New year’s resolutions. We’ve all set them, we’ve all broken them. We begin on January 1 with the best of intentions, then by the time March rolls around for most of us they’re a distant memory.
The new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past twelve months and refocus our energy on what we really want and where we want to go. So how do we ensure our goals and dreams don’t fall by the wayside?
Practical techniques were my preferred go-to when I was a psychologist; equipping people with tools they could apply to change their situation. Here are my top five practical tips to help you stay focused.
1: Set goals that are realistic. Let’s be honest: I’m going to run a marathon is probably not the best goal for someone who hasn’t exercised at all in the past few years and hates running. Just the thought of it is daunting even for people who run regularly, and enough to put you off from the outset. Instead, set goals that are smaller and achievable for your situation, like I’m going to run two kilometres without stopping. When you achieve one goal it motivates you to work towards another.
2: Set goals that are measurable. A general goal such as improve my work–life balance can be intimidating. It sounds great, but what does that mean for your situation? Is it leaving the office at 5pm every day? Is it not checking your email outside of office hours? Is it signing up for (and attending) those yoga classes? Wording your goals so they are measurable means you have something specific to work towards and can monitor your progress.
3: Set goals that are action oriented rather than outcome oriented. So you’ve decided how you’re going to measure your goals. Now it’s time to focus on how you’re going to achieve them. For example, I’m going to set aside three evenings a week to write is the action you set to achieve the outcome of I’m going to write a novel.
4: When setting goals, consider things you would like to maintain as well as things you would like to change. You are already a fabulous person, and resolutions don’t necessarily mean completely overhauling your life. What do you do that you are proud of, and want to make sure you continue? Did you take the plunge and submit your writing to publishers and literary competitions last year? Keep that momentum going!
5: Set some pleasant goals. Life is about balance. I am going to take thirty minutes every morning to have a cup of coffee and read is just as important as I am going to do some form of exercise for thirty minutes three times a week. Unless you love exercising, setting too many of these types of goals can make them feel like chores, which means it’s more likely for you to lose sight of the bigger picture and the reason you set them (in this instance, a healthier and happier lifestyle).
The important thing is we are the masters of change in ourselves and our lives. If something is bothering us, we can change that. Take control of your situation — you always have options, you might just have to look a little harder or think laterally to see some of them. And remember, a new year doesn’t have to mean a completely new you. Resolutions and goals are just as much about continuing and building on your already successful trajectory.