It’s that time again – the new year is here, and most of us are thinking about how to set goals that will stick. And this year, there is even more pressure on goal setting as it’s a new decade, too! How do we set goals that we think we can achieve within the next ten years? That cringing question of “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” comes to mind, and suddenly there is an anxious feeling around the need to set both short- and long-term goals.
Whether you call them resolutions, goals, or something else, there are ways to approach making improvements in your life with a realistic attitude that will ultimately lead to success.
Anxiety Around Goal Setting
While goal setting is often viewed as a positive approach to success and happiness, many people experience anxiety when thinking too much about the future. The idea of change is often overwhelming for some to undertake. And additionally, the reverse may be true – not setting measurable goals can cause a person to be emotionally distressed.
The connection between anxiety and goal setting can be tricky, but knowing how to set goals can make a major difference when trying to achieve success.
Studies have shown that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the month of February. This is largely because most people choose to set a big goal that is often difficult to achieve or set too many goals at one time. When we set goals and lose steam by early February, we often experience a feeling of guilt or failure.
How to Approach Goal Setting
As a Holistic Health & Wellness coach, one tactic we like to use when setting goals is the SMART method. Using this method can help relieve some of the emotional distress around goal setting. Whether you’re looking to make a personal health transformation, build your business, or improve your relationships, using the SMART method to set goals can provide clarity and focus and help use your time productively.
Specific – Your goals should always be clear and precise. Instead of vaguely setting a goal to eat healthy next year, use the five “W” questions to drill down to a concrete goal that you would like to achieve:
What do I want to accomplish?
Why is this goal important?
Who is involved?
Where is it located?
Which resources or limits are involved?
Measurable – Tracking progress is an important factor of goal setting as it can help people see their setbacks and how they can stay motivated. Tracking may seem obvious when it comes to fitness or weight-loss goals, but it’s a helpful tool when setting goals that are geared toward cutting back on habits as well. Thinking about setting a goal to cut back on phone use? Keep a journal to log your progress (i.e., how often you scroll on Instagram each day or check your email after work hours) and see how you feel over time.
Achievable – Keep the words “realistic” and “attainable” at the top of your mind when setting goals. While it is never a bad idea to push yourself a bit out of your comfort zone, your goals should never seem completely out of reach. Trying to achieve a goal that doesn’t seem realistic can leave you feeling frustrated and even come to a point where it’s all you think about. Instead of trying to save enough money to retire in five years while in your 30s, set a goal that you know you can accomplish, such as putting away $100 each month for your future retirement.
Relevant – Make sure you are setting goals for the right reasons and they truly matter to you as well as the people around you. If you are approaching goal setting with a sense of self-hate or remorse, you’re not going to achieve success. Setting an effective goal requires you to think about what’s good for you and what positive, small improvements you can make for an impactful difference.
Time-bound – The timing of accomplishing your goal should be realistic, too. Giving yourself a hard deadline to achieve your goal can help eliminate procrastination. When thinking about your goals, try asking yourself these questions.
When do I want to achieve this goal by?
What do I want accomplished X weeks from now?
What do I want accomplished X months from now?
What can I do today to keep myself on track and help achieve my goal?
Starting Small When Setting Goals
Setting goals that are too large can certainly seem daunting. We typically start off the new year with a bit of holiday fatigue after consistently being on the go with friends and family gatherings. Thus, trying to work toward big goals in that first month of the year will only make us feel even more burned out.
If you can’t start the year without thinking about those big-picture goals, take the two that are most important to you and, using the SMART method, try setting mini goals that support the big picture. These smaller goals are more digestible and can help validate that you are capable of success. If you’re trying to set a goal around becoming a vegetarian, start the year by dedicating one day a week to eating only plant-based meals and gradually work your way to eliminating meat more often. Not only will this help you achieve success, but it will allow you to evaluate how you feel along the way.
Avoiding Setting Too Many Goals
Setting too many goals can have the same daunting effect as trying to set too large of a goal. Not only is there an overwhelming feeling of having too much to take on, there is also the fact that when we set too many goals, they often tend to either conflict or overlap with one another.
Think about the phrase “less is more” when setting goals. As humans, it’s in our nature to want to do everything at once, but having too many goals to accomplish can kill our productivity.
When you find yourself starting the new year with more goals than you think you can achieve, take some time to write them all out, categorize them to your liking, and start searching for conflicts or overlaps.
Then, once you have your goals organized, take each goal and ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?” Write your answers down next to each item on your list to begin understanding what’s valuable to you. Once you know your values, you can start prioritizing and narrowing down your goals to what means the most to you.
Your Goals Can Change Over Time
It is important to remember that your goals can change over time, just as you do. Your interests may change, your health may change, or your career may change. You may not get into the program you applied to, you may not get the promotion you wanted, or you may drift apart from a close friend.
But when your goals change, remember that it is normal to not have a linear path. When setbacks happen or you lose interest in certain goals, don’t be afraid to switch courses or completely abandon a goal that’s no longer fulfilling you.
Getting an Accountability Partner to Achieve Success
Once you are comfortable with the goals you’ve planned, one of the best ways to stick to them is by getting an accountability partner. A strong sense of community can help provide the motivation and inspiration needed to ultimately achieve your goals – this is why group fitness classes work so well for some people. Not only will a partner help support your goals, but you can support theirs as well.
An accountability partner can be a friend, family member, or even your Health Coach(hello!)! Choose someone (or start an accountability group!) that will support and encourage you to stay committed to your goals. Picking the right support system will determine how well you work toward your goals and how you can reach success.
After choosing an accountability partner, make sure there is prioritization and no judgment when keeping your goals on track.
Prioritize accountability – Life can certainly get in the way of your goals and your support for others, so it’s vital to keep accountability a priority when it comes to goal setting. If life starts to derail or things become too busy, make sure you are honest with your accountability partner if you need to disengage for some time.
No judgment – Your relationship with your accountability partner should always be a safe space. If there are disagreements about goals or lack of empathy when a goal is not achieved, that relationship is not meant for you. You should feel continuously inspired to achieve your goals, so if the partnership is not working for you, don’t feel bad if you need to cut ties.
Creating Goals That Will Stick in 2020 and Beyond!!
I have a workshop coming up to help more with this topic: Personal Growth as Self Care Workshop Jan.18th