Tired of your New Year’s Resolutions falling toward the wayside shortly after the starting line? Here are a few practiced tips on how to create — and follow through — on your goals.
Every list of New Year’s Resolutions starts out the same. You have a goal and you’re chomping at the bit to get started. “This is my year,” you think to yourself. Then, as the weeks come and go, you find your ambitions becoming good intentions, only to watch them fade into afterthoughts.
“Life keeps getting in the way,” you tell yourself.
But the truth is that life only gets in the way of things we don’t prioritize. Below are a few tips that will help you choose — and follow through on — your New Year’s Resolution.
Pick a goal (or goals) that really matters to you.
All of us want to look better, make more money and generally improve our lives. However, there’s a difference between a desire and a deep-rooted yearning for something in our lives. Your New Year’s Resolution should be something that you really want, to the point where you’re willing to devote yourself to whatever it takes to bring it to fruition.
Start by making a list of what you want to achieve. Don’t think too much about it at this stage. Just jot down whatever it is that comes to mind.
For example, here’s mine:
- Declutter my life
- Lose weight
- Eat better
- Get back into shape
- Get my writing mojo back
- Disconnect more often
- Start writing my next book
Second, slim your list down to one resolution if you can; three at the most. Then, prioritize your goals so that you have one main objective to be your core focus. The other one or two resolutions will be secondary, meaning you’ll either get to them after you finish the first goal or you’ll fit them in if you have time in between life and working toward your primary goal.
Do this by reading through your list and asking yourself what’s most important to you. In some cases, you may be able to combine some of your goals together into one. For example, “lose weight,” “eat better,” and “get back into shape” can all fall under “get healthy.”
In others, you may need to table some goals while you prioritize more important ones. In my case, I narrowed my list down into three different resolutions, from my highest priority to my lowest:
- Get healthy
- Write for myself more
- Declutter my life
This process is important. There is only so much time in a day. If we take on too many goals at once, it’s more likely that we will become overwhelmed and give up early without achieving any of them. Instead of spreading yourself thin across many goals, pick a few and table the rest for after you achieve your leading goals.
Have your top three? Great! Let’s move on to step two.
Refine your goals into something clear and actionable.
“Get healthy,” “write for myself,” and “declutter my life” all sound like great goals, but what do they really mean? Take away the abstract nature of your goals by narrowing them down into a clear objective you can put into action.
- Get healthy: lose 20lbs and get into shape through exercise and adopting healthier eating habits
- Start writing for myself more: blog and journal regularly about life and things that matter to me until the desire to write returns
- Declutter my life: go through my belongings one room at a time and donate unnecessary items to goodwill, and cut back on how much I take on at once.
By envisioning what your goals look like, you’re able to execute step three, which is to create a plan that will make these goals a reality.
Make a step-by-step plan that will guide you from start to finish.
You want to set SMART goals. You’ve likely heard of this acronym before. It stands for:
This gives you a clear plan of action to follow so you aren’t just “winging” it to success. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll only use my first (primary) goal as an example: get healthy. If my goal is to adopt a healthier lifestyle that helps me lose 20lbs, eat better and be in better shape, then I need a clear path to success.
“Join a gym” isn’t a SMART goal. It isn’t specific enough to measure, nor does it give us an achievable step-by-step process or timeframe. Our goals need a finish line — something that marks an official “end” to our accomplishment.
For example, instead of joining a gym, I decided I would train to run a 5k. This would include finding a training program and adjusting my habits in order to successfully complete the program and be ready in time to run a scheduled 5k from start to finish.
Here’s what that plan looks like:
Roadmap to Get Healthy
Objective: Get in shape to run a 5k
- Download the Couchto5K app’s 8-week training program (Specific, Measurable and Relevant)
- Research tips and advice for training to run a 5k
- Purchase running shoes and clothes suited for the exercise
- Create a meal plan, complete with recipes, shopping lists and when/how to prep
- Put training days and meal planning tasks in calendar
- Create a high-energy running playlist
- Research and sign up for a 5k three months down the road — the extra five weeks leaves wiggle room for setbacks like shin splints, busy weeks, etc! (Achievable and Timebound)
- Get started!
Set a practical deadline.
As I noted in the second-to-last bullet, it’s important to plan for the unexpected. Be practical about your deadline and make sure you create enough flexibility to ensure you succeed, even if there are setbacks.
However, at the same time make sure your deadline is specific. Give yourself a date you can put on the calendar rather than saying, “I’ll do this by the end of the year.” Solidifying your timelines makes your plan tangible, measurable and increases your likelihood of success.
Be kind to yourself as you work toward your goal.
Last but certainly not least: be kind to yourself as you work toward your goals. Don’t set the bar too high only to scold yourself when things don’t go as planned.
For example, while training for a 5k, I found there were days when I was too sore to run or I didn’t have the endurance to complete that day’s training, and that’s okay.
If you’re sore one day, take the day off to stretch, ice, and let your body recover.
If you find the leap in expectations from one training session to the next is too much, go back and redo the previous session until you build up your stamina to take on the next one.
The moral of this story is it’s okay to move at your own pace. The end goal can be delayed if you’re consistently working toward it.
Above all else, it’s essential to take care of you, so be kind to yourself, find balance and always prioritize self-care.
Good luck to you in your goals for 2020!