The not-so-surprising answer is keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Year after year, studies show that 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the second week in February, and only 8% of people are able to keep their resolutions for an entire year.
If you’d like this year to be the year that you finally see your New Year’s resolutions through, the answer isn’t a magical improvement in your will power – it’s improving your goal planning. Here’s how to do it:
- Think about what you really want.
Many of us set goals at the New Year without really thinking about what we actually want and what will benefit us most in the year (and years) ahead. Rather than telling yourself that you’re going to eat healthier this year and leaving it at that, take some time to sit down and reflect on your life, what’s going well, and what you could be doing better. Think about what you’d like to be doing in five years, in ten years, and when you retire. Prioritize the actions that could improve your life immediately and have lasting effects. Certainly, if you’re worried about how you eat, then eating better is a great goal, but you won’t be able to achieve it without some forethought and planning. Which brings us to…
- Set goals that are SMART.
SMART goals are goals that are specific, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable. Most people fail at setting achievable goals because they create goals for themselves that are too big, too vague, or too impersonal. With everything that you’ve considered about your current state of being and what you’d like to achieve, pick a small set of goals that have specific parameters that you can measure and track.
Going back to the healthy eating example, you could make that goal specific and attainable by planning to go meatless two days a week. Or you could plan to eat salads for lunch at least three times a week. The trick is to choose a specific goal that will keep you on track, not overwhelm you, and help you achieve a bigger end goal in incremental steps.
- Use all the tools you’ve got.
Some people are under the false impression when goal setting that they should make it hard on themselves. In fact, the opposite is true. You should give yourself every available tool and resource that you can in order to stay on track. Put reminders in your phone. Have a friend that you can be accountable to or share the goal with. Use technology like pedometers, focusing software, language apps, and whatever else might be relevant to your goal to your advantage.
- Cut yourself some slack.
One of the great things about setting goals that are attainable and trackable is that if you mess up, it’s ok. Obviously, you want to stay on track as much as possible, but if you have a bad week or even a bad month, don’t let that derail you from achieving your bigger goal. Brush off past mistakes and remember that progress is always in your best interest, even if you end up progressing less than you initially hoped.