to fight fear is to take action.
  • Interpretations — We see the world through our own lens. This causes us to form our own opinions or judgments about events, situations, people or experiences. For example, maybe your New Year’s resolution is to make amends with an estranged family member. Perhaps you had an argument with a parent, sibling or friend due to one event — and have since taken time to reflect and see it from a different angle. You might start your goal by reaching out to that person to see if they’d be willing to talk in-person. The best way to avoid misinterpreting a situation is to allow people to explain their side and intentions, without interruptions, and for them to allow you to do the same.
  • Limiting beliefs — There may be a belief that you have about yourself, the world or the people in it that limits you in some way. Maybe you want to become a public speaker, but worry that you’re not as articulate as some of the people who have 700,000 subscribers on YouTube. First of all, it’s important to realize that those people probably didn’t start out with a perfect delivery. You’re seeing the result of years of practice, failures, and reattempts. Second, along the way, they likely sought out people or tools to fill any gaps in their skillset. To start your goal, consider joining a group that specializes in helping people refine their public-speaking skills, such as Toastmasters. That will give you the practice, audience and confidence you need to bring out your inner Tony Robbins (or — even better — your inner “you”).

Want to overcome your gremlins and start your goals? Don’t wait until Jan. 1. This seven-day guide will help you develop winning habits, get into a productive flow, create focus, and learn new skills that will help you work toward — and achieve — your personal goals.