It’s easy to jump quickly into our hopes for the future. We hope that the changing of the year’s digit will rescue us from past habits and holes that we have dug for ourselves. It is an opportunity to start again. We dream of changes that will make us happier and healthier. We make a list of resolutions in the hope that our willpower will be strong enough to launch us into a new way of living.
Although the intention is right, the execution is often flawed. Each January, roughly one in three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. A much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions.
While about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half (46%) are still on target six months later. How do we break this cycle?
First, we have to learn from the past. In my post on The Power of Reflection I walk you through the steps to reflect, release, and resolve. I end the post with a call to action to make a list of all the things you want to bring into your life this year. This will help to shift your perspective towards the new year with more realistic and appropriate goals.
My Top 5 Tips for Setting New Year’s Goals that Stick
Once you’ve had time to reflect then you can move forward with setting intentions for the New Year. Rather than jump right into the popular resolutions of improving yourself I’m going to challenge you to approach it a little differently this year. Apply the following 5 Tips for creating goals that will be more meaningful and realistic.
Tip 1: Embrace You
First and foremost, if nobody has told you this yet then let me be the first, you are perfect just the way you are!! Shall I say it again? You are perfect! When you embrace yourself where you are at this moment in all your glory and in all your flaws you can then move forward from a place of love. On the contrary, when you set intentions from a place of hate or disgust in yourself you set yourself up for failure. Remember in my post on Finding Joy, if you can cultivate peace and happiness (read: acceptance) in your life right now, in the present moment, then guess what, you will be happy today and you don’t have to wait to be happy until you accomplish “X” New Year’s Resolution. Make your goals this year come from a place of love in yourself.
Tip 2: Less is More
Next, we need to simplify our life in order to have time for the things that matter the most. As you’ve reflected on your past year and hopefully made a list of what’s no longer serving you, think of something you can STOP doing that will actually make more room in your life for what you want to do. Adding to our already overflowing plates with a longer list of To Do’s is not setting ourselves up for success. We need to be realistic about what we actually have time for in any given day, or week, and what our priorities are.
Tip 3: Cultivate Joy
A good way to identify your priorities is to start with what brings you joy. What are the things, activities, and/or people in your life that fill your cup. Can you make more time for those?
Tip 4: Build Resilience
In order to retain your health through this obstacle course we call life we need to have resilience; mental, physical, and spiritual resilience. How about choosing goals this year that build more resilience? My post on Living Mindfully With Stress walks you through different activities that do just that. Start with just one thing you can add to your routine that will begin to strengthen your foundation of resilience.
Tip 5: Small and Specific
Finally, I know how tempting it is to go big! But yet again, those of us with the most grandiose goals for the New Year, tend to have the hardest time actually sticking with them. I’m going to encourage you to do the opposite. Go small!! Start with small, specific, baby steps that are easy to achieve. You will be surprised at how these small successes can enhance your motivation and continue to push you forward. A much more productive strategy then to shoot for the moon, fail, and then lose all motivation to continue.
Let me run you through an example. The three most popular resolutions on people’s lists tend to be:
- Lose Weight
- Exercise More
- Eat Healthier
Now of course I would love for “eating healthier” to be on everyone’s list but in all honesty it’s too broad of a goal. For sake of an example, let’s just say that my over-arching goal is to eat healthier. This fits into my goal for building resilience. Let’s break-down this broad goal into a small, specific goal that will allow me to adopt it in steps.
Step 1: Identify a Specific Goal
I will start to eat healthier by including at least 2 servings of vegetables into my diet every day.
Step 2: How Confident Am I that I Can Achieve This Goal
(on a scale from 0-10)
8 – I’m very confident that I can achieve this goal Note: If an honest answer to this question puts your confidence somewhere on the scale less than 5 it’s probably not a good goal to start with. Think through what might be holding that goal back, what would need to happen in order for your confidence to improve, and in the meantime perhaps switching your focus to an easier goal.
Step 3: What Are The Steps Necessary For Me To Achieve This Goal
- I need to plan what I’m going to eat before I go to the grocery store so I make sure to buy the vegetables that I want to eat.
- I’m going to look for recipes to give me more ideas for preparing vegetables.
- I’m going to try one new vegetable every week to increase the diversity of vegetables that I’m eating.
When you take the time to think through your goal in as much detail as possible you will be able to identify possible barriers or challenges that could get in the way of achieving your goal. This will then allow you to think through a strategy for dealing with those challenges and ultimately make you a lot more likely to achieve your goal.
Once you achieve this goal you can then gradually add on to your over-arching goal by adding another small, specific goal. By approaching your New Year’s Resolutions in this way, I would not be surprised to find you looking back at the end of the year happily reflecting on all your success this year. Here’s to a Healthier and Happier New Year!
(this article was first published on 12/30/16)