As we all welcomed in the New Year a few days ago, many of us took a look at ourselves in the metaphorical mirror and settled on one or two or ten goals and resolutions for self-improvement over the next year. Taking the first step toward accomplishing these goals seems easy – you have the drive, motivation, and a few days in you’re wondering why you didn’t do this months ago! Unfortunately, the honeymoon stage doesn’t last forever. After a while, goals can seem farther and farther out of reach, life gets in the way, feelings of defeat and shame can creep up to create a total disillusioned state of mind. Why did I even set that stupid resolution? Also, who came up with the term ‘resolution?’ More like go-ahead-and-set-lofty-goals-for-yourself-that-you’ll-never-reach-because-you-aimed-too-high-and-three-months-in-you’ll-lose-the-desire-to-continue-and-go-back-to-old-habits-anyway.
Using the right strategies when approaching a goal or resolution can mean the difference between success and failure. Research has shown that people who make clear resolutions are ten times more likely to stick with their goals and make those important life changes than those who don’t. Here are some tips on sticking to your resolution(s) and achieving your goals this year.
1. Know Your Why
This goes beyond simply saying what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Your ‘why’ has to evoke passion in the goals you set for yourself and should align with your core values. It’s much easier to stick to a resolution that deeply resonates with you to create a sense of purpose. When your resolution aligns with who you are at your core, it drives you to challenge yourself and to push through when the going gets tough.
2. Be Specific
Oftentimes, goals that are set are generally broad and lack guidelines or a game plan. The ‘how’ is missing. Getting specific about the steps you will take to reach that goal can make it easier to actually accomplish it. The more detailed you can be about your resolutions and ways to track progress and measure success, the more likely you will stick with them.
3. Create Your Environment
Not only is it important to design steps to tackle a resolution, but it is just as important – if not MORE so – to create an environment conducive to your success. Don’t sabotage your efforts right off the bat with an environment that discourages you or lacks support. Creating a successful environment may mean recruiting an individual, or a group of people, to hold you accountable. Having an accountabili-buddy is a tried and true strategy; however, you also need to design ways to hold yourself accountable. One way to do this is with the “Don’t Break The Chain” method. Also, you could start a blog, hire a trainer, create a progress chart, and develop boundaries with the people or things in life that may derail your efforts.
4. Start With ONE
Jumping out of the gate with too many resolutions can tax your brain and body and ultimately set you up for failure. Trying to do too many things at once can make you lose focus and motivation. Start with ONE THING you really want to accomplish to increase your chances of success. If you can’t narrow it down to one (you overachievers, you), try to limit it to two or three. The fewer, the better in this case.
5. Write It Down
According to a study conducted at Stanford University, those who wrote down their goals or resolutions were 70 percent more likely to achieve them! In addition to writing down your goals, also include how you will feel when you’ve accomplished them. Create reminders on sticky notes or dry erase boards around your home and office about your goals, as well as inspirational words or quotes that motivate you to bring your resolution to reality.
6. Patience Is Key
No matter the goals or resolutions you set, everything takes time. Results will not happen over night, and they may not even happen in the first month. Be patient, and be kind to yourself. Focus on the process as opposed to the end result, and recognize your improved abilities and skills. Focus on being able to run a little farther, increase the number of push-ups you can do, your improved endurance as you climb stairs, etc.
7. Turn It Into A Game
According to American game designer Jane McGonigal’s decade of research on the psychology of games, “when we play a game we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we’re more likely to reach out to others for help.” Turning your resolution into a game of sorts can be one way to reach your goals in a creative and motivating way. McGonigal actually created a game called SuperBetter that helps individuals tackle whatever life challenges they have, whether it’s losing weight, dealing with depression, recovering from an injury, or other tough hurdles. She originally came up with this game to help her recover from a traumatic brain injury that ultimately led her to thoughts of suicide – the game was her way of rediscovering purpose and achieving recovery goals. She describes this process in her captivating TedTalk.
8. Start With Existing Habits
Taking small steps toward your goal by piggy-backing off of existing habits can ensure your success. For instance, if you’re trying to improve dental habits, stick dental floss in the shower and incorporate it into your routine. Another one is to do 10 squats every time you use the bathroom. Or 10 wall push-ups. Finding small ways to keep you on track that don’t require a lot of extra effort can go a long way toward seeing results.
9. Expect Setbacks
You have your resolutions. You have your ‘why,’ and you have your ‘how.’ Despite your best planning efforts and outlines, there will be times when your intention isn’t quite panning out as you’d hoped. And that’s ok. Setbacks are a part of the process. Some days will be harder than others. Not all habits are formed in 21 days, and you might struggle through a week or two at a time before finding your stride again. There will be ups and there will be downs, but by incorporating additional strategies, you are more likely to dig deep, rely on your support system, and find the motivation to continue on your journey.
Whether you set your resolutions or goals at the beginning of the year, or decide on one in July, these strategic tips can help you attain results and turn your vision into reality.