How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Achieve
The start of every new year comes with the expectation to set a resolution for the year. It seems that people either fall into two groups: Those who set a resolution every year and those who are ‘anti-resolution’. The challenge is, people who set resolutions often don’t meet them and the people who don’t could be missing out on an opportunity for growth.
The reality is: Every Goal Starts with a Resolution and when you get specific, you will set goals you’ll actually achieve.
Every year you see the same thing: commercials on TV about setting New Year’s resolutions around weight loss, exercise and physical health (at least these seem to be the most common). We get invited to countless ‘vision board parties’ (If I had a dollar for every vision board party I was invited to this year…) that claim that cutting out inspirational quotes and words related to your resolutions will help you actually keep them (while drinking wine of course).
So where do I fall on this spectrum of goal setters or anti goal setters? I’d say I’m an anti-New Year’s resolution-er AND avid goal setter. You see, when I woke up New Year’s day, I did what I always do – nothing changed. I’m sure the same happened for most of you. We don’t experience the magical transition or shift in our awareness that the culture of resolutions might lead you to believe, so why is this trend so pervasive? And how can we use it to our advantage?
Setting New Year’s resolutions usually involve looking back at a whole year and summing up what stands out to you. This is where things can get depressing: usually the most negative events that happen to us stick out in our memory first or the goals we didn’t accomplish. Neurologist Jeffrey Schwartz defines a self-described depressed person as someone who cannot achieve regularly what they set out to do.
With one study finding that only 8-12% of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually accomplish them, it’s easy to understand why many feel negatively about setting resolutions.
Perhaps you want to lose weight or exercise more, but can’t figure out exactly how to accomplish that goal or maybe you want to focus more on bettering your mental health, but again, are not sure what steps to take to get there. In either case, not accomplishing or moving toward these goals quick enough can leave you feeling like you have little control over your health and wellness and less likely to set another goal toward improving them. But what if you could accomplish goals that you set and continually see the progress you are making?
Keep reading to learn How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Achieve.
What Could Happen If I Don’t Set Goals Appropriately?
The biggest downside of not setting goals the right way is leading to you wasting time and money as well as losing your motivation to change in the process. At the very least, you find yourself in an endless roller coaster of wanting things to change but never getting there. Living this way is extremely frustrating and can create difficult emotions related to lack of motivation, growth and the ability to change your circumstances, whatever they may be.
If you’ve read or watched the video from my post about Stress Management related to Chronic Illness, You might remember that when we choose to implement stress management effectively, we can approach any situation with less stress and anxiety and maintain strategies that help us function and live our lives to the fullest. We do this, through finding healthy coping skills that allow us to approach stressful situations with confidence in our resources and ability to handle them. According to Lazarus, coping refers to ‘cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage disruptive events that tax the person’s ability to adjust.’
Stress usually comes with life transitions, unexpected changes in our routine or traumatic events. Our judgment about how well we will be able to cope with these changes, determines how we actually cope with them. If we feel overwhelmed and unprepared, we will react with fear and worry, whereas if we feel we have the tools we need to face the problem and resolve it, we will be more likely to problem solve and have better outcomes. THIS is where our New Year’s resolutions come in: Most of our resolutions center around building healthier coping skills that can help us manage our stress better. THIS is a good thing!
Listen, nobody wants to deal with stress or to imagine difficult life changes happening unexpectedly – So I get that it can be easier to just avoid dealing with it altogether, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
The only way to accomplish any goal we set, is to do it the RIGHT way – and this includes getting as specific as possible with what you want to achieve and what it will do for you.
What will setting goals better do for me?
Although making changes can be difficult to achieve and even more difficult to sustain over time, we have the potential to problem solve and find great solutions for any problem that comes up. When we choose to take the time to set goals and plan for them effectively, we can approach any situation with less worry and uncertainty using strategies that help us function and live our lives to the fullest.
We do this, through making our goals Specific, Writing them out and including the reasons WHY they are important for us, Visualizing them and Monitoring our progress over time.
How to Accomplish Your Goals
Chronic stress is a huge problem on our mental and physical health and can lead to some pretty harmful outcomes over time. Setting New Year’s resolutions can help us work toward building healthy coping skills for managing stress, but we can’t just make an empty promise to ourselves to do better – we have to create a plan of action for HOW and WHY we are doing it. Here are my biggest tips for accomplishing goals after you’ve resolved to set them this year:
- Find Your ‘WHY’
The first Thing I do when I sit down to set a goal for myself is to think about the finish line first. Why am I setting this goal? What is it going to do for me? Is it something I feel strongly about? By answering these questions you’ll be creating meaning and importance around that goal. If someone asks you why you’re doing what you’re doing, you need to be able to easily articulate why it’s meaningful to you. In order for our brain to participate in the process of creating a new Behavior and remembering Why that behavior is important to you it has to be able to make sense of it in relation to everything else that’s going on in your life. This is why this step is so important. In order to find your ‘why’, Take 5 to 10 minutes In the morning or evening of the next 4 days and write about your goals. First, visualize yourself in the future. Imagine that everything you want to accomplish has come to fruition. Imagine that you have done the work it takes to get there and accomplish all of the goals you want to accomplish. Then write about what you saw: What did you set out to accomplish? How does it improve your life?; and How did it lead to you being your best possible self? What steps did you take to get there?
The key here is writing them down in a journal or planner. Writing about your future kick-starts your imagination, engages your emotions and employs your problem solving processes.
- Getting Specific
One area where people fail at goal-setting is by making their goals too General and not getting specific about how they’re going to accomplish those goals. Another mistake people tend to make is setting a lot of goals at once. Instead of making a list of 20 goals for the year try to make a top three and work on those first. We have a much better chance of success if we’re not overwhelmed. The next step is getting as specific as possible with your goals. We want to make them S.M.A.R.T. that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, And Timely. In my ‘Stress Less’ course I provide a template for doing this and walk people through how to set goals using this formula. One place to start is by using numbers with your goals. So instead of saying you want to lose weight, expand on that by saying how much weight you want to lose, what it’s going to do for you if you lose it and by what date you want to accomplish this.
- Monitoring Your Progress
The Next Step to accomplishing your goals is to monitor your progress and have accountability. We can do this in many ways but I usually recommend to start with journaling and finding a group of people who have the same goal. When we self-monitor we can set more realistic goals by achieving a baseline or starting point and we are more likely to stay motivated because we can see our progress over time. Reporting to others and having accountability can help us break out of old habits and encouraged us to pick back up if we miss a day of sticking to our goal. When you monitor your progress and have a support team it also helps you keep your eye on the prize, stay motivated, & celebrate small achievements toward reaching your goal. Having a reward system in place tied to your monitoring log can also help with motivation and affirm your ability to achieve your goal.
Setting goals for yourself can seem daunting and pointless, but it doesn’t have to be.
These tips can get you started down the road to successful goal setting so that you can get back to living a fulfilling life with a bright future ahead of you.
Do you need help setting goals or creating a stress management plan? I’m here to help!
Sign up for my upcoming 6 week STRESS LESS online course and learn how to manage your stress, set goals to create healthier habits and measure your success with an accountability group and weekly check ins from Amanda Pratt, LCSW; Licensed Therapist and Life Coach!
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