With 2019 almost upon us (how did that happen?!), now is a good time to start thinking about some goal setting for the new year.
Every year millions of us make resolutions for the new year by making promises to ourselves that deep down we know we probably won’t keep.
During the first week after January 1st, gyms are overflowing with new faces on a mission to attack their new fitness resolutions with unbridled resolve. But as the weeks go on, however, that increased number usually drops back down as people fall off the bandwagon and get back into their old habits and routine.
While the effort to implement a resolution shows a genuine sense of positive intent, a much better method is to set tangible goals for the future.
Goals are a better plan than resolutions for 7 important reasons:
1. Strategy vs. No Strategy
Since immediate change can be very intimidating and challenging for most people, goals are a better way to be more strategic with your objectives. When broken down properly into actionable steps, goals also allow you to reward yourself for the smaller milestones you hit along the way. This is great for a few reasons:
a. Achieving any sort of target or goal is an amazing feeling! That feeling is addictive and will help motivate you to stay on track to reach your bigger more audacious goals.
b. You can track your progress and make adjustments to your goals as you go. If something isn’t working for you or your priorities are shifting, just tweak your goal to better suit your current status.
For example, let’s say your top goal is to lose 20 lbs and two of your bench-goals are to hire a personal trainer and work with them 4x a week for 2 months. Halfway through you realize that you’re not losing any weight, but you have more muscle tone, your jeans are too big, and you feel amazing! Adjust your goal from weight loss to a specific amount of increased muscle tone, or maybe even competing in a 10 km run. You are in full control, and your goals are far more fluid compared to a rigid resolution like “start going to the gym” would be.
2. Sense of Accomplishment vs. Sense of Failure
Goals give you a legitimate end goal to aspire to, but by setting and hitting smaller targets along the way, you will know that you’re definitely headed in the right direction which will motivate you to keep pushing towards your bigger end goal. Once you’ve broken a definite resolution, however, it’s easier to give up if you feel like you’ve failed.
Here is an example. One of my goals is to be fluent in Mandarin. If I wasn’t able to break down my goals into steps - complete HSK 1-4, order food in Mandarin, learn 30 characters by February, have a conversation with my Ayi...etc. - then fluency would seem almost insurmountable. Write down each of your stepping stone goals, and acknowledge yourself when you achieve them. *self high-fives
3. Keep Your Future in Mind and Make a Wish List
Think of what you would have in your ideal life and see if your goals bring you closer to that picture. If so, they’re good goals to stick with.
Try this exercise (adapted from Passion Planner):
Get a blank piece of paper and divide it into 4 sections:
3 years Lifetime
*Swap in any time period you would like
Set a timer for five minutes. Write down every single thing that comes to mind for each of these periods in your life. Be as specific as possible and don’t hold back. Do not feel the need to be realistic or set your targets within something you know you can reach.
After 5 minutes, set the timer for 1 minute and then circle one goal from each section that you think would have the most positive impact on your life.
These are the four goals that you’re going to prioritize! Now that you have these, you can start breaking them down into actionable steps.
4. Create Actionable Steps
Write down each goal that you have just prioritized. Now set your timer for 5-7 minutes and write down as many tasks that you must complete in order to achieve your goal. These are you goals within your goal. The more detailed the better!
5. Create Habits
Once you have your actionable steps flushed out, think of what specific habits you can adopt that will make positive changes in your life and then insert them into your schedule so they become a part of your daily or weekly routine.
For example, if you’d like to learn Mandarin like me, schedule an hour (or whatever time works for you) into your day a few times a week. It works best if you assign the same time each day, and also if you connect it to an existing habit - like before you shower in the morning, or after you eat dinner.
6. Hold Yourself Accountable
Share your goals with others! It can be scary to share your goals because what if you don’t achieve them? So what! The only person that will really care if you fall short is yourself.
By sharing your goals with other people you are increasing the likelihood that you will achieve them because it is human nature to want to succeed if others are involved.
Better yet - find yourself a “goal-mate” (boom, just made that up...). Perhaps it’s a gym or study partner, or it could just be a friend that you chat to every week about how one another’s goals are going. Establishing a specific person to bounce ideas off of, support you, and give you honest feedback when you need it can be so valuable when it comes to smashing your goals out of the park.
7. Give Yourself a Good Ol’ Fashioned Pat on the Back
Because you deserve it! (especially if you’ve read this far)
Finally, reward yourself with something small after each time you hit a milestone. Eventually you’ll make enough progress toward your goals that the progress becomes its own reward, but at the beginning it’s all about the small victories.
And remember that change doesn’t come overnight. But, as Henry Ford said, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”