How to Set and Achieve Your Goals
Let’s face it, we’re not very good at achieving most of the goals we set for ourselves, and especially our New Year’s resolutions. In fact, an Ipsos survey found that as much as 80% of people failed to keep their resolutions, saying that a lack of motivation, willpower, or drive was the main reason they failed.
But is it really because we lack the motivation or the mental discipline to achieve our goals, or is it something more fundamental to how our minds work?
Many psychologists say that New Year’s resolutions often fail because we’re too unrealistic in the goals we set. We also overestimate the speed that we’re able to change our habits and don’t have a practical strategy to achieve our goals.
Another reality is that many of us just aren’t setting the right goals. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to want to lose weight or to be healthier, but it’s the way that needs to change.
Your resolution may have been set incorrectly because of any of these three reasons:
- The goal you set isn’t something you’re passionate about
- Your goal is too vague
- You don’t have a plan to achieve your goal, or it has no deadline
How Do You Set Achievable Resolutions?
Goals and resolutions should be SMART:
Your goals should be concrete and clear. Let’s say you want to lose weight throughout the year. Make sure you calculate exactly how much weight you want to lose, and set a deadline for you to lose the weight by. It’s also helpful to set shorter term goals that will help you visualize exactly what you need to do to achieve your final goal. So let’s say you want to lose twenty pounds in four months, so you then you’ll know that you aim to lose five pounds per month.
This may be obvious if your goal is something fitness or weight-related, but it’s important to make every goal you set measurable no matter how intangible it could be. For example, if you want to tone up, take a weekly photo of your body to track how your body is changing. You can even invest in apps or technology that can detect and monitor changes in your body composition (muscle mass vs. body fat percentage).
Setting goals to be achievable doesn’t necessarily mean you should only set easy or short-term goals. You can definitely set bigger, stretch goals, but make sure not to try to go too fast. Taking too big of a step to try and reach your stretch goals can leave you feeling frustrated at a perceived lack of progress. It can even take over your life to the point of imbalance where other areas of your life suffer as a result. So instead of trying to save enough money to retire young, aiming to save an extra $150 - $300 a month may be a more realistic goal.
Ask yourself why you’re setting these goals. Are you making your resolutions for the right reasons? If you make goals out of self-criticism, regret, or because of some other strong emotion at the moment, those goals usually don’t last for very long. But if you’re setting goals because you’re trying to achieve something that is genuinely good for you while changing your lifestyle in a way that will help you achieve your goals, then you’re much more likely to succeed.
Just like setting achievable goals, giving yourself a realistic deadline on your goals is just as important. Make sure to give yourself enough time to make steady progress towards your end goal. Setting smaller, short-term goals along the way is also helpful for keeping you on track.
4 Goals to Help You Achieve Your New Year Resolutions
Here are a few example goals you can set to help you achieve some of the most commonly set New Year's resolutions.
1. Do 5 Things to Create a Healthier Work Life
Health and weight loss goals are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. If you want to become a healthier individual by the end of this year, think of things you can do to make a SMART health resolution.
Since we spend so much time at work, we can use this time to help us achieve our long-term health goals. Pack a healthy lunch filled with vegetables. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up and walk around the office every hour.
2. Develop a New Skill
Maybe your New Year’s resolution is to get promoted or to finally work your dream job. To help you achieve that career resolution, you can set a goal to develop a new skill in the meantime that will give you a boost towards that ultimate career move.
3. Call Your Family More Often
If your New Year resolution is to develop a closer bond with your family, you can set realistic, measurable goals to call your family at least every other week, and/or visit every major holiday.
4. Make More Time for Your Relationship
If the past year has been so hectic that you’ve been neglecting your romantic relationship, maybe you’d like to spend more time with your significant other this year. It may be helpful for you to set smaller goals that you can work on together. Carve out a few extra date days or nights every month where even staying in for pizza and Netflix counts. You may also want to measure your time spent together to see if you’re spending enough quality time per week together.
References and Further Reading:
- Canadians Quick to Make New Year's Resolutions, But Slow to See Them Through. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/canadians-quick-make-new-years-resolutions-slow-see-them-through.
- How to Write SMART Goals. Retrieved from https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/essential-guide-writing-smart-goals.
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