New Year’s give us the feeling of a fresh start, a blank slate for creating a new us, changing those behaviors or habits that we just don’t like about ourselves. Losing weight, saving money, learning a new skill, travelling, being happier and enjoying life more; we’ve all had them and I’m sure many of us have come to the end of our year feeling unsuccessful at having met those goals. So what do we do? We start over the next year, thinking “this year is going to be different”, but low and behold, we often rinse and repeat with unattained goals.
I can empathize, I have had the same weight loss goal every year for the last 5 years. Each year I start off strong, I am motivated and I come out of the gate sprinting towards the finish line as fast as I can but by the end of my first lap I am huffing and puffing. Then I convince myself that I have 11 more laps to catch up, so I have plenty of time to win my race, what’s the harm in sitting down and resting for a while? Many of us have similar experiences, we hit the ground running then we hit an obstacle, we lose momentum, then we procrastinate and make excuses for why it is alright for us to put off these goals we have set for ourselves. Statistically speaking, most of us will be unsuccessful at reaching our goals we set for the New Year; how can we change that? How can we ensure that this year is really different than previous years? How do we make this year’s goals stick?
There are few things we can do to help us make this year the year we actually succeed at those resolutions:
Be specific with your goals. “This year I will lose weight…”, “…save money”, “…enjoy my life more”, while all of these are commendable goals, they are infinitely vague and lend themselves to an infinite number of challenges and possible excuses. Be specific with your goal, “this year I will lose 25 lbs…”, “….save $2000”, “…spend 1 day per week with my family, undisturbed”; stating exactly what you are working towards makes it easier to create a plan around that goal.
Make your goal measurable. How do you know that you are on the right path? Set smaller goals along the way in order to measure your progress towards your larger goal. For example, a weight loss goal of 5lbs per month in order to reach your goal of 25lbs by June, saving $175 per month in order to meet your goal of $2000 by the end of the year… Setting smaller goals allows you to measure your progress along the way as well as celebrate your success with each milestone. Many of us lose momentum because we do not see the rewards of our changes right away, setting smaller goals allows us to see these rewards and can keep us motivated to continue pushing forward.
Be realistic. Losing 100lbs when you weigh 200lbs to start with, unrealistic unless you plan on joining my daughter’s art gallery of stick figure drawings. Saving $25,000 in a year, unrealistic for most of us, unless you have plans on knocking off a bank. These may sound silly, however, many of us bite off more than we can chew when it comes to setting goals for ourselves. While I believe we can all achieve anything if we put our minds to it, goals need to be realistic and attainable otherwise you are just setting yourself up for failure.
Seek support. Staying motivated to achieve your goals is much easier with a cheer leader, a coach, a teammate, or simply a friend. Let’s be honest, change is difficult, it is a continuous shuffle of “two steps forward and one step back.” Having people around that support you and the goals you have set for yourself will benefit during those “steps back” when you need a little reminding about why you decided to set these goals in the first place, when you need an alternative perspective, or to give you a slap on the back and help you see how far you have already come. But people may not know you are in need unless you say something, so when it comes to support, ask for it!
Anticipate obstacles. Life happens, it sometimes smacks you in the face and then keeps on walking as if nothing happened; it is what it is. Anticipate possible obstacles to meeting your goal, birthday parties and holidays may affect your weight loss goals, unforeseen medical bills can cause your money saving goals to derail for a bit; however, if you anticipate these obstacles ahead of time, you have the ability to both mentally prepare yourself for the challenge and develop a plan around how to decrease its influence on your goal.
Use your strengths to your advantage. Maybe you are creative, you have great communication skills, you are handy with tools, you are a hard-worker, quick on your feet, “the life of the party”, great cook, wonderful parent… Think of a way to use your strengths in new and different ways that will assist you in reaching your goal.
We all want to be successful at reaching our goals, but many of the habits we have created around setting those goals are the exact reasons we have been unsuccessful. Let’s make this year different, let’s make this year’s resolutions stick.