Here are 10 Easy Tips To Accomplish Your Goals This Year. According to research done by the University of Scranton, just over 9% of New Year’s Resolutions succeed!1 This high “drop out” rate has led many to abandon the idea of setting goals at all, with the mindset that “I’ll probably give up or fail anyway.” However, it’s important to set goals for ourselves and practice self-discipline in following through! In one study, those who made specific goals were 10 times more likely to succeed than those who had “vague goals” .2 In other words, if you don’t set a specific goal and actually commit to it, your chances of achieving that goal are less than 1%.
I’ve combined personal experience, advice from top behavioral psychiatrists, and strategies from leading entrepreneurs to bring you 10 tips to slay your goals in 2019:
- Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound!
Having a vague goal such as “save more money” or “eat healthier” is too easy to break. Instead, set a specific goal, such as “save $6,000 by the end of the year” or “eat at least 3 cups of vegetables per day.” When setting specific goals, you should make sure they are measurable. For example, it’s easy to add up $6,000, or measure 3 cups of vegetables. It’s not easy to measure “more” or “healthier.” After all, a key part of reaching your goals is tracking your progress. Your goals also need to be attainable, or you’ll set yourself up for failure from the start! For example, “no processed food this year” is not realistic. Choose something that you can accomplish with your available time and resources.
Your goals should also be relevant to you, something that you care about (not based one social pressures) and is in line with other life priorities. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose motivation. Finally, your goal should be time-bound. This could be an end date (“lose 50 pounds by December of this year”), a time slot of your daily schedule (“exercise for 30 minutes each day”), or something done on a regular basis (“set aside $250 every pay period”). You may find it helpful to break down your resolution into smaller monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Doing so will keep you motivated by small victories and make it easier to measure progress.
- Find What Motivates You
In order to be successful, your goals must align with what motivates you most! If your dream is to travel more with your spouse or kick back and enjoy your retirement years, use this as your motivation to save money each paycheck. Maybe you just want to have more energy and feel healthier. This could be enough motivation, but you can make your intent more powerful by attaching it to what matters most in your life. For example, “I want to eat healthier so I can be a good example to my children.” Now you’ve attached your goal to a core value (family), making it more important to you. If you can’t seem to find a core value that relates to your goal, think about how it will improve your life as a whole. For example, reaching 15% body fat is hard to attach to a core value, but maybe by accomplishing something so difficult, you will foster self-confidence in other areas, such as your career or personal life.
- Keep Your Goal in Sight
Keep your goal at the forefront of your mind! An easy way to do this is to write down your goal and stick it to the fridge or bathroom mirror where you’ll see it every day. Set the background of your smartphone or computer with a photo that reminds you of your goal (perhaps yourself in the best shape of your life, or your fitness inspiration). Add pop-up reminders in your calendar to remind you of your goal throughout the day.
Another way to “keep your goal in sight” is to constantly remind yourself of your goal, especially when faced with a challenge or the temptation to quit. For example, “I want to skip the gym today, but my resolution is to exercise four times per week and today is the last day I can go.” Or, “I want to buy this, but my goal is to save $250 each paycheck and I won’t be able to if I spend any more.”
Ask yourself, “Will this decision get me closer to my goal, or further from it?” If your goal is important to you, make choices that support it.
- Ask for Accountability
There’s no shame in asking for help! One study showed that participants in a structured group setting lost three times the weight of those who took a “self-help” approach, and did a better job keeping it off.3 Whether it’s a group exercise classes, a clinic-based weight loss group, a competitive fitness team, a Facebook group, or a “diet bet” … teaming up with others will help keep you accountable and motivated.
If a group approach isn’t your thing, have at least one accountability partner: someone with similar goals, a coach, mentor, friend, or family member. A big part of my role as a coach is keeping my clients accountable through weekly food diary reviews, regular weigh-ins, and simply encouraging them to keep going.
Finally, tell as many people as you can what your resolution is! This alone will make you more accountable to your goals.
- Plan for Success
What is it going to take to actually accomplish your goals? Consider how your lifestyle needs to change, how your schedule must change, plus weekly and daily action items to keep moving forward. For example, schedule time each week to plan your meals, grocery shop, prep food, and exercise.
Last but not least, plan to fail (at least sometimes). You will probably get sick and miss the gym, and your will power will likely fail and you’ll eat too much. Rather count your efforts as a loss and give up, see it as a learning experience and move on. Ask yourself, “How can I avoid this in the future?” Or if you can’t, perhaps, “What can I do to get back on track?” Have a success mindset, not a mindset of failure.
- Be Flexible
When plans change (and they will), have a “plan B.” So, your 6:00pm gym plans got nixed by a late meeting? Go for an evening run or do a home workout after dinner instead. If your resolution is too rigid or strict, you’ll set yourself up for failure. Instead, start with a realistic goal, and include allowances for special circumstances. For example, “I will exercise four times per week except in the case of sickness, injury, or emergency.” Again, make sure your goal is realistic!
- Replace Bad Habits with Good Habits
During this process, you may realize some bad habits you need to break. Maybe when you’re stressed you nibble mindlessly or even binge-eat. Rather than simply trying to break the bad habit, replace it with a healthy habit. Try stretching when you feel tense, munching raw veggies when you’re anxious, or going for a walk outside when you’d usually raid the pantry.
Other people can encourage bad habits, too! If certain people consistently derail you, discuss with them the importance of your goals and the changes you want to make. Some might not respect your desires, which just means you need to distance yourself from them or set boundaries within your relationship. Surround yourself with people that encourage good habits and motivate you!
- Practice Positivity
Having a positive mindset is a powerful tool for conquering your goals, especially when things get tough. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. You can’t change the past, so don’t dwell on your mistakes. Focus instead on how you can do better. Consider what thoughts or feelings may be feeding into bad habits and replace those with positive thoughts and affirmations. For example, maybe every time you binge-eat, you start by feeling like you’re not making any progress. Replace this negative feeling with a positive affirmation, “I may not have seen a loss on the scale, but I am eating better and exercising more. These habits will foster health for years to come!”
Your source of motivation should be positive, too. Wanting to lose weight because you hate the way you look isn’t the best incentive. Instead, let your motivation be to get healthier, show a good example to your family, or to simply feel good about caring of yourself!
- Minimize Distractions
You can only do so much at once. In order to effectively focus on your goal, some other things will need to take a backseat. Don’t overextend yourself and keep your priorities straight. This could mean simplifying your life, saying “no” to certain social engagements, or setting some projects aside for now. It may even mean dropping hobbies or interests that are preventing you from getting on track!
Many people complain of having a “lack of time”, yet fail to realize how much free time they could have. You can spend hours per week scrolling social media, watching television, surfing the web, reading magazines, checking email, playing video games, cleaning house, and hanging out with friends. By effectively regulating time spent in these areas, you’ll have more time for self-improvement and tacking those goals.
- Reward Yourself
Rather than punishing yourself when you fall off track, reward yourself for consistent efforts. Your reward should be related to your goal, but not conflicting. For example, it doesn’t make sense to reward a week of healthy eating with fast food binge. Instead, what about a high-speed blender, fancy new meal prep containers, or that air fryer you’ve been eyeing? Or a case of kombucha as a healthy splurge? Or a new workout outfit for exercising every weekday this month? These are all great rewards for being consistent with your healthy lifestyle!
Sarah Wilkins, Nutritionist, B.S. Dietetics
- Statistic Brain. “New Years Resolution Statistics.” Statistic Brain, University of Scranton, 15 Dec. 2018, www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/.
- Norcross, John C., et al. “Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Years Resolvers and Nonresolvers.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol. 58, no. 4, 2002, pp. 397–405., doi:10.1002/jclp.1151.
- Heshka S, Anderson JW, Atkinson RL, et al. Weight Loss With Self-help Compared With a Structured Commercial Program: A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1792–1798. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1792