At the beginning of every new year, many people take stock of their lives and make plans for improvement. But actually changing their lives in the long-term is more difficult than most people anticipate.
“Personally, I don’t engage in making New Year’s ‘resolutions’ per se because there’s so much hype and pressure around them that I find they rarely work,” said Kathy Caprino for Forbes.
In fact, 80 percent of resolutions for the new year ultimately fall to the wayside.
Is there something inherently wrong with setting resolutions at the start of the year? Is it the wrong time to reassess your life?
Not necessarily. Instead, many people fail to craft the right resolutions, let alone devising methods for actually implementing these goals into their lives. Whether your new year’s resolutions are already wobbly or you’re trying to make a meaningful change at any point in the year, these tips can make your goal-setting more achievable.
Be realistic about timelines.
A famous quote from Bill Gates summarizes the connection between goal-setting and time: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years,” he said.
When it comes to long-term planning, you should be ambitious enough that you don’t repeat the familiar patterns that keep you stuck.
“These are goals that should force you to learn something new and make changes in the way you usually operate. If you set goals you could achieve simply by staying on your current path, they aren’t ambitious enough,” said Ellie Zimmerman for Ivy Exec.
At the same time, long-term goals can be ambiguous if you don’t set shorter-term goals and completion markers.
Especially if you are trying to build a new habit, you want to break it down into bite-sized pieces – and reward yourself when you reach smaller milestones.
Nip procrastination in the bud.
One of the reasons that resolutions fail is we don’t take opportunities to achieve them when they arise. For instance, if you want to start meditating to break up your work-from-home routine, but instead scroll on your phone after a meeting finishes early, you missed a window of time for your habit.
“Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers,” writes Heidi Grant for Harvard Business Review.
The key to stop putting off new habits is scheduling time to practice in advance. This doesn’t mean that you say you’ll meditate for a half hour at 9am every day. But you do want to be as specific as possible. For instance, you could say you want to meditate for 10 minutes every other day. If you plan this way, your brain is 300 percent more likely to take opportunities to do what you’ve set out to achieve.
Hold yourself accountable by telling others and reviewing your goals.
If you’re the only person who knows what you want to achieve in the long- and short-terms, you may find it easier to forgo your goals.
“This is one of the best ways I’ve found to keep myself motivated as I progress through the year since I don’t want to disappoint the people I trust and respect. For example, I just had a call about goal setting and shared some of my goals with a friend. We agreed to have occasional checkpoints throughout the year to make sure I’m making headway versus my goals,” said Maciej Godlewski, founder of Fired Up Digital.
In addition to checking in with others, you should regularly monitor your own progress, as well. You may want to re-write your goals in your planner at the start of every week, so you remember to work towards them. Or, you could schedule an hour on the first weekend of every month to return to your list of resolutions and decide if and how you’re progressing.
If you don’t check in with your goals regularly, you may realize you don’t even remember what they were.
Achieving Reachable Goals
Individuals who achieve their resolutions do three things. First, they set ambitious goals that they can break down into smaller, achievable pieces. They also plan for their goals, making sure they know when and how they can develop habits that will support their success.
Finally, they persist in the goals they thought were important, even if they fail. It’s easy to give up on a resolution if you don’t meet your weekly or monthly goals, but successful individuals forgive themselves for their failures and keep going.
“As I mentioned earlier, effort, planning, persistence, and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed. Embracing this knowledge will not only help you see yourself and your goals more accurately, but also do wonders for your grit,” Heidi said.