(Originally published in the Piedmont Business Journal, December 2012)

Every January it’s the same thing: we start the New Year with intentions for success. We make resolutions and set ambitious goals for our business and personal lives. But by late February, many of us lose steam, the complexities of life interfering with our best laid plans. And we often struggle to keep pace with those goals. By the end of March, most folks are back to doing business as “usual,” New Year’s goals a distant memory. Why?

Some of this is due to not understanding how to set achievable goals, but it’s usually something more insidious. You. In order to achieve your goals, you must be willing to change your behavior. You must be willing to set a new standard for your life. You must expect something different from yourself. Your conscious and subconscious must be in alignment for you to take the actions that will advance your goal. What you think, feel, and do need to line up. If they do not, you will inadvertently sabotage your goals.

Our subconscious works hard to keep us in our comfort zone, our safe place. The moment you start stepping out of your comfort zone, the subconscious sends out a fear response. Your heart beats faster, and you start to feel doubtful and question what you’re doing. As you step farther and farther out, you get more and more scared until you return to your comfort zone. The ONLY way to overcome this is to EXPAND your comfort zone by doing things that are a bit scary until they become easy and natural. It’s a conditioning program for realizing your potential.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. Why do I want to achieve this goal? Your WHY must be stronger than any pain that you may encounter. This is your desire and it will fuel your actions.
  2. Who do I need to be to achieve this goal? Do you need to be more disciplined, get up earlier, be more visible, hire different people, better follow-up on leads, etc.? How do you need to show up in your life to get the results you desire?
  3. What is holding me back? You need to identify this so you can snuff it out! Get real honest. It’s usually a mindset issue that leads to taking actions inconsistent with your goal. Hint: it’s not that you don’t have time or money.
  4. What is the one thing that I need to focuson now to achieve this goal? You must stay focused on the activity that will bring you the most results now. For example, if you say you want to earn $1 million, what is the one thing that will bring in the most money now?
  5. What action do I need to take now to start to make it happen? If you’re looking to earn that $1 million, first take action on that one thing that you need to focus on. Do that until you generate solid cash flow and then take on the other activities. Do not get distracted.

Consider how you first learned to swim. You were probably really scared and danced around the edge of the pool. Eventually your desire pushed you to put in a toe, then go up to your knees and finally dunk your head under water. Remember how you felt when you first swam to the edge of the pool? Awesome! In order to learn to swim, you had to step out of your comfort zone and create a new pattern. The same principles apply to business success.

This year, make a commitment to play a strong “inner” game to get the results you desire in your life. Get your subconscious on board and step out of your comfort zone. Your success will inspire others. Good luck!