New Year; New Commitments for Business Success

Article by C.J. HaydenIt’s the beginning of a new year, and a traditional time for making commitments to change. But according to market researcher Dr. Steven Kraus, author of “Psychological Foundations of Success,” only 15% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions manage to keep them.

One of the reasons our resolutions fail is that we frequently resolve to do things just because we believe we should, instead of choosing goals that are naturally compelling and personally meaningful. Another cause for failure is that we often formulate our resolutions simply as good intentions. Without measurable goals and realistic plans to convert our annual declarations into daily action, they tend to slip away in the face of other responsibilities and conflicting demands on our time.

If one of your resolutions this year was to increase your business success, here are three ways to follow through on that resolve:

1. Commit to make every business decision one that leads to more personal fulfillment.

Every day of the year, you are faced with decisions, some big and some small. Should you pursue a lucrative contract with a client whose project doesn’t really appeal to you, or take a chance on going after a smaller piece of business that you find much more exciting? Does it make more sense to attend a networking mixer you know you won’t enjoy, but where you might meet several prospective clients, or to have a pleasant, relaxed lunch with one potential referral source?

The reality of an entrepreneur’s life is that no one is looking over your shoulder to make you do things you don’t like. Tasks that you find too onerous or unpleasant simply won’t get done, no matter how many times you put them at the top of your to-do list. You’ll find it much easier to follow through on your intentions if your destination is compelling and the journey is enjoyable. Choose to pursue clients you like by using tactics you enjoy, and your success rate will skyrocket.

2. Discover the truth about what you want and what it will take to get it.

In building a business, it’s easy to get caught up in all the “shoulds” that you hear and imagine. “You should be going after corporate accounts,” the industry veterans say. “You should be making six figures online,” the Internet marketing gurus tell you. “Every business should advertise,” claim the advertising salespeople. “You should be sticking to familiar territory; don’t try anything new,” your inner critic cautions.

One of the best things about being self-employed is that you get to set your own agenda — if you have the courage to ignore the “shoulds” and go after what you really want. By all means, listen to informed advice from trusted sources, but then make up your own mind.

If you enjoy working with corporate clients, include them in your target market. If building an online business appeals to you, go for it. If advertising is a proven approach to landing clients in your field, include it in your marketing plan. But if any of the “shoulds” others recommend don’t appeal to you, don’t make sense for your situation, or just don’t feel right, let them go. Map out a path that honors who you truly are, and you’ll be more likely to follow it.

3. Make your goals big but your action steps small.

Setting ambitious goals for your business can be thrilling and motivating. A key factor to achieving success is creating a vision grand enough to inspire you beyond your comfort zone. But a bold vision without an achievable action plan to support it can lead to overwhelm, disillusionment, and failure. If you don’t believe your goals are possible, you will stop working toward them.

For every resolution you make this year, set a measurable goal. For example, a resolution to earn more could spawn the goal “land two new clients each month.” Then decide on a series of steps to take toward each goal. A common mistake is to design action steps that are far too large. “Launch a new website” is not a small step; it’s a giant leap.

An action step should be small enough to accomplish in a couple of hours. That way you can continuously see and measure your progress and keep yourself inspired. Some steps need to be taken more than once, like “follow up with prospects.” That’s okay — just make sure that every time you plan to take a step, you can complete it in less than half a day. If a step will take longer than that, break it down into smaller tasks.

Then be sure to revisit your goals at least monthly and review your action plan weekly. If you want to stay on track with your resolutions, you’ll need to keep them in front of you throughout the year.

Making resolutions is easy, but keeping them can be hard. Don’t beat yourself up for all the times you made resolutions and didn’t keep them. Instead, resolve that this year will be different. Commit to pursuing fulfillment rather than acting from obligation, to following your own agenda, and to taking small steps toward big goals, and this time next year, you’ll be rewarding yourself for a job well done.

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