I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions but with smarter ways to set goals and create habits a new year’s goal might just stick this year!
I am a firm believer that you don’t have to wait for the new year to set new goals. I tend to set new goals at the start of every school term to go along with my new class schedule, but I often make the fatal mistake of setting too many goals with no specific plans. Trying to become a morning person without making plans to go to bed earlier is a recipe for disaster and historically only lasts me about a week (oops!). But lucky for me, and now all of you, I have found some new strategies for setting goals that will make them more achievable than ever before! These goal-setting strategies may require a bit of a mindset shift from the traditional new year's resolutions but it will be well worth it when you can crush your goals and avoid the typical resolution burnout a few months from now.
Now let's get down to business and dive into these strategies, shall we?
Choose one goal to focus on at a time
I don't know about all of you but I used to make the mistake of setting too many goals at once. It became overwhelming to achieve any of them when my focus was spread so thin. This year, set one goal at a time. It may feel like you're thinking big enough because some people make whole lists of new goals for the year but trust me on this one the why is worth it. Choosing just one goal to focus on will ensure that you fully commit to this goal. You won't be overwhelmed by planning for a laundry list worth of life changes and you will be able to focus on one change at a time. Once you achieve the first goal move onto the next. There is no need to have only one goal all year just have one major goal at a time so you can really focus and give yourself the best chance possible for success.
Create a specific plan for reaching your goal
A goal without a plan is like a recipe with no directions! in order to achieve your goal you have to make a plan for how you'll achieve it. I used to set a whole handful of goals and then be disappointed when I didn't achieve any of them. The problem, aside from having too many goals, was that I wasn't creating plans for any of them. In order to make a new goal stick, you have to have a plan in place for how you'll work this new goal into your daily life.
For example, this year I want to create a regular workout routine for myself. In order to do that I'll need to make a plan for specifying when, where, and for how long I want to exercise each day. This gives me a guide that I can add to a calendar and work into my day in a way that fits my lifestyle. With this plan in place, I'll also know what to expect and can take the time to plan out my workouts so I'm not left scrambling and stressed at the last minute to pick an exercise or workout routine or class. With a specific plan for my goal, I'll have an easier time working it into my daily life and avoid stress.
Couple your new goal with a habit you already practice every day
To create habits it first takes pracite and some thought and planning each day to work towards your goal but luckily many of us have lots of tiny habits in place we don't even think about. Because of this, a great way to add a new habit is by coupling it with an old habit you already have. Coupling your new goal, that takes some thinking and planning, to something you do automatically, everyday, without thinking can help you integrate that new one more easily until it become just another automatic part of your day rather than something that you have to think about and plan for. If your new goal follows after a routine habit you already have that habit can act as a signal for you to go work on your goal next. This kind of environmental reminder built into your day will make it easier for your new goal to become ahabit and stick around for much longer.
Focus on long-term growth by balancing hard work and sustainability to avoid burnout
If your goal is a long-term one like creating a new habit or changing part of your lifestyle it pays to balance your effort and sustaonability. You know I love the concept of sustainability (the green living kind and the avoiding burnout kind) and in goal setting it is really important. If your long-term goal is not sustaianble for you and it causes burnout you'll never be able to make it stick as a habit. The key here is balancing the hard work you put in to planning and executing your goal and making sure it is not all consuming or unsustanable for you. If you, like me, are creating a regular workout routine you can't do 2-hour longs workouts every day for a week and expect that to stick. Creating a plan for a workout routine that fits into your day and doesn't leave your body injured afterwards creates a balance of hard work and sustanability that sets you up for success tomorrow and next week and next year so your goal can become a habit.
Align your environment with your new goal
This is a strategy I learned from psychologist Wendy Wood when she was a guest on my favorite podcast (Hidden Brain). According to Wood, habits are basically mental shortcuts we take because in the past it has worked for us in some way. To help make your new goal into a habit that sticks, remove some of the barriers to your new behavior. If you want to workout in the mornings a barrier might be putting on workout clothes in the morning when you'd rather stay in your pjs. One way to get rid of that barrier could be to sleep in your workout clothes. That way when you wake up you've made it just a little easier to get started on your workout. Do this with any goals or behaviors you want to become a habit in your life. Make them just a little easier to start and you'll be well on your way to creating a habit that sticks.
For more in-depth reads on habits and goal setting from the sources I used to learn these strategies check out: