The New Year’s Resolution is an annual tradition, but sticking to your goals can be a challenge. If you actually want to accomplish what you have set out to achieve, it will require perseverance, concrete planning, accountability and visionary goal setting. Read on for tips on how to best set goals for the new year.
Think Big Picture—and Small Picture
The trick to successfully setting goals for the new year is identifying the root of your resolution, and pairing this with smaller more concrete steps that are reasonable and achievable. If you say your resolution is to “go to the gym more,” come February, it is hard to remember why you even wanted to do that. However, if your big picture goal is to “feel stronger and healthier within my body,” and your smaller goal to achieve that is: “go to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 90 minutes after work,” it will be easier to motivate yourself to actually work out.
Brainstorm big goals and corresponding small goals—then zoom out and ask the broader questions: Why do you want to achieve your resolution? How will succeeding at your resolution make you feel?
When you are setting goals for the new year, your resolution should not be to perform an action for the sake of doing that task, but rather an aspirational feeling or state of being that you can work at obtaining through your small goals.
Write your big picture resolution on a post-it note and put it up somewhere you will see it everyday (bathroom mirror, car dash, or your most used kitchen cabinet are good choices.) Studies show that people are more likely to achieve their goals when they physically write them down. The act of writing makes a thought physically real, and makes resolutions easier to commit to.
Focus on One Thing
It is tempting to want to refresh your entire life come January 1st, but trying to change every part of your existence at the same time is unsustainable, if not impossible. Prioritize the most important resolution in your life when you are setting goals for the new year. Find a concrete way to work towards your resolution every single day. Researchers have found that it takes 66 days to build a habit, so give your first resolution two months of focused work before trying to start another one.
In order to turn your resolution into a positive habit, be as consistent as possible. Do the same thing at the same time everyday, whether it be going for a mile long jog at 7 am every morning, or sitting down to read a chapter of a book every night right after dinner.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to do your task at the right time every day. Shifting these habits will feel difficult at first, but after a month or two of consistent habit forming, you’ll be instinctively lacing up your sneakers at 6:55 without even thinking about it.
Build Accountability into Your Resolution
It is easy to let your resolution slide when there is no accountability involved. When you are setting goals for the new year make a commitment, either monetarily, or to a friend, in order to stick to your goals. Signing up for a gym is a good start to making yourself work out, but many people stop attending even after they have paid for membership. Up your accountability for signing up for a weekly kickboxing or Krav Maga class. Attending classes will keep you on a schedule and give structure to your resolution. In addition, when you sign up for a class, you will have professional instructors that can help you improve your form and achieve your goals.
If your resolution is to eat healthier, consider signing up for a CSA or meal delivery service that will regularly deliver healthy options to your front door.
Downloading a step counting app or purchasing a Fitbit or similar exercise tracker can also help you stay on top of your goals. Many of these products have social components so you can compete with friends and family, which will help you stay accountable to exercise daily. Sign up for a half marathon six months away, and commit to training for it.
Alternatively, you can create accountability with a friend when you are setting goals for the new year. Find a friend who has a similar resolution and be goal buddies, whether that entails going on a run together twice a week, or starting a book club together. Even simply promising to check in once a week to see how the other person is doing on their resolution, can be the push you need to actually doing it.
Keep It Specific
Vague resolutions like “lose weight” or “eat less fast food” are doomed to fail. Quantify your resolution whenever possible when you are setting goals for the new year, and make a concrete plan to achieve them. You want to lose weight? How many pounds? Over how long of a period of time? How do you want to do that? Running? Swimming? There are also some other more unconventional ways to get fit. For example, Krav Maga is a great way to lose weight.
If you want to eat less fast food, quantify what “less” means to you. How many times a month are you allowed to go to your favorite fast food joint? What easy meal options will you replace your burger and fries with?
If your resolution is to save money, pick a number to work towards. As you are setting your goal for the new year, calculate how much do you need to take out of your paycheck each week to achieve that, and set up an auto transfer from your checking to savings account with every pay period. Comb through your finances and figure out what type of spending you can cut out, and then make a concrete plan to cut back on those expenses.
No matter your resolution, there are ways you can specify and quantify it, and when your goals are quantifiable, it is much easier to know when you have achieved them.
Be Prepared To Fail
So you’ve set goals for the new year. You’ve defined a big picture goal, and created an action plan made up of smaller concrete steps. You are trying to be accountable, and are building a daily habit. And then, you slip up. You don’t make it to your workout class, or you were too tired to go on your morning run. This is the most challenging moment of a New Year’s resolution, and serves a true test of character.
How do you cope with your failure? Do you quit, or do you persevere? Don’t use your slip up as an excuse to throw away all your progress. Get back in the saddle, and remember that achieving your goals is not a perfect journey. Don’t let one, or two or three mistakes deter you from bettering yourself and your life.
When you are setting goals for the new year, don’t expect perfection from yourself. Be humble, be gritty, and be forgiving to yourself when you inevitably face setbacks.
Celebrate Small Victories
Many people gravitate to punishing themselves for slip-ups and mistakes, but positive reinforcement is much more effective than negativity. As you make your concrete action plan and set goals for the new year, define smaller goals that will lead you to achieving your long term goal. Success is a ladder, achieving your resolution is only possible if you work your way up step by step.
If you want to run a half marathon, set short-term goals to run 3 miles, then 5, then 7. When you accomplish each goal reward yourself. Share your success with others, and treat yourself to something nice, whether that is an evening at the movies, shopping for a new shirt, or simply a luxurious bubble bath.
You can celebrate participatory goals as well. Reward yourself when you master a tough self-defense skill in your Krav Maga class, or celebrate monthly milestones of you continuing to stick with your goal. When you set an ambitious New Year’s resolution, it is easy to only the distance between you and achieving your goal. Be sure to take the time to acknowledge how far you have come from where you have started, and celebrate the journey, not just the destination.
The Time Is Now
January 1st is the perfect time to challenge yourself and improve your life. As you are setting goals for New Year, make sure you are setting yourself up for success. Be concrete and realistic when you are making your plan of action, and never forget your big picture goal that is motivating you every day. Reward yourself for small victories, and forgive yourself when you inevitably slip up. Commit to your resolution: enroll in a Krav Maga class today—your better self is right around the corner.