You know the routine: making New Year’s resolutions and not sticking to it. But not this year! These three tips can help you set and accomplish your goals and resolutions.
Every year, you come up with some New Year’s resolutions, vow to really stick to them this year, keep at it for a few weeks, and then either gradually go off track, or something happens to prevent you from keeping your resolution for a day or a week, and you decide that since you’ve already blown it, you may as well forget it. By the time March rolls around, you may have forgotten that you had goals for the year in the first place – at least, until the end of December when it’s time to do it all again.
And you’re not alone. This is a very common experience. It can’t just be that you’re lazy or unmotivated – so many people have had New Year’s resolutions play out just this way, including very successful and driven people. You probably know some of them, and you may be one of them yourself.
How to Accomplish Your Goals
The chances are good that this doesn’t happen to you every time you set a goal for yourself – you’ve probably accomplished many goals over the course of your life, both small and large. It’s mostly just the goals that are associated with the new year that pose a problem for many people.
Why does this happen, and how can you actually set and keep your goals for the upcoming year? Take a look at some tips that can help.
1. Be Realistic
One reason so many people have problems with their New Year’s resolutions is that they tend to save their big, sweeping goals for the new year. Sure, a new year is an obvious milestone, and it’s a great time to make a new start. But there’s nothing magical about January 1st.
- If you’re working a job that pays $40,000 a year and have no other income, this probably isn’t going to be the year that you become a millionaire.
- Or, if you’re 100 lbs overweight, you probably didn’t gain all of that in one year, and you’re very unlikely to lose it all in 365 days.
- If you’re in school and you’ve been a solid C student for the majority of your academic career, the odds are against you becoming a straight-A student by next December.
- Maybe you’re suffering from addiction. You most likely aren’t going to become sober in one day with no challenges.
None of that means that you can’t make some other type of progress over the next 12 months. You absolutely can accomplish your goals. But it’s important to be realistic. If you set a huge goal for yourself, you know that you’re going to have to make large gains steadily throughout the year.
Making a million dollars over the course of a year, for example, would mean that you would need to make over $80,000 a month for 12 months. When you reach the end of January and see that you haven’t accomplished that, it’s easy to decide that you’re just not going to be able to make it and stop trying. Setting a more realistic goal for earning additional money in 2020 might not be as exciting, but you’re more likely to stick to it.
2. Focus on Process, Not Outcome
Another common problem with New Year’s resolutions is that people tend to set goals that focus on the outcome. This makes it difficult to actually accomplish your goals.
For example, a large portion of people who make New Year’s resolutions make resolutions that focus on weight or health, and many of these are outcome-focused. Even a realistic goal, like losing 20 pounds in a year, is still a goal that focuses on the outcome, not on the things you would need to do to lose 20 pounds, like get regular exercise or change your diet.
There are a couple of problems with these types of outcome-focused goals.
- For one thing, zooming in too much on a particular outcome might push you to make unwise choices to get there, like crash dieting or using diet pills that might be harmful to your health just to meet your goal.
- Focusing on the outcome also tends to lead to unsustainable changes in order to meet that goal. If you lose 20 pounds by June, you’ve kept your resolution, but if you then go right back to eating junk food or not exercising, you could actually put all of the weight back on by the time December rolls around. Then what?
A better strategy, especially health-related goals, is to focus on forming positive habits rather than focusing on a particular outcome.
- For example, drinking water every day is a positive habit.
- Taking a walk every day is a positive habit.
- Choosing fruit instead of chips when you want a snack is a positive habit.
These are things that you can do to achieve a particular outcome, but they’re also sustainable changes that you can keep doing whether or not you hit that goal. And the nice thing about positive habits is that they often have benefits that you’re not likely to think about. If you’re focused on the outcome, that might seem like a failure. But from a process-focused perspective, you’ve made progress, which is good, and you’ve probably seen other benefits as well.
3. Don’t Quit if You Miss a Day
So many New Year’s resolutions are built around things you want to do for the whole year, and it’s easy to get hung up on the “whole” part of that phrase. You set a goal for yourself to go to the gym every day, you’re doing well, and then one day you have to stay late at work so you don’t go. Or you get the flu and can’t make it for a whole week. You think, “well, I’ve already blown it by missing this time. Better luck next year.” This limits your ability to accomplish your goals.
But a better strategy is to just pick back up where you left off the next day or the next week. A year is a long time. You may very well backslide, temporarily slip into old habits, or get too busy to work on your goal every single day. But there’s nothing stopping you from going right back to working on your goals the next day.
Just like there’s nothing magical about January 1, there’s also nothing magical about 365 consecutive days. If you get off track, you can get back on – you didn’t violate some rule by missing a day, and there’s no reason to punish yourself by giving up on your goal if you missed a day or backslid.
A new year is not the only time that you can start over – you can start over any time you like. Or better yet, just pick up where you left off and keep moving forward. This way, you can actually accomplish your goals.