Setting New Year’s Goals That Stick
Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to spark positive change. Many peoples’ goals include a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, and learning new things for personal and professional development.
One of the most sobering New Year’s resolutions statistics is that 25% of resolutions are broken in the first week. And the odds didn’t get much better for the first couple months – among gym goers, 80% drop out within eight weeks. This means that once the glow of the new year wears off, only 46% of people who set resolutions end up successful.
Why are fewer than half of these goals successful while most are not? Throughout our time in practice, we have found what separates those who are successful from those who are not. As you consider your own health goals, here are a few critical tips:
The Achievers Want It A LOT! They want it more than they want the security blanket of the status quo or repeating the past. The results they desire and the change that will lead to those results become their top priority. They move everything around so that this is slotted at the top of their to-do list. Time isn’t found to make their goal happen, they make the time. However, this is not the only reason why people may or may not be successful, and ignoring the other reasons is a lot like victim blaming.
Write the Goal Down: The first step in achieving any goal is to write the goal down. Studies and surveys have shown that you are far more likely to achieve your goals if you write it down. Writing goals down makes them real and tangible. Seeing your goal written down helps create a vision in your mind of how you want to be in the future. There’s a brain-to-hand connection that comes into effect. Writing down your goals plants the goal in your subconscious brain. When you look at your written goal each day, you bring that goal to the conscious brain and you’re more likely to take positive action towards that goal.
Be Specific: Vague goals lead to feelings of uncertainty and overwhelm. Because they lack direction, the goal setter doesn’t take appropriate action, which ends up creating a failed attempt. On the other hand, specific goals are like your GPS system for your final destination. They provide you with step by step guidance on what to do and when. This provides the goal setter with peace of mind, direction, clarity, measurable progress, confidence, and better results! For example you might want to get healthier, but what does that mean? You’ll want to fine tune the details as to what that means to you by creating a goal that resonates with you. Maybe the ultimate goal is to eat more vegetables. What does that mean? Perhaps the final goal is to eat 3, half-cup servings of vegetables per day by September 1st.
Short Term: Goals that are far out of reach are easy to procrastinate on and put off. It’s fine to have long term dreams – but it’s important to create manageable goals (like the goals listed above) that will lead to your ultimate destination. Using the above goal of Eating 3 servings of vegetables per day, a short term and realistic goal might be: I am going to have a salad for lunch on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Once you’ve accomplished that goal repeatedly with ease, then add another short term goal.
Celebrate Your Wins: When you set specific/tangible and measurable goals, you’re able to celebrate your wins on a regular basis – not just at the end. Celebrating the small victories increases motivation and confidence, which fuels momentum for success. Any accomplishment, no matter how small, activates the reward circuitry of our brains. When this pathway is opened, key chemicals are released that give you a feeling of achievement and pride. In particular, the neurotransmitter dopamine is emitted, which energizes you and gives you a feel-good aura. This chemical rewards you with pride, but also encourages you to continue to take action to move toward your goal.
Tame Your Inner Critic: The brain’s natural tendency is to keep you in the same place because this is what’s safe! However, staying safe can also keep you stuck. You’ll notice when you start making changes, your inner critic will start getting louder and louder. Instead of believing that voice in your head, make friends with it. Find some humor in it. Then let it go and create new thoughts and beliefs that are aligned with where you want to go.
Emotional Connection: Don’t set goals because you think you “should” or because they “sound good.” The goal should be something that resonates deeply within you. It should be something you desire at your core – something you have a strong emotional connection to. Studies show that individuals who have a strong internal motivation (how the result will make them feel) vs. an external motivation (financial reward or outward appearance) have much more success. When creating any goal, get in touch with “why” you want to achieve the goal in the first place. How will your life be better once you’ve reached it? How will you live and show up in the world? How do you feel now vs. if you imagine how your life could be, what differences do you feel? The emotion you want to feel is the driving force behind your goal.
Forgiveness: Rome wasn’t built in a day. You are human and it’s inevitable you’ll make mistakes. If you go into your goal with these expectations, a gentle heart, and a plan in place on how you’ll overcome your mishaps, you will be more likely to succeed.
Embrace a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset. A growth mindset allows for experimentation and seeing opportunities amongst challenges, whereas a fixed mindset is rigid and often has the mindset of “I give up,” or “I can’t do this.” Let’s look at an example. Using the salad goal above, let’s say you missed Wednesday’s salad goal. A growth mindset would say: “What happened? What can I do differently next time? What will set me up for success?” However, a fixed mindset would say: “I already screwed up, I can’t do this so why bother?” A growth mindset encourages creativity, solutions and confidence and results are much more likely. Your persistence and commitment to yourself is THE most important factor in your success. We can all act to own the life we are living and mold it into what we desire. We just have to choose to make it so.