Setting and Keeping Goals

Louis Laves-Webb

January 7, 2015

Being the beginning of January, you’re probably hearing tons of “New Years Resolution” talk amongst your peers. While goal setting is a great way to make changes in your life, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are making healthy goals and not setting yourself up for failure. And remember: you don’t need to wait until January 1 to make a change; goal-setting can happen all year around! These tips can help you stay on target.

1. Make your goals realistic.

Many people want to make a monumental-sounding resolution, but this isn’t necessarily realistic. This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve more; it simply means to recognize where you are right now versus where you want to be. If you set one huge, lofty goal instead of breaking it up into little goals, you’re more likely to get off track. For instance, if you don’t currently exercise and your goal is to exercise more in the new year, don’t resolve to go to the gym for two hours every day of the week. You’ll likely get burnt out after the first week and quit. Instead, a more realistic goal would be to find a physical activity you enjoy and try to do it at least twice a week, like enrolling in a yoga class or taking up biking. Instead of going from 0 to 100 overnight with one goal, make several smaller but more manageable goals that add up over time.

2. Don’t go “all or nothing” on your goals

When making a big change, it’s normal to slip up, especially at first. These setbacks are not what keep people from achieving their goals – it’s that they throw in the towel afterward. Some people may think, “Well, I’ve already messed up. I might as well just give up since I obviously can’t do this.” Setting goals is an ongoing adjustment and a challenge so rather than letting a mistake derail all your progress, simply get back on track as soon as possible. The more you practice sticking with it, the easier it gets.

3. Have an action plan.

If you’re not sure how you’ll achieve your goal, how do you expect to get there? That’s like traveling to a new destination by making turns and hoping you get there, instead of simply using a roadmap. Writing out some specific steps for how you’ll reach your goal can help you execute it better. You can even put them in “to-do list” format and cross them out as you go to have a visual of your progress.

4. Get support from others (and yourself!)

Studies show that people who share their goals and enlist the help of others are more likely to reach them. This helps give you a sense of accountability as well as build a community of supportive people around you. By giving your friends and family updates, you’ll feel a sense of pride and motivation to continue delivering good news. But don’t forget to be your own supporter, too. One way people motivate themselves to keep working is by writing their resolution down. Some people even like to hang it somewhere they will be reminded of it. Above all, remember to practice patience and compassion with yourself during this process. If you keep putting in the time and effort, you’ll get there – even if it’s not as quickly as you hoped.

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