Setting New Year’s Resolutions & Following Through

It’s that time of the year again. Your social media feed and workplace chatter starts to focus on one thing – New Year’s resolutions. Have you reached the point where you don’t bother setting New Year’s resolutions because you always break them? If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions remain unmet. In this blog, we’re going to share some tips from our therapists for setting and achieving goals in the new year.

How to Set Achievable Goals

When you ask friends and loved ones what their New Year’s resolutions are, they often say things like “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” “spend more time with loved ones,” etc. These goals are okay, but what do they really mean? What does achieving them look like? How can they be achieved? How will they help, and when are you done? Most goals, especially New Year’s resolutions, are just too general to be easily achieved. Here’s the secret to setting achievable goals – you need to make SMART goals:

· Specific – instead of I want to eat healthier, make a specific plan to include more nutritious foods in your diet. For instance, I will eat one vegetable at every meal for a month.

· Measurable – you can’t really measure the success of the goal, I want to eat healthier, but the more specific goal of eating one vegetable at every meal for a month, can be easily measured.

· Achievable – another fatal flaw of many goals and New Year’s resolutions is that they are too big. Instead of I want to eat healthier or the more specific I’m going to eat one vegetable at every meal for a month, someone may set a goal like I want to overhaul my diet. While a diet may need some significant changes, it doesn’t usually make sense to completely change what you eat or the way you eat all at once. It’s easier to achieve a goal if you take smaller steps that lead to a larger overall change.

· Relevant – New Year’s resolutions often suffer from irrelevance. We set goals like we want to eat healthier or exercise more because everyone else is setting goals like this not because this is what we truly want or need to improve our own lives. Before you make a goal or set a New Year’s resolution, make sure it matters and is relevant to you. With our dietary change example, finding relevance might mean really thinking through the “why” of your decision to eat one vegetable at every meal for a month. Do you have high blood pressure or cholesterol or a nutrient deficiency and your doctor wants you to eat more veggies? Do you have a family medical history of health issues related to lack of nutrients? Really think of why you’re setting goals and make sure the why is something that truly matters to you.

· Timebound – finally, you may have noticed that, at the end of that specific goal eat one vegetable at every meal for a month, we included a timeframe. Habits take time to build. By including a timebound element when creating goals, you can increase motivation to meet the goals you set. Additionally, by sticking with goals for long enough, you increase your chances of developing a new habit.

How to Meet Your Goals

Setting achievable goals is already a great first step toward being able to meet your goals or keep your New Year’s resolutions. Once you’ve set your specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound goals, here are a few tips for meeting (or exceeding) these goals:

· Track it – you don’t need to spend a lot of time on this but keep a document on your computer or note down daily progress in a journal. On days when you feel like you haven’t made progress toward your goals, take a few minutes to look back on all the little steps you’ve taken toward achieving your goals. This can help you stay motivated to keep moving forward.

· Tell your loved ones – when we keep our goals secret, we’re the only ones who can motivate ourselves to get across the finish line, and if we don’t achieve the goal, no one will ever know. While this might make you feel better, secret goals are easier to leave unmet. So, tell everyone. Talk about your goal and what you’re doing to achieve it.

· Create a reward system – you don’t necessarily need a gold star sticker every day you work toward achieving your goal, but maybe, if you achieve a goal or make significant progress, you give yourself something special. So, in our example, if you eat vegetables at every meal for a month, maybe you get a cheat meal where you can have whatever you want (with or without vegetables).

· Be easy with yourself – If you slip up or fall short, that’s okay. Goals are just that goals. We’re trying for something, but it’s okay (and can even be a beneficial learning experience) to fall short. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just give yourself permission to keep trying and celebrate even partial successes.

Need Help Setting & Achieving Goals?

Some people find it very easy to set and achieve goals of all kinds. Whether you’re working toward a big, personal change or you’re saving up for the down payment on a new home, setting and achieving goals is an important skillset that can make numerous aspects of your life easier, but many of us struggle with this. Getting halted by the need to do things perfectly, giving up because it seems like we’re not making progress, or just feeling bad when other people are making more progress than we are can all lead to goals that remain unmet. In therapy, you can learn skills that increase your resilience and build your resolve to make real, lasting change or just finally understand why every time you set a budget – you immediately break it. If you’re interested in making therapy a part of your goal setting process for the new year, we hope you’ll reach out to our therapists in Livonia at Lotus Psychology Group.

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