The Key to Setting Successful Goals
The new year fills us with energy to rise to new challenges. We feel inspired to achieve new goals. We resolve to be better. But a few weeks go by, and slowly we drift from our targets. Here are some tried-and-true tips for staying on track with New Year’s resolutions once and for all.
- IMAGINE. Start with your target. Figure out exactly what you want looks like. Journaling this is especially helpful.
- PLAN. Once you have a picture of your target in mind, choose two to three small tasks you can accomplish that will help you get closer to it. For example, if your resolution is to eat healthier, choose something specific like eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. “Eat more fruit” is not specific enough. Figure out how much, how many, when, where and how you will do it, and make sure your tasks are attainable. Nobody is perfect all the time. Saying, “I am going to eat five servings of fruit every single day for three months” is a specific, worthy goal to aspire to, but it’s far more achievable to say, “I am going to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables at least five days a week” since nobody is perfect and unforeseen circumstances can arise. Then write down the tasks you have chosen.
- TRACK. After you choose and record your tasks, all that is left is to work the plan every single day and track it. Get a chart, planner page or digital tracker, and mark off every day that you complete all of your tasks. Your only job is to work the plan without breaking the chain. If you do break it, shake it off and start a new chain.*
- EVALUATE AND TWEAK. Set a time limit such as one month for your action plan. At the end of that time, reevaluate how you are progressing toward your target. Change your tasks as necessary and then work the new plan for another month.
- It is important that your action plan is achievable. If your target is losing 40-plus pounds, focus on the first 2 pounds and choose tasks that will get you there. Don’t worry about the 40 right now because that will not allow you to experience quick success. This is paramount! When we succeed at accomplishing something, we get a little boost. That boost is the key so many people miss when making resolutions. People think being motivated leads to success but actually, the opposite is true. Motivation is the outcome when we succeed; success is the springboard to your goal. The result is motivation to continue! So create an action plan you can succeed at and then make your dreams a reality.
- REPEAT. Plan, succeed, track, evaluate, tweak. Work your plan. Build chains of success. Gain motivation. Repeat, repeat and hit the target!
*For those in recovery from addiction, keeping the chain of success going is even more crucial. According to Nathan Mart—Life Change program director at the Eugene, Oregon Mission—the most influential materials for recovering addicts are things related to gratitude and personal journaling. He says gratitude journals “are good for reminding ourselves of what we have and being grateful instead of constantly wishing things were better or that we had ‘things’, which addicts in recovery can fall into. This thinking can lead to relapse.” Nathan believes there is truth in the maxim “a grateful addict never relapses.”
Here are last year’s top resolutions and some digital (D:), analog (A:) and local (L:) resources to help you work your plan.