Whether you’ve resolved to become a faster runner, give yoga a shot or live healthier this year, there are several steps you can take to ensure your resolutions are successful this year.
Funny aspect of resolutions–you don’t need to wait until January first. In fact, I prefer birthday resolutions to New Year’s resolution (after all, my birthday is officially when my next year starts, right?). The beginning of a new year, is a good time to implement changes if you like an official starting point, though. After all, it’s tradition and you’ll be in good company, since over 40% of Americans make resolutions each year. Those who make resolutions are 10 times as likely to achieve their goals as those who skip the ritual.
Wondering how to make resolutions that actually stick? Well, there are a few steps, most of which simply align with best practices in goal setting.
1. Set SMART Goals
Anyone who’s ever read a motivational book, taken a business class or spent time examining goal setting knows about SMART goals. Smart stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Basically, goals shouldn’t be “out there” ideas like, “get rich” or “be thin.”
Instead goals should contain specifics (hence, the “S”). If you want to achieve something great, you need to get detailed about it. Looking for ways to beat your 5K PR? What would you like to beat it by? How will you practice? How often, how much, what days? It might not be realistic to think you’ll leap from 10 minute miles to 7 minutes in six months. But, improving your overall finish time by a few minutes? That’s possible with some practice and training.
2. Put It On Your Calendar
If you want a goal to stick, make time to complete the steps. This means, adding your workouts, your healthy meal preparation for the week or study time to the calendar. Whatever you want to achieve, it will require work and practice. If you want to do it, you’ve got to schedule in those sessions.
Using your calendar to commit to trips to the gym, helps you stay on track. Record your progress as you go. If you use an electronic calendar program (like Google Calendar) simply add your progres each time you check in. At the end of the week, assess how you did and if you need to increase or decrease your practice/work sessions.
3. Break It Down Into Simple Steps
If you’ve set a big goal, you’ll need to break it down into smaller steps. The easiest way to do this is to set it and work backwards. For example, lose 10 pounds by March 1st? Well, that works out to just around a pound per week starting in January. Losing 10 pounds (or 20, or 50) might seem daunting, but when you break it down into a small weekly goal, it’s doable.
Similarly, breakdown big goals for your career, home, job and life in general into smaller bite-sized pieces. Sometimes huge goals seem unachievable, but think of what small steps will get you to where you want to be. It’s much easier to reroute and get back on track if you miss a week or fall behind on a step than if you try to tackle the big picture at once.
4. Add Reminders
What will you do to remind yourself of your goal? Add your goals to your calendar. Post them on a sticky note and slap them up on your mirror. Write them on your fridge or post them on your whiteboard at work.
The idea is to add little reminders where you can see them at all times. Calendar reminders are great, but some of us could use a little visual nudge as well. If you want to save more money, put a sticky note on your debit card in your wallet. Wear a bracelet that will remind you of your goal each time you notice it on your wrist. Set as many reminders as you can to keep you on track.
5. Find Your Motivation
Success in your goals, require motivation. In fact, motivation is really the most important factor. If you want to achieve your goals, you need to discover what motivates you. Maybe it’s seeing a photo of yourself at your goal weight. Maybe it’s the idea of an awesome finishers medal at a race. Perhaps it’s the thought of being debt free or owning a home of your own.
Some of us are motivated by competition. Some of us are motivated by beauty. Others are motivated by rewards. If having a clean, organized kitchen will motivate you to cook your meals at home, then start the year off with a kitchen that’s cleaned top to bottom. If you want to try meditation this year, sign up for a class, download an app, create a space where you’re excited to try your new practice. It’s all about finding what carrot moves you toward your goal.
6. Celebrate Small Victories
Each time you get closer to your goal, celebrate! Pat yourself on the back, put a sticker on your calendar, call your mom and brag. The road to many goals is long and while they might be rewarding at the end, without encouragement you may not have the fortitude to keep going.
Post your small victory selfies to Instagram or Facebook. Let others know you’re working toward accomplishing big stuff and you may find they cheer you on and give you the boost you need. It’s not about trying to boast or sound like you’re awesome for going to the gym or reading a book, but instead it’s about feeling proud of a job well done. If you’re on the path to accomplishing something, you’re rocking it! You deserve to hear it!
7. Work Backwards
Look at the big picture and think, “if I want to do this in 12 months, what do I need to do each month? Even further, if I want to do it in 52 weeks, what do I need to do each week?” Some goals might be one-time accomplishments (like quitting smoking) that then require maintenance over the course of the upcoming weeks or months. Some goals might only require a few weeks to achieve, while others might take all year.
Look at the outcome and then work backwards to get there. This helps you break it into smaller steps, and it also helps you envision the final picture. Identify what you’ll need to reach your dream. How will you know when your goal has been achieved? What should it look like a month before? Two months before? Where do you need to be to stay on track.
8. Buddy Up
Want to accomplish something great? You need a buddy to check in with on your goals. Pick a friend who is tough, motivated and who you know will call you out if you slack off. Ask them if they would mind if you checked in every week or two on how you’re doing. While it’s important your buddy uses encouragement and kindness to keep you on track, don’t choose someone just because they tell you what you want to hear. Choose someone who believes in you and expects you to achieve.
If your friend is working on their own goals, offer to hold each other accountable. Fitness and other goals are more motivating with a friend too. If you know someone is relying on you to finish a 10K by their side, you’ll be much more apt to get yourself out of bed in the morning and hit the pavement.
This year’s resolutions can be different. This will be the year you finally achieve your resolutions and get it done. What are your goals this year? Do you set resolutions and have you ever successfully kept one all year?