It’s that time of year again! The time of year where many of us are setting new goals for ourselves in an attempt to improve our lives for the coming year. Some of us may make a promise to change bad habits such as quitting smoking, reducing our alcohol intake (i.e. Dry January), or eating healthier food. Others may make a promise to do something positive, such as giving back to the community, volunteering, joining a gym. Whatever we decide to do, the process of writing a list of New Year’s resolutions is easy. But just how many of us/how many times have you actually achieved it?
Personally, I don’t believe in the whole ‘New Year, New Me’ motto – but a ‘New Year, Better Me’. It’s not about becoming somebody you’re not or doing something that doesn’t reflect who you are. Instead of associating the New Year with resolutions or changes you need to make, perhaps we should be reflecting on the things we would like to work on and develop throughout the year.
Once we decide what it is we want to work on, we actually have to take action and make it happen. Sometimes we can take the phrase “Be patient, Good things take time” to mean sitting back and waiting for things to happen. But we have to put in the work in order to see the fruits of our labour.
But achieving your resolutions this year doesn’t have to be difficult! There are things you can do to help plan for success and remind yourself of along the way. So whatever you decide to accomplish this year, here are my 18 tips to achieve a ‘New Year, Better You’ this year:
1. Be Specific!
This one is sooooo important. The most common New Year’s resolutions tend to be the usual stuff like:
- Exercise more
- Lose weight
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Learn new skill or hobby
- Drink less alcohol
These are wonderful things to set out to achieve but they’re so far from specific! So you want to exercise more…that’s great! But how would you define ‘more’? You want to lose weight…but how much do you want to lose? You want to learn something new…but what?! Drink less alcohol…how much less?! Spend how much more time…with who…when…how…where?! Be specific!
- Go to x3 exercise classes at the gym every week.
- Lose 10lbs.
- Plan an outing with my sisters once a month.
- Learn how to play the Piano up to Grade 1.
- Drink less than the recommended units per week.
Now we’re talking!
2. Be Realistic!
Another reason we may not achieve our resolutions is that they’re unrealistic. When setting a goal for yourself, ask yourself: Is this achievable? Is this physically possible to do? Sure, there are things we would all like to achieve (such as becoming a millionaire or buying a mansion in Central London by 2019)…These things aren’t impossible. But they’re not exactly realistic and it’s likely that you’ll end up frustrated when December comes and you’re nowhere close to that. So make it realistic. Make sure you have the resources and the means to fulfil your goal. If you want to learn how to play the guitar – make sure you have one!
3. Make it Meaningful!
What is the point of setting a goal if it doesn’t really mean anything to you?! Whether the goal is for your personal life, your business, your career etc. it needs to be fulfilling. Ask yourself: Why is this goal important to me? There’s no point doing things for the sake of it and when we do there’s a higher chance that we won’t succeed, simply because our hearts were never in it in the first place. Do something that you are passionate about. Don’t just do something because everyone else is doing it or because you feel like you should. We all want different things in life, so focus on what you want in yours. Do something that makes you feel good or will benefit you (I made this distinction because sometimes we set a goal to cut down on the things that make us feel good [e.g. smoking, drinking, junk food, swearing] but will benefit us in the long run.
4. Set Deadlines!
So you know what you want to achieve…but when do you want to achieve this? It’s so important to know what you want to do and when you want to do it by. For some goals, 1 year is a long timeframe (e.g. going to Tioman island this year or setting up a savings account) and for others, it might not be long enough (e.g. starting a degree or renovating a house). It’s important to have an ‘expiry date’ in mind for many reasons. You’re less likely to continuously put things off all the time if you have a deadline in place. Your deadlines can be flexible but at least use it as a guide to work towards. There’s no point leaving a vacation to Tioman until the end of the year when it’s monsoon season when ideally it would’ve been better to go in Summer. It takes less than a couple of hours to set up a savings account so when do you want to do it by? But allow yourself enough time to do it. Similarly, you can’t expect to completely renovate the house in the space of a year (well..it’s not impossible but it’s certainly a tall order!). This is why it’s important to…
5. Break it Down!
Start small! Break down your big goals into smaller goals. The most common New Years resolutions tend to be quite grand. It’s an amazing thing to want to ‘spend more time working on yourself’ or ‘save £6000 this year’ or ‘lose 2 stone by the end of the year’. But, these are big goals, which can seem a little daunting when you don’t know how to make it happen. These are things you’d like to achieve towards the end, but they need to be broken down into smaller steps.
Make sure that your resolutions are things that you can keep. For example, in order to lose those 2 st you have other milestones to accomplish first. You won’t go from how you are now to dropping 2 st overnight. So how about working towards 1lb a week, half a stone by 3 months, 1 stone by 6 months etc. Similarly, unless you plan to deposit £6,000 from your December paycheck into your savings account in one go, you might want to break it down into smaller increments that you can deposit each month. If your aim is to ‘exercise more’, schedule 3/4 days a week at the gym instead of 7.
Setting small, achievable goals to work towards throughout the 365 days, instead of a massive goal on the 1st of January will be a lot more manageable.
6. Plan & Take Action!
So you know what you want to do…but how are you going to do it? What steps will you take to achieve it? Make a plan.. Plan what you will do, when you will do it. It’s so important to make a plan that will help you get from where you are now to where you want to be. It’s so much easier to be ‘off track’ when there never was a track in place in the first instance. So, how will you accomplish what you’ve set out to do? When will you start? What’s the first step?
For example, you’ve identified that you want to save £500 a month…how will you do it? Will it come from your salary or other sources of income? Will you go to the bank and deposit it or will you set up a direct debit? When will you deposit the money – on the first of every month or on payday?
You’ve decided that you’re going to go to the gym 3 times a week…great! Which one will you go to? How will it fit into your schedule?
7. Write it Down!
Don’t just think it, ink it! Putting pen to paper and recording your goal enables you to make a conscious commitment to the goal you want to achieve. It’s so easy to forget things and a written goal is an influential reminder that you can use to keep yourself on the right track. Write it down and keep it somewhere you’ll be constantly reminded. Put it on your desk, in the notes on your phone, in your diary, on your bathroom mirror, on your kitchen fridge, on your wall…wherever.
8. Track your Progress!
How will you know you’re moving to your end goal unless you track your progress? Tracking your progress towards your goals will allow you to celebrate and feel good about the development you’re making. Similarly, if things aren’t going as planned it can give you that kick up the backside to get going again.
You can do this in many ways, depending on what it is you’d like to achieve. Try to monitor your progress regularly, whether that be daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. Kikki K’s ‘Dreams & Goals’ collection has the perfect range of diaries to help you stay on top of it all.
9. Anticipate Setbacks!
Life happens and things don’t always go to plan. So how will you plan for that? Sometimes it’s necessary to anticipate problems that may come up so that we can prevent or prepare for them.
For example, if your goal is to keep attending regular activities and you know that the winter months cause you to feel demotivated and lethargic, what can you do to make sure you’re still able to attend them when you don’t feel like it? If your goal is to save regularly throughout the year – is there anything you might expect to pop up this year that may make achieving that goal a little difficult? How might you plan for that?
Of course, not everything can be avoided or helped, so that’s why the next point is really important.
10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up!
Don’t beat yourself up when you reach a setback. As the year goes on the ‘novelty’ of New Year’s resolutions can wear off and the frustration of an unused gym membership or other reminders of failing resolutions can increase your anxieties and hopelessness.
It’s so much easier to give up on things when the smallest thing goes wrong or off track but this is 100% normal. Try not to give up completely because you had a takeaway and ‘broke your diet’, or skipped the gym for a few days because you were busy or didn’t feel up to it. Life happens. Everyone has their ups and downs and the most important thing is how you bounce back. Forgive yourself and recover from this so you can get back on track ASAP! This is so important because those few days missed at the gym can easily turn into a few weeks…few months etc.
11. Pace Yourself!
Working on your goals can be fun, especially in the first few months when everything is going well and you’re on track etc. But try not to allow yourself to burn out. When we experience a burn out from constantly putting our all into things, we can become exhausted and unmotivated to continue working on things. This can be both physical and mental burnout. If you are physically exerting yourself at the gym regularly, although you’re building up your muscles and endurance – your body is undergoing some major changes so take time out! Similarly, if you’re learning something new like a new language or instrument, that’s a lot of mental strain if you’re constantly going at it.
All too often we start things and don’t end up finishing it. How many of us have joined a gym in January and watching the monthly direct debit escape from your bank account without having gone for a few months…Guilty! Make time for your goal every day, every week, every month etc…Remind yourself of why you’re doing this in the first place. That should motivate you to keep going and help you push forward, even when you feel discouraged and wanting to give up.
Notice if you start to become unmotivated, uninterested and unbothered about the progress you’re making towards your goals. Tracking your goals can be helpful to monitor this as you can visually see the progress you’ve made and compare it to the gradual decrease in the progress you’re making when you experience burnout.
This is also why it’s important to break things down into smaller steps. Taking things one small step at a time will allow you to feel closer to your goal each day, each week and each month. All of those efforts will add up over time and by continuously working on it you prevent yourself from getting too comfortable or going full steam ahead. When you’ve made a good start on something, you get that momentum building up to want to keep going day after day. Nothing more, nothing less.
Once you notice yourself experiencing the signs of burnout (or to avoid yourself experiencing it), make some room in your plan to schedule for self-care. Whatever it is that refreshes and recharges you, make sure it’s a priority. It needn’t be something extravagant like taking a holiday or going to the spa (although I am definitely not discouraging it!), but those small things like taking a bath, reading a book, going for a walk, meditating, taking a day off etc. is so important for your physical and mental health.
12. Talk About It!
Share your experiences with family and friends. Working towards your goals can get lonely sometimes without the option to have someone to talk to about the highs and lows along the way. Having an accountability partner or two that you can check in with, review your progress and work through hardships with can help you further towards your goals. Not only can they provide accountability for you, but you can also provide accountability for them as well by learning and sharing your experiences of staying focused on your goals and making progress. If you’re not in the position to share with others or don’t feel comfortable doing it try something else like, documenting your journey in a diary or writing motivational post-it notes to yourself.
13. Be Supported!
Don’t go it alone. If you find that you tend to go off track when left to your own devices, ask for support. Whether that be for social support from friends or family or professional support, accepting help from others who either care about you or are in a position to help will strengthen your resilience to stress and lack of motivation.
If the thought of meeting your goals overwhelms you or is something you are unable to do, consider seeking professional help. For example, if your goal is to attend the gym but the idea of gyms scare you or you have nowhere to start, seek out a personal trainer. If you’re struggling to save money, why not seek financial advice from other organisations or your bank to see how you can make your goals more achievable. If you know your mental health usually gets in the way of you achieving your goals and staying motivated, a therapist can offer strategies on how to adjust your goals and identify, change and review unhealthy behaviours, thinking patterns and emotional issues.
Or, how about joining a support group to reach your goals? If you feel like 1:1 support is too intimate, try support groups, such as a workout class, smoking cessation groups or weight loss groups. Sharing your struggles and successes with others makes your journey so much easier and less daunting.
14. Review your Goals!
As the months go on, things change and people change, so your goals may have to change in alignment with that and that’s okay. Just because you’ve written down a goal doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. Goals are designed to be adjusted as you grow and your needs, desires and priorities change. Sometimes it is necessary to reconsider the goals you’ve set yourself by either changing them or putting them on hold.
Revisit and review your goals regularly to make sure they’re still relevant to you. If you find that you have achieved your original goal faster than you expected – Don’t stop there! Raise the bar and achieve even more! If you find that your original goal isn’t working for you – change it! Maybe your original goal is no longer important to you halfway through the year due to life changes or a shift in priorities. That’s OK. Acknowledge it, change it, review it and press on.
15. Visualise The Outcome!
Visualise yourself achieving the goal you set out for yourself. A great way to do this is to create a vision/mood/inspiration board or for you to look at every now and then. Spend time reflecting on this and visualise what life would be like for you once you have achieved your goals. How will you feel when you’ve accomplished them? What will it mean for you?
This will help you to refocus your attention away from getting bogged down by technicalities of how your goals will be achieved and allow you to feel inspired by what it would look like and feel like when you’ve reached them. But do so with caution…
16. Be Present!
Remember not to get too fixated on the destination of reaching your end goal that you forget to enjoy the journey of actually getting there. Enjoy the journey you’re on. The process of achieving your goals can often be long and unrewarding, but try to embrace the highs and lows every step of the way. Reaching the end goal will be a major success but think about how exciting it could be to watch your goals come to life day by day! Absorb yourself in the process as you work to get to where you want to be and you may find that you reach your goals a lot quicker with greater satisfaction and fulfilment.
17. Celebrate Your Successes!
As mentioned, the process of achieving your goals can be long and unrewarding, so it’s important to remember to celebrate the successes you achieve along the way. Take it back to the previous tip about breaking down your bigger goals into smaller, more achievable goals and give yourself some type of reward for each smaller goal you hit.
For example, buying yourself a new pair of clothing for every half a stone you lose or plan yourself a relaxing movie night for every month you’ve attended all of your exercise classes. However you decide to do it, make sure you reward yourself for the hard work you’re putting in. We may be adults but a bit of positive reinforcement gives us the motivation to keep pushing on when we know something rewarding and exciting awaits. It works for the kids so why not!
18. Believe in Yourself!
Lastly and (kinda) most importantly… Believe in yourself. There’s no point in doing all of this if you’re riddled with self-doubt and self-critical thinking. Believe in yourself, commit to your goals and give it all you’ve got. These are your goals and only you can receive the full benefit from it all. At the end of the day, believing you can and will do something will do you more good than harm vs. believing that you won’t.
You can do it!