Setting Goals for the New Year

New year, new you. For many people, a new year is a fresh start, an opportunity to leave the baggage of the previous year behind and look forward to the new year with a list of goals they would like to achieve.

That one word that often comes to mind when we talk about the new year: resolutions. You might find that when you ask friends, family or even colleagues about their new years resolutions that they are in fact very similar to yours: lose weight, change jobs, save money, socialise. Unfortunately, for many these resolutions are forgotten by February. One of the main reasons for this as many of you may already know is that it’s deceptively difficult to develop and maintain or even deny ingrained habits ‘cold turkey’.

While the effort to adopt such resolutions shows a wonderful sense of positive intent, a better alternative is to develop personal goals annually, as this is a gradual process that doesn’t require immediate change. Another few key reasons why setting goals is a more fruitful approach than developing resolutions :

Sense of Failure vs Sense of Accomplishment

Goals give you a direction to aspire to, and with the small steps you may be taking toward your goal, you can still feel like your getting closer to the finish line which as a result gives you a sense of accomplishment ensuiring you your on the right track and encouraging you to keep moving in the right direction.

On the other hand, if you’ve broken a rigid resolution you may feel like a failure and the chances are you want to give up. If your resolution isn’t met by the end of the year, you will find yourself feeling more frustrated with yourself than if you made progress in working towards a goal.

Broad changes vs specific behaviours

Whilst resolutions are usually a means to a goal, they can be dropped and forgotten if they’re too diffiuclt to stick to. Goals, however, can be tackled in steps, beginning with small steps and increasing in difficulty as you become more accustomed to the change. This makes goals more realistic for lasting change.

For instance, if your considering developing a stress management plan, you might decide to do yoga to de-stress and relax as part of your resolution – but what will happen to that resolution when you discover that yoga just isnt working for you ?

Although its important to put your broad goals in to specific behaviours, developing a stress managament plan gives you more room to experiment and see what works for you and what doesnt, and allows you to change course if something specific isnt working for you. For example, if you set yourself a target of incorporating more execise (which has some great stress-busting benefits) into your daily routine, that way your not restricting yourself to just yoga, you can choose between the gym, going for a walk, cycling swimming, and still meet your goal of putting together a stress management plan.

Adding a Behaviour vs Eliminating

Generally its easier to add a behaviour than to stop a behvaiour. When setting resolutions we often set our focus on eliminating certain behaviours/habits that we’re not happy with, which to some extent can be beneficial. However, there is a significant psychological impact on how we rephrase resolutions which can determine the chances of how likely we are to carry out a specific behaviour/task. For example, instead of ‘eat less unhealthy food’, it might be more beneficial to set a goal of ‘eat more healthy food’. That way you wont subconsiously feel deprived of taking something away, instead by adding healtheir food to your diet you’ can better understand that its a journey and change of eating habits than

Now that your aware why resolutions can often fail and how goals are a more realistic approach, here a few more things to keep in mind when developing goals :

Set it, ink it

Once you have been able to set your goals, the next step is to think of ways that you can remind yourself of them on a daily basis. For example, list them in your daily planner, send a copy of them to your partner/friends/family, post them in prominent places around your house.

Create habits

An important step in reaching your goals is breaking them down into smaller goals which allow you to determine what steps/tasks need to be completed. Following this, think of specific create habits that can lead you to your overall goal, and this is key, the easiest way to maintain them is to embed them into your schedule.

For example, if you would like to be more fit, assign yourself with a reasonable amount of time to commite to exercising….It will work best if this time is connected to an existing habit, like on your way to or from work, before you shower etc.

The length of time time can gradually be increased as the habit becomes more engrained, choose something that you enjoy – dont aim to complete your exercise session by feeling more exhausted or depleted, find something that you enjoy and feel more energised after – that way its easier to stick to.

Embrace failure

How we perceive failure can be influenced by a range of factors such as upbringing, environment, past experiences, relationships, mental and physical health and most importantly our state of mind.

Robert Kyosaki author of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ says that “successful people don’t fear failure but understand that it is necessary to learn and grow from.” A lot of learning related to what you need to do in order to achieve personal growth is involved in setting goals. However, when things don’t go as planned we begin to see signs of failure, instantly making an association with a negative outcome. Yet some of the worlds most successful people will be able to tell you how failure has the potential in revealing new ideas, creating instructive learning experiences and most importantly can push you to become your best. But your probably thinking that’s easy to say but hard to believe and thus wondering what their secret is behind embracing their failures?

Mindset, mindset, mindset!

Its quite simple, they try to make sense of each failure, each obstacle, what they learnt from it, how its helped them, and ways in which they can improve and continue moving to towards their goal. You can do this too – and this is how….I want you to think about when you drive across town, how often do you only catch green lights? Probably never, and that’s OK – because that’s just a part of driving right? But how might life be if we constantly saw our failures as red lights? Yes, they may stop us temporarily, but are they are reason to give up on our destination?

Have you ever wondered why we are so quick to classify events as successes or failures ? What if they’re neither, what if they are simply events that have shaped our lives in one way or another? Events that have put us on a slightly altered path and now we get to choose how we proceed. Again, the answer to this is our mindset.

There are two different types of mindset : fixed mindset and growth. Those with fixed mindsets struggle to step out of their comfort zones or take risks, and fear that setbacks will reflect poorly on them. In this state of mind, failures are taken personally. On the other hand. A growth mindset allows us to actively seek challenges, learn from mistakes and persevere. Those with this mindset don’t worry about appearing talented or small because they are more interested in developing and learning new skills.

You’ll be relieved to know a growth mindset is something we CAN develop, this shift in mindset begins with changing the way in which we speak to ourselves, focusing on our strengths, reducing self-criticism and putting aside the high standards and expectations.

Fear of failure is debilitating and can damage our chances of achieving success, so would you agree that the key to unlocking success is embracing failure?

Enjoy the process

Big success is made up of small victories. If your weight loss goal is 20 lbs, chances are that you will not lose it all at once. Still, you can celebrate your pants fitting a little looser every week. Having goals is important; however, we don’t stop living while we pursue them. Life happens while you are in the midst of seeing your dreams realized. Don’t allow your focus on the outcome to keep you from enjoying the process.

Finally, reward yourself with something small for continuing to stick with it, until you make enough progress toward your goals that the progress becomes its own reward. And remember that change doesn’t come overnight, but as you work toward developing what is important to you, the change will come, and it will be lasting. Remember this, and enjoy building  a happier and healthier life!

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