The New Year can be a time for reflection. It can bring hopes for making things new or doing things better. Many people make “resolutions” to improve themselves. Things such as: losing weight, eating healthy, working out, quitting/cutting back bad habits, getting a better job, managing debt, time management or volunteering. Every hope is heartfelt and made with the best intentions to “follow through this year”.
Often times, it all starts out great; joining the gym, tossing out that pack of cigarettes, abstaining from alcohol, or contacting places to volunteer. But then reality sets in and life happens. Our schedules get busy and it becomes difficult to arrange the time for the workouts or volunteer. Stress from work or home becomes overwhelming and that drink, cigarette, or chocolate pie will help you relax just a little. Then self-promises are made that it was “just this one time” or “I can pick back up tomorrow or Monday”. And it continues to happen. Then the guilt and shame begins. Or all the high hopes for the New Year changes just fall by the wayside and the “maybe next year” encouragement speech is given.
According to the University of Scranton’s Clinical Psychology study in 2012, 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions and 24% of those never succeed and fail on their resolutions each year. Kind of sad statistics and the numbers are probably higher because many do not wish to admit to the failures.
With all that being said, it is not a hopeless situation. Perhaps it is in the goal setting itself. Here are some tips in setting goals and help on achieving those goals:
- Set Specific, Realistic and Achievable Goals. “Eating Healthy” is a very broad goal and difficult to measure successes. Instead make a specific thing to focus on, such as “I will eat more fruit everyday” or “I will switch my side items to veggies rather than fries for two meals.” These changes or additions, being more specific, are easier to stick with rather than the global, overarching “eating healthy.”
- Having Strong Motivational Ties to Goals. Setting goals for which you do not have the time, energy, or motivation is setting yourself up for failure. Examine the reasons behind the desires to change. The more you are invested emotionally to the goal, the more dedicated you are to reach that goal.
- Accountability and Measurable Results. Being specific on goals can help yield measurable results. Also having a way to track your goal or being accountable for following through can help with being successful as well. If you have a friend who will go to the gym twice a week with you, can help build in the accountability, as you have to schedule or cancel with them. The measureable results can also be in how much weight you can lift at the gym or what level/length of time you spend on the treadmill.
- Making Changes Into Habits. It takes approximately 20 days of doing something to make a habit. Give yourself time to the adjustments you are trying to make. Before too long, what you have to be very mindful of doing, will be part of your new routine which requires little effort to keep it going.
- Tangible Results. Be sure to think through to the end of your goal to help keep you motivated. Knowing and visualizing how good you will feel and look after “losing 10 pounds” or how easier you will be breathing once you “wean off of cigarettes”. Keeping the end in mind can be a reminder of the motivation to change.
- Reviewing and Revising Goals. Reminding yourself of what you wish to accomplish and why can help you continue to embrace the changes you are making. Also, you may have been so good at keeping up with your goals you can make revisions. For example, getting into better shape goal was initially “parking at the back of the lot” may need addition of “and taking the stairs”.
These tips can assist with smart goal setting. Thinking about the reasons for change, what you will gain from the changes, and building in accountability and measurable results can provide a great platform for success. Keep in mind too, that some setbacks may occur, which is typical. This can be a simple clue that you need to refine your goals to be more specific or realistic.
Personally, I do not set New Year’s Resolutions because I feel that if the change is important enough, start right now while the motivation is high. Motivation for change is a large factor in getting things into motion.
Best wishes with your goal setting adventures!