Many of us don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. And I do get why. The beginning of the new year is actually a pretty random date that usually doesn’t come with any actual changes besides the date. Then again, there will also be the over-motivated masses who’ll sign up for gym memberships during the first week of January just to realize after two weeks that losing weight still requires patience and dedication in 2017. The truth is that change will happen when you make it happen. The first week of the new year is just as good a time as any to get started. But this time of the year can serve as a little reminder for us to focus on ourselves and find out what it is that we truly want to achieve. So today I’d like to share with you my tips on how to set your New Year’s goals the right way and actually achieve them.
1. Focus on what really matters to you
To achieve your goals the first thing you want to do is find out what your goals actually are. This might sound easy at first but hear me out. Envision what you want your life to be like. Where do you want to be in 10 years? What are the things you definitely want to have achieved by the time you turn 80? These are your true life goals you’ll want to work towards. You’ll be a lot more likely to keep your motivation up for these goals than for short-lived desires that’ll just distract you and consume your time and energy. This also includes asking why you want to achieve something. Striving to join a band might be a more long-term motivation for learning to play an instrument than trying to impress your current crush.
2. Use the SMART principle
You might have heard of SMART before: It gives you certain criteria that’ll help you check if the way you set your goals is a solid work base for actually achieving them.
SMART stands for:
S – Specific: Don’t just say “I want to work out more.” Instead set a specific goal: “I want to lose 10 kg.” This way it’s a lot clearer to you what it actually is that you’re working towards.
M – Measurable: Make sure there’s an actual way to track your progress. This works well if you can measure your goal in kg or meters or whatever it is. If you want to learn to play an instrument a measurable goal might be “I want to be able to play my favorite song.”
A – Achievable: Is it even realistic that you will achieve your goal? Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming high. There’s nothing wrong with goals that’ll require a lot of hard work as long as you’re willing and able to put the hard work in. But be sure to go over all the obstacles that might occur on the way and to be honest with yourself. Goals can be unachievable for various reasons. Let’s say you want to be a runway model but you’re only 1,60 m / 5’2’’. Although Kate Moss isn’t exactly a giant either you might want to come up with a plan B because your goal is, let’s face it, not very achievable for you. Even if you’re not aiming that high it doesn’t necessarily mean a goal will be fully achievable. Going to the gym five times a week doesn’t even sound that unrealistic for some people. If you’re a parent of three with a busy full-time job and lots of social commitments though it might still be a good idea to take it a little slower so you won’t get demotivated right away.
R – Relevant: We briefly touched on this earlier – ask yourself if this goal is something that you truly want and why you want it. Is it something that will really enrich your life or is the true underlying motivation actually something else? Does this really help you achieve your long-term goals and help you lead the life you want?
T – Timely: It’s important to set a time frame for your goals. When do you want to have achieved the goal or a certain milestone along the way?
3. Break larger goals down into smaller ones
This will help you take one step at a time to eventually achieve what you’re striving for. A goal like “I want to lose 10 kg.” is still pretty abstract. Break it down into small individual steps like “I will go to the gym three times a week.”.
A goal like “I want to be a happy person.” is pretty much unachievable without breaking it down into smaller goals like “I want to spend more time with my family.” or “I want to start meditating.”. This will not only help you make your goals more specific but you’ll also stay motivated. Smaller milestones can be achieved more quickly which will help you keep going as you can track your progress. A large, looming goal can often leave us paralyzed and unable to even start.
Let’s combine this strategy with the smart principle: Instead of saying “I want to have a bikini body for summer.” our goal would be:
“I want to lose 10 kg until June 1st. In order to achieve this I will go the gym three times a week, skip my daily muffin and drink water instead of soda.”
4. Write them down
Some goals can be condensed into a short mantra that you can repeat every day or when necessary. They work especially well for goals like being more calm or treating yourself well. I have some of those mantras and they really work wonders when I get stuck in negative thought patterns. When it comes to more complex goals I recommend writing them down so you’ll keep your eyes on them. Write them down in as much detail as possible (see no. 3) and, if possible, write down some milestones you can check off along the way. It’s completely up to you if you want to use your phone, make your goals your desktop wallpaper, create a poster for your office or use a calendar. As I have the best sister in the world she got me this fantastic Jo & Judy workbook for Christmas. It comes with a calendar, to do lists, a financial planner, heaps of motivational quotes and the most gorgeous design (no, I was not paid to say this.).
5. Social commitment can be helpful
The more people know about your goal the more likely it is that you’ll actually achieve it. Even if other people’s opinions aren’t overly important to you it’s harder to chicken out of your goal if you’ve announced that you’re totally going to do this. Also, you’re not only telling other people that you’re going to achieve your goal but also yourself. It will have a huge impact if you keep telling yourself that you are someone who loves to work out / eat healthy / practice playing the guitar. Act and talk about your goal as if it’s already a reality. We do in fact create our own reality through our thoughts, opinions and of course, actions.
6. Make the changes a habit
Setting your goals the right way is a fantastic start but the most important part of course is to take action and follow through with it. Once you’ve figured out what to do to achieve your goals make those changes a habit. When I’m trying to establish a new habit it works very well for me to trick myself a little. I’m not gonna tell myself that I have to do X (whatever it is) from now on until the end of the universe because that might actually demotivate me. I’m gonna tell myself that I’m going to do X for a month. If it’s still unbearable by then I can still quit. However, after doing something every day for a month I have already grown so used to it that I don’t even want to quit anymore.
Another tip: being a bit stricter with yourself might actually make it easier. Wait… what? I’ll give you an example: For me personally it’s easier to work out every day than to work out three times a week. Why? Because when I tell myself I’m going to work out three times a week I’ll start haggling with myself every single time about whether today is going to be one of the three days or not. When I tell myself I’m going to work out every day then there are no exceptions and no excuses., no pondering, no weighing the options – I’m just gonna do it.
7. Evaluate your progress
Once you’ve started working towards your goals you should track your progress. Did you reach the milestones along the way? If you didn’t you should try to figure out if you haven’t tried hard enough or maybe approached the goal the wrong way. Maybe your goal wasn’t fully achievable in the first place. Don’t give up – find out what went wrong and make adjustments. Reaching the milestones you set for yourself will give you a huge boost of motivation and help you keep going. And don’t forget to envision what it will be like once you have reached your goal. Because it feels amazing.
Now as a conclusion to these tips I would like to share with you an observation I made during the past couple of years. Most people seem to think that a goal is either easily achievable or completely unachievable. They put a tiny bit of effort in and if it doesn’t work right away they’ll give up. It’s understandable that nobody wants to put a lot of effort into something that doesn’t pay off but in fact they don’t even give it the chance to pay off. It seems to have become a true insiders’ tip that we can achieve things that only very few people achieve by actually putting in the hard work and patience. If awesome things were easily achieved everyone would do or have them, right? In a situation when 9 out of 10 give up be the one to hang in there.
I wish you all a fantastic and successful year 2017!