Everybody and their brother tends to set some kind of New Year’s Resolutions. And… most of us fail to achieve these high-reaching goals to lose 100 pounds or to stop eating sugar on the first day of the New Year. (See this post about my attempt and the epic failure).
Why do we fail? Because most of the New Year’s resolutions are too ambitious and, frankly, too hard. Why is it important to set realistic goals? Because they are so much easier to follow, comprehend, and achieve. Smaller and more realistic goals make for bigger and more lasting changes.
Forget New Years Resolutions
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% of all people ever feel that they are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution. And 42% give up after the first month.Life Hack
We all have been there. Signed up for that gym on January 1. Went for a month, maybe two, and then quit. Or, resolved to pay off the entire debt by March. Or, resolved to give up all animal products in one day… Epic fail, because… life happens. There are unexpected situations, temptations, expenses, and so on. There are some errands that make you stop going to that gym. There is always some reason to stop moving toward that huge goal.
Why is it so difficult? First of all, because habits are very hard to break. It takes a while to develop a habit, and it takes twice as long to break it.
Importantly, trying to break an old habit should start with the head. We must understand why the habit is pleasing to us. Why do we stick to it and why is it so hard to break it. Only once we realize what drawn us to overeating or smoking or procrastinating, can we try to remedy the situation.
Until you grasp why you’re sticking like a burr to old habits and routines, it may be hard to muster enough energy and will to take a hard left toward change. Unhealthy behaviors like overeating and smoking have immediate, pleasurable payoffs as well as costs. So, when you’re considering a change, take time to think it through.Harvard Health
The examples above are all mine. I tried in years past and I failed. But they are not so special. Rather, they are the pretty typical types of resolutions that tend to fail.
So, no new Year’s resolutions for me this year. Instead, I am trying to hit that reset button by changing resolutions into realistic, achievable, and yes, smaller, goals. That is half of the battle won.
Why Is It Important to Set Realistic Goals and How to Do It?
There are some specific steps that tend to work best when trying to set achievable goals and set yourself up for success.
Pick and Plan
Decide what is it that you want to do or work towards. It can be a big thing or a small thing – sometimes it makes more sense to start small and expand later. This makes it for a goal that can stretch beyond the current scope and that makes it all the more interesting and motivating.
Take nutrition for example.
For someone who eats a fast food meal every day, it might be difficult to give it all up in one day. It might make better sense to start with a step-by-step plan. For example, limit your fast food intake to every other day. After a month or two, you might then scale up and aim at having that fast food fix only once a week, and then twice a month. By the end of the year, you might be cured of the “fast-food-addiction” altogether and never look at this stuff again.
Trying to deprive oneself of something you love (even if it might be very bad for you) will usually end in a disaster. Cravings will arise, you’ll likely end up giving in, and eventually failing.
When planning for achieving a goal, it is crucial to preplan and ask: What will I do when I stumble? What will be my next step, if life gets in the way and sets me back?
Write it down
Just saying I want to do this or I want to achieve this is fine but it might not be enough to achieve your goal. Writing the goals down can be a very powerful way of turning your dreams into reality. Write about what achieving this goal will mean to you. Will it make you feel better? Be healthier? Look better? Have more cash in your pocket? Be calmer or more collected? Etc. Etc.
For me personally, writing down a goal seems to be more motivating when stating it in a positive way. Instead of saying “I will not eat dairy anymore” let’s rephrase it and say “In order to be healthier, I will eat what makes me healthy and thriving.”
For those who already write a journal or gratitude notebook, it might be an obvious place to include your goals and the small steps that help you reach them.
Let’s say, you plan to save some money by giving up your daily Starbucks latte. Again, you might want to go slow and limit the intake gradually. Every day you managed to stay away from Starbuck and made your own latte or coffee instead, write it down and pat yourself on the back. Be grateful for achieving the small goal set for the day or week.
Tell a friend or join efforts with them
If you tell someone about what you want to achieve, it will make you feel more accountable to this person. Even better, decide on a goal you can pursue together ad support one another in the execution of the plan you set out for yourselves.
The most obvious example here is embarking on a new fitness plan. If you decide to sign up for yoga classes or spinning course, just imagine how much easier it would be if you do it with another person. Even if one of you starts flailing, the other one is there to encourage, motivate, and get the other going. Sometimes, this extra kick in the butt is all that is needed to keep going and not fall off the wagon.
Keep going, even if you fall off the wagon
When striving to achieve even the smallest of goals, there will be times when we get frustrated, and even struggle to keep going. There will be times we give in to temptations and old habits but it doesn’t mean we have to give up.
This is why making smaller goals makes more sense than setting unrealistic New Years’ resolutions. With a big resolution like “I am turning vegan on January 1”, once you had that steak this one time, it might be more difficult to get back to the plan.
With a smaller goal, you can always jump back and start again. Take a break and then re-read the goal you wrote down when you started. Maybe you need to adjust your goal. Then take that first step toward the goal, then the second, and so on.
Maybe start with limiting red meat only for a while. Then, if you still feel the need to give up more of the meat, give up everything but fish. After a while, even this can go. Then follow with removing eggs and dairy from your diet. It might take several months to become a true vegan in this manner, but it is probably going to be a more lasting change.
When your goals are realistic, they make them worth the chase. One of the things to bear in mind is that, in order not to be overwhelmed by the daunting nature of your goals, remember to always break them into milestones, chunks, or bits. In fact, take one day at a time.Life Hacks
Enjoy your wins and learn from your failures.
Celebrate even the smallest wins toward achieving your goals. Think about what you enjoyed during this journey. If you had a little setback, what did you learn from it? How can you improve and set yourself up for a win the next time around?
Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery. In the end, you can’t manage what you don’t measure and you can’t improve upon something that you don’t properly manage. Setting goals can help you do all of that and more.Positive Psychology
Reward yourself for your efforts.
When I stopped getting a daily Starbucks latte before work, I realized after a while that I was potentially saving around 20-25 bucks per week. That makes for 100 USD per month. Having saved that money, I made sure to spend a portion on something I really, really wanted (an expensive, precious essential oil that I always wanted but was on the fence because of the price.)
There has been a good bit of writing on the so-called SMART goal setting.
SMART is an acronym derived from the first letters of adjectives that describe the characteristics of a goal-setting method. Here is the break-down:
Here is how one article summarizes it.
It is not enough to have a goal. It is not enough to put it down in writing. It is important to have a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that point you in the right direction. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.SMART Goal Setting
Setting SMART goals makes success possible and within reach. Without it, we often think of dreams, hopes, and wishes as goals. Wishing and hoping for a result is not equal to setting and pursuing a goal.
Dreaming is great but it is not often leading to success (if not backed up by actionable steps). With smaller, achievable, concrete goals, taking that first step and all the next ones is much easier.
Small steps and big results are the way to go. For a healthier year, I can suggest starting with simple swaps for nutrition, cosmetic use, and household items in order to embark on the way to detox your life. I have a 10-page E-book with all these easy to implement swaps, and you can download it here.
Whether you decide to give up on the big New Years Resolutions and opt for smaller goals or not, I wish you all the success in the New Year. May it be filled with love, joy, and peace!