New Year’s resolutions are my jam, the time of year I can share my goal generation passion with friends and family. Personally, I’m a goal setting addict. I love coming up with ways I can improve, targets to get better, and little ways to celebrate when I achieve my goals. But while setting goals is fun, it makes me a bit sad that most resolutions are abandoned by January 17th.
The fact is, January 1st holds no extraordinary power. And making sweeping, large goals to kick off your new year may be setting you up for failure. So, if you actually want to improve your life in 2018, here are my top five tips for how to succeed with your New Year’s resolutions!
Choose Resolutions That Have Emotional Meaning To You
Losing weight, getting out of debt, or saving for retirement are excellent goals. But if you are only targeting these things because you’re “supposed to” you likely won’t get anywhere. Your New Year’s resolutions should be things that genuinely matter to you.
One of my favorite books on thoughtful goal setting is The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. LaPorte focuses on setting goals based on how you want to feel, not what you want to achieve. I think this is the perfect methodology for most goals, but particularly financial ones.
Financial goals are usually based on wanting to change how you feel about money. You want to get out of debt because you want to feel less stressed and stretched by those bills. You want to save more for retirement to feel more secure in your future. Center in on those feelings and find the low hanging fruit that can move you closer to feeling better about money (or health, or your relationship, etc.).
Keep Your Goals Bite-Sized
I don’t know about you, but I am terrible at predicting the future. Sitting down and imagining what my life will look like 12 months, three years, or a decade down the road can be fun, but the likelihood that I see all the loops and detours that will pop up along the way are minuscule.
Break your long-term goals into short-term, predictable pieces. Then focus on those steps. Start with saving an extra $20 this week. Or making it to the gym twice a week for a month. Once you succeed at your small goal, build on it. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
Have A Way To Measure Progress
Checking off items on a list, coloring in a visual representation of your savings goals, or having pictures to show your weight loss progress have a significant impact on your ongoing motivation to achieve a goal. Manually doing something to express the completion of a task actually releases endorphins!
Print a checklist to put on your fridge or at your desk at work. Or if you love having everything on your phone, download a goal setting app and follow your progress. HabitShare is excellent and lets you team up with friends. Productive is also supposed to be great but is only on iOS.
Use The Buddy System
Oh, the joys and pains of accountability. My exercise buddy is usually my good friend from high school. He and I don’t live in the same city, but it is still a kick in the pants when my alarm goes off in the morning to know he will be texting to ask how my workout went later in the day. And I know he doesn’t always love that I’m going to call him on his myFitnessPal food entries!
Finding a partner or community that shares your goals and values can make a big difference in breaking long-held habits. The good news is, technology has made finding those communities even easier. Whether it is finding a trail running group on MeetUp, connecting with long-distance friends via HabitShare or other apps, or just finding online forums of like-minded people; you can get the support you need to power through the tough days for free.
Accept That You’ll Have Stumbles
Habits are incredibly hard to break. Research by Duke University showed that habits actually generate a lasting pathway in the circuits of our brains, priming us to feed our cravings and follow our routine. If you truly want to change your behavior, it is going to take time. And there are going to be stumbles.
Instead of beating yourself up and throwing in the towel, give yourself some credit. Choose to focus on the things you did right, not what went wrong. If you didn’t make it to the gym one morning, make the next step a smarter one and grab that salad for lunch instead of a burger. Improvement isn’t an all or nothing game. It is all about the incremental step.
Imagine if your toddler gave up on walking the first time he fell? Or if J.K. Rowling gave up on her dream of writing after 12 major publishing houses rejected Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone? If we wish to succeed long-term, we have to be patient with ourselves.
Being A Bit Better Every Day Is A Worthy Goal
At the end of the day, the only person you are competing with when it comes to your New Year’s resolutions is you. Can you be just a little bit better today than you were yesterday? Can you make the days where you are better outnumber the days when you aren’t? If so, you’re on the right track. Good luck!
Do you set New Year’s resolutions? What are your goals for 2018 and how do you plan to achieve them? Share in the comments so we can be accountable to each other!