Setting goals for the New Year is easy. Sticking with those goals all year long? Well, that’s the hard part.
In fact, the second Friday in January is actually known as Quitters Day because it’s the day that people are most likely to give up on their New Year’s resolutions.
Since studies show that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail, we want to set you up for success this year. So, here’s how to set goals that you’ll actually be able to accomplish in the New Year!
How To Set And Achieve Goals In The New Year
Step 1: Take A Personal Inventory
Before you decide what you want/where you want to go in the future, it’s important to determine how you feel in the present moment. So, what’s your current satisfaction level with your life? Are there any areas that you’d like to improve? Take some time to really evaluate this.
If you’re not sure where to start with your personal inventory, there’s a ‘Life Pie’ exercise in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, which may be helpful.
All you need for this ‘Life Pie’ exercise is a piece of paper and a pen. Then draw a circle on the paper and divide the circle into six pieces of pie. Label one piece exercise, and then continue labeling the other pieces: friends, work, romance/adventure, play, and spirituality.
Next, place a dot in each slice at the degree to which you’re fulfilled in that area. The outer rim indicates ‘great,’ while the inner circle indicates ‘not so great.’ Then connect the dots. This will show you where you’re lopsided.
Step 2: Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
A lot of New Year’s Resolutions tend to fail either because your goal is too vague, you created a resolution based on what someone else is telling you to change, or you don’t have a realistic plan in place to achieve your goal. That’s why it’s so important to set goals that are doable and meaningful to you.
To make sure that your goal is something that you can actually accomplish in the New Year, use the acronym S.M.A.R.T., which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, when setting your goal.
Specific: Since vague goals usually don’t lead to much success, make sure that your goal for the New Year is crystal clear. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight in 2022, instead of just saying that your goal is to lose weight, actually decide the amount of weight that you want to lose, and also set a time frame – are you planning on losing that weight in a few weeks or a few months? The more specific your goal is, the better.
Measurable: If your goal is to exercise more in the New Year, it’s not only important to be specific, you also have to make sure that you can track your progress along the way. So, if your exercise goal is to get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity in, you can break your goal down for the week and plan to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, five days a week.
Then track your exercise sessions in order to see if you’re able to achieve your goal for the week. If you’re unable to at first, that’s okay. Be patient with yourself, and just do the best that you can each and every day. And remember, you’re after progress, not perfection.
Achievable: If you’re someone who likes to dream big, we’re all for it. Just make sure to break your long-term goals down into more achievable short-term goals that you can accomplish along the way.
Relevant: Since resolutions based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change usually fail, make sure that your goal is truly something that matters to you. After all, if you don’t really care about the goal, what motivation do you have to accomplish it?
Time-bound: The same way that you have deadlines at work for when projects must be completed by, you should set a time frame for when you plan to accomplish your goal by. By setting a time frame for your goal, you’ll know what you need to do moving forward in order to accomplish your goal.
Step 3: Keep Your Goals In Places Where You Can See Them
Congratulations on setting your goal for the New Year! Now, make sure to keep your goal in the forefront of your mind.
You can do this by writing your goal down in your planner, saving your goal on your phone as your background (or as your computer’s screensaver), or by leaving notes around your house reminding you what your goal is, and why it’s so important for you to achieve your goal.
Step 4: Create Good Habits
Now that you’ve set your goal for the New Year, and see it everywhere you turn, it’s time to create good habits that can lead you to your goal, and maybe even get rid of some bad habits that may be preventing you from accomplishing your goal, as well.
The best way to form a good habit, or break a bad habit, is to be aware of a psychological pattern called a ‘habit loop.’ A habit loop has three main components, which are the cue (or trigger), the routine, and the reward.
The Cue: The cue is the trigger that kicks off the habitual behavior. It’s what tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold. While cues that prompt routine behaviors vary, they usually fall into one of these categories: location, time, current emotional state, the people around you, or your last action.
The Routine: The routine is the behavior itself, which is what we think about when we think about habits.
So, if your goal is to run more in the New Year, the cue, the routine, and the reward should be pretty straightforward. A cue may be putting on your sneakers and running clothes. Then the routine is going for a run. And a reward may be a nice long shower after your run, or maybe even treating yourself to something special.
Step 5: Leave Room For Mistakes
No one is perfect. That’s why it’s important to leave room for mistakes. Did you not exercise all five days? Or not reach your weight loss goal on the date that you planned? That’s okay. There’s still time to achieve your goal.
So, instead of getting mad at yourself and wanting to give up the first time that you get a little off track, understand that slip ups are part of the process. The only way that you will ‘fail’ to reach your goal is if you give up and stop pursuing your goal. So, instead of berating yourself and focusing on the mistakes that you’ve made, choose to focus on all the great things that you’ve been doing well. Then keep going, and remind yourself: I can and I will achieve my goals in 2022!