New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap since many people don’t end up following through with them. We’ve all heard jokes about the gym being full in January and then getting progressively emptier as the year lags on.
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The dwindling follow through on New Year’s resolutions has caused many people to give up on them altogether, but does the problem lie with New Year’s resolutions or with our approach to them? In my life, it’s been the latter. I love setting new goals for myself at the start of each year and celebrating how far I’ve come at the end of it.
Most of us have had the experience of setting a goal and then missing the mark. Like most other life experiences, I’ve used these “failures” as an experiment. I’ve taken them as an opportunity to experiment with what went wrong and why. These setbacks have in turn set the tone for my new approach to goal setting that has worked for me time and time again. If you’ve had similar experiences with your resolutions, I hope you’ll try the tips below and find what works for you!
Choose something important to you
This might seem obvious, but if you’re anything like me, there are a million goals you “would like” to pursue. I would love to build a tiny house, speak Spanish fluently, and start a garden. However, there are only so many hours in my lifetime. There’s a difference between things I would like to do and things that are important to my personal growth, happiness, and well-being. When choosing my goals for a new year, I try to weigh all of my interests and focus on the aspirations that will be the most transformational in the quality of my life. What would I most like to look back on in a year’s time and say that I’ve accomplished? What would I regret most if I did not accomplish within the next year?
Find what works for you
Some people do better with making incremental changes. Others work well under pressure and dive in to new goals headfirst. Know yourself and what works for you. If you’re not sure, have fun experimenting! I thrive on structure and planning, so creating specific action plans and penciling them in works for me. If something is in my planner, it’s a priority. If it’s not, it probably will not get done.
Look at your resolutions daily
I’m a visual learner and I’m no different when it comes to my goals. Looking at them every day helps to keep me on track. I keep a list of my goals on my phone and look at them every morning. When I need an extra boost, I also put a Post-it note above my desk or on the bathroom mirror. I want to keep my resolutions in sight and therefore in mind.
Create check-in points along the way
It’s normal to have setbacks. We can expect them with any endeavor, but we can also minimize them. In addition to the steps above, I find it helpful to create check-in points throughout the year to see how I’m doing and if I need to adjust course. These may be daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the goal and plan of action. I also like to use my birthday as a mid-year check in since I was born on the Fourth of July!
Remember that action often precedes motivation
When we first set any important goal, we can seem so far away from it that it can be daunting. Remember that you have to begin before you gain momentum. I often try to set one small goal that I can accomplish easily so I can feel successful and fuel my motivation right away. Once I get a taste of accomplishment, I want more and I’m motivated to keep striving. I also spend three minutes a day visualizing what these accomplishments will feel like when I get to my final destination. Some days, none of these techniques are enough to motivate me, but I remind myself that sometimes you just have to act anyway. I remind myself how good I will feel after I’ve gotten a step closer to my resolution. I’ve often regretted failing to act on a goal, but I’m yet to regret taking a step toward one.
These approaches have worked for me, but everyone is different. Only you know what is best for you, so feel free to try or adapt any of these options.