5 Ways to Foolproof Your Goals
This time of the year is one of my favorites, offering a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate. Motivation levels are usually at an all-time high, people are hopeful to make changes, reach goals, and to become healthier than ever. It's so fun and full of hope! I've been more energetic than usual as I'm dreaming up all the ways I'd like to grow in 2017.
As fun as it is to dream, by this point most of us are aware of our own personal track record when it comes to goals. In fact, about 38% of people no longer set them at the new year due to a long history of failure. As much as I love setting goals, not all are created equal. If we're not intentional and careful, some goals can actually be dangerous, threatening self-sabotage so hard that it makes achieving positive change feel insurmountable.
So how can we make sure that the goals we're setting are empowering and foolproof? Below, I've listed 5 ways to successfully approach your goals, as we head into a new year:
1. CUT THEM IN HALF
I know, I know. How dare I? Finally, you have all the motivation you've needed and here I am asking you to cut your plans in half. Here's the thing: if you don't, you could be setting yourself up for serious failure. How do I know this? Because I used to be very good at either setting too many goals or setting goals that were far too challenging. I love goals. I love how it feels to talk about them and plan for them. But when it comes to actually achieving them, I didn't always think realistically. Instead, I'd fill my mind with a false sense of urgency that said, "if you don't do it all right now, you never will."
And maybe you've never struggled with this, but something (plus a lot of experience with clients) tells me that I'm not alone here. It is extremely easy for the pendulum to swing from one extreme to the next. And instead of leading you to success, this kind of yo-yoing can take you through an incredibly exhausting cycle of trying hard and failing hard.
If you're hoping to not only reach your goals, but also to maintain the lifestyle changes you desire to make, you're going to need a better plan than hard and fast right out of the gate. When we learn something new, our brains literally create new pathways, using more energy than normal. It takes conscious effort. And motivation is a flimsy thing. One way to keep motivation levels steady, is to experience quick successes. The more you succeed, the more likely you're going to continue working on your goals, thus making progress. Most likely, you have all year to reach some of your goals. Take your time! Regardless of how long it may take, you'll be much closer to the person you hope to be by then, than you would be if you keep running through the same cycle and having to start over every few months.
2. MAKE THEM S.M.A.R.T.
Behavior changes take intentional work. Our culture is full of quick fixes and "easy" gimmicks, and I cringe a little every time I tell someone the truth about how long it might take for changes to become permanent. But if you really want to accomplish your goals and experience long-lasting results, you're going to have to put in some effort. Which is why setting SMART weekly goals is so important!
By making the effort to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals, you're going to be planning out the exact time and method in which you’ll work on your goals. Studies show that if we plan out WHEN we are going to work on our goals, we are far more successful in actually completing them.
It may feel tedious to plan out all of the actions steps, but think about how amazing it would feel this time next year, when you've reached your goals and are no longer going through the cycle of setting and failing the same goals!
3. TREAT THEM LIKE EXPERIMENTS
Anytime you try something new, failure is not only an option, it's actually quite probable. We've all failed! Failure is absolutely necessary if we're to grow and change. But it's what we do with it that makes all the difference. If we can stop attaching our own value and worth to our failures, we'll become much more resilient and persistent in our efforts and advances.
So instead of hanging your head the next time you completely flop, take a deep breath, give yourself some grace, and look at what happened. Maybe you set a goal you're not ready for. Maybe an unexpected event came up. Maybe you had a terrible day and you flat out didn't feel like following through. None of those things make you pathetic or worthless. They make you human.
Instead of treating your goals like they're the end all be all, treat them like experiments. If this experiment didn't work, try to learn why it didn't. What lessons can you take from it? How can you adjust that goal next time, to allow you to be more successful? This is one of the most crucial skills to have if you want to continue to grow and improve. If you can figure out how to embrace the lessons from your failures, and figure out different strategies for the future, you will be successful!
4. FOCUS ON POSITIVE MOTIVATORS
While negative motivators, such as wanting to avoid heart disease or diabetes are very real, they are not enough to keep you motivated. In fact, if you were faced with the decision to either change your lifestyle behaviors or die within a couple of years, do you know what your odds of changing would be? Science says they'd be 9 against1. The fear of death is quite possibly the most powerful fear we will ever have, but yet still not enough to move us towards true and lasting change.
Because it's very uncomfortable to think about the negative outcomes we want to avoid, focusing on positive things we'd like to experience is far more effective when it comes to making changes. So when you're setting goals, think about all the ways accomplishing your goal will add joy to your life.
5. BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF REACHING THEM
This is probably the hardest, yet most important of all 5 points. If you don't think you're capable of reaching your goals, you won't. Not because you literally can't, but because you've already made up your mind to fail. Which is really unfair, since you're defeated before you even begin. Maybe you need to start here: convincing yourself that you're capable.
Get out a pen and paper, and think back to a time when you succeeded at something, anything. What was working for you then? What were some of the strengths you possess that helped you accomplish that? How did it feel when you succeeded?
You really do have the tools and potential you need to be successful. You just have to believe that, and utilize them!
If you're the resolution-setting type, check out this article on 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Resolutions.
What is one goal you're committed to in 2017?
*Photo by Brad and Jen