New Year’s resolutions are so popular, such an easy way to generate hype and popularity that even the government is doing it. So, why are our firm goals so hard to reach? What can we do differently? How can we make sure our personal, professional, and health-related goals are met in the upcoming year, without the guilt of not meeting them dragging us down? Instead of perpetuating an ancient model of goal-setting and accountability, shape up, slim down and increase your earnings in 2020 by taking concrete steps to get there, being kind to yourself and involving other people in your goals.
If you’re looking for a healthy lifestyle full of new hobbies, more money, more time with family, travel adventures and great books to read, you’ve got to get moving. New Year’s is just around the corner, so make sure to avoid those resolutions, and instead make your life better with goals you can start today, step-by-step.
Here’s where we recommend you start:
Set Goals Without Grandeur
A study from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychology shows that while most people don’t stick out their New Year’s resolutions, those who made them are still closer to reaching their goals as the year wraps up than those who didn’t set any resolutions in the first place. Those who did succeed showed more cognitive behavioral processes, and less emotional responses than the survey respondents who didn’t meet their goals. What can we take away? Your goals do matter, because just the act of setting them is a step in the direction of actualizing them. To make them real, think logically, with self-awareness, and not with emotional baggage. Avoid aspirational thinking, and look at your schedule. Want to exercise more? Find a weekly class and pledge to attend it 3 times per month. Schedule a jog 2 mornings per week. Being realistic, and knowing yourself is the best way to beat an all-or-nothing emotional response that can knock you down.
Think Process, Not Results
Set concrete daily or monthly goals, with your big picture resolution off the table. You’re looking to lose 10 pounds? Instead, talk about eating 200-500 fewer calories a day or about cutting out sugary drinks. You want a new job? Set a goal for how many professional network emails, coffee dates or lunches you’ll initiate each month, or how you’ll improve your LinkedIn profile and online presence among your peers. Keep your long-term wish as just that--without definitive dates or times, in order to release yourself from pressure to keep up. Goals can be step by step journeys, and the long-term results are sometimes out of your hand. If you can come out successful in having gone for your speed-walk 3 times a week, you’ll feel like a winner and it’s that very feeling that will keep you going. Without the guilt of failure, you can keep chugging over the mountain to where you’d like to be at the end of the year. Everything is simply easier when you feel good, and small, actionable goals is what it takes to feel great.
Keep it Simple: One at a Time
It can be tempting to work on many new opportunities at once, but they’ll usually detract from each other, leaving you back where you started. Take it easy and prioritize the bite-sized goals you’d like to take this year. You’d like to lose weight and exercise more? Great--you can roll that into one actionable effort for your January start date. Want to become a better person, wear one size smaller jeans and get a raise? Consider what’s most important for the next 3 to 4 months and take it from there. January may be when the Romans decided to celebrate the new year first, but it’s not the only time you can change directions and so something else. It takes between 3 weeks and 3 months to form new habits, which means that your small goals now may become second nature in the coming months, leaving you open to pursue the next item on your list. Don’t try to tackle everything at once, since the burnout and crash can often leave you feeling like all this goal setting didn’t get you anywhere. Let it move you forward, one goal at a time.
Find Friends: Community Matters
You may have heard that the best way to get ahead in the workplace is to find a good mentor in your field, not only to advise you, but to serve as your external advocate and push your name forward for promotions, role changes, and salary increases. This holds true for any goal, from health and wellness to diets, to community activism and volunteering. You aren’t only looking for someone on top to pull you forward though. Friends, family and community are also available to support you in reaching your goals. Tell someone close to you what you’re trying to accomplish. Find a partner to track milestones with, to remind you why you’re pushing through and to encourage you when you’re ready to scrap the plan.
If you want to take your baby-step goals to the next level, create your own community. Look on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter to find other people striving toward the same end result. Reach out. Share what’s holding you back, share your wins. There’s a reason giving back is the 12th step of 12-step programs--it keeps you inspired and ready to help other people, and accountable for your own progress.
Be Kind and Keep Starting Over
“New Year, new you” has become passé. You are the same wonderful person you’ve been until now, and you’re ready to take a positive step into making next year even better. Hardly anyone blossoms under impossible resolutions to change giant things, and 15% of Marist Poll survey respondents said they want to be better people next year. Do it by being kind to yourself first and foremost. Leave failure behind, set reasonable, actionable goals, and be the best you that you’ve ever seen.
Every single day (or year) is another chance to beat your inhibitions out of the picture, leave the cigarette, debt, or extra weight behind and go for that walk around the block that you promised yourself you’d do every day.