Every New Year, you set big goals for yourself- to lose a few pounds, be more organized, make more money, nix bad habits- and every year by February, March, or even late January, you fall off the wagon. The frustration of an unused gym membership or other reminders of failed resolutions can make the rest of the year feel hopeless. You have the choice to spend the rest of the year beating yourself up for flaking out, lacking discipline, and not having enough willpower or you can set small, true attainable goals throughout the year that won’t completely overwhelm you.
Goal setting is vital to achievement. In business, goals are key to performance and growth. The problem comes when we make big overwhelming goals with no clear timelines, structures or plans on how to achieve them. "More" money, a "better" job, a "few" pounds, are not specific goals. If you have trouble keeping your resolutions, try having very specific goals. For example, instead of having a goal of getting in shape, you should have a goal of losing two pounds each month this year. Another goal may be to add $100 to a credit card payment or to your savings account each month. Not only is it easier to measure if you’re reaching your goal, but also having a specific target helps you to plan what you’ll need to do to reach it.
Set your goals by reflecting on your past year’s behavior and identify the realistic changes you want to make. By making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that will you keep them throughout the year. Sometimes, it is not even the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time. Your next step after identifying your specific goals is to make a plan to reach them. How do you constantly find the motivation? How do you motivate yourself to follow-through on your plans? Or, more importantly, how do you motivate yourself to get back on track if you falter? The answer to staying the course on your personal or professional goals is self-compassion.
1. Start small. Make resolutions that are realistic and that you think you can keep. If your goal is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.
2. Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time; therefore, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don't get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.
3. Talk about it. Share your goals with family and friends. Consider joining a group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.
4. Don't beat yourself up. Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don't give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.
5. Be a better motivator. The secret to sustaining motivation is self-compassion. Many people might stop exercising after missing just a few days at the gym, or quit a goal altogether if it's not done just right. People who are more self compassionate, when they do fail, they pick themselves up and try again. They don't slam themselves with criticism and as a result are more likely to keep trying until they reach their goals.
6. Develop self compassion. Self compassion is the ability to treat yourself with the same kindness, care and support as you would a loved one or close friend who's struggling. A simple acknowledgment that you are worthy of support and compassion goes a long way to breaking the bad habit of criticism and negative self talk. Just because you ate the cookie, turned in the assignment late or hit the snooze button doesn't mean you're destined for failure. Adopting a self-compassionate attitude toward yourself is a much more productive and sustainable strategy in achieving your goals.