Why do we wait until New Year's Day to make meaningful change in our lives? Society has trained us to use the New Year as a time of reflection and change. If this philosophy worked, then so would New Year's resolutions!
Did you know that studies have shown 80% of New Years resolutions fail! (Source: Forbes) I'm sure your not surprised by this. I've had resolutions fail just like everyone else. Since the failure rate is so high, clearly we need a new way to make meaningful change in our lives.
To create a new routine or habit, start by taking the time to reflect on the most recent past. There are good times and bad times over the past few months. All of them have meaning in our lives and give us experiences that help us deal with the future. Those experiences are a great starting point to define what changes we would like to make.
Ask yourself questions such as what do I want to achieve? What do I want to continue doing? What do I want to stop doing? When asking yourself these questions, you'll conjure up so many ideas that it can be overwhelming.
This is the reason why so many new goals at the beginning of the year fail. We take on too much and try to change too many things all at once. This leads to feelings of frustration, anxiety and makes us give up on our new goals.
Below are 5 steps to creating goals that are achievable.
#1 CREATE A FOCUSED LIST
The fewer goals you have, the more you can achieve. Quality over quantity will definitely make the difference. Here is how you do it.
Sit in a quiet space and write down all of the things you want to work on. This is an unlimited list! Write down 100 things if you want. Topics such as journaling, make intentions, learning how to cook, starting an exercise program, take a yoga class once a week, eating more vegetables, drinking more water, the list can go on and on and on. Below is an example:
Once the very large list is finished, combine all of the things you want to focus on into groups of similar activities. For example, doing more yoga and starting an exercise routine are physical activities. Put them in one group.
Eating more vegetables and learning how to cook can be combined into a group. Doing this helps narrow the number of goals. Below is an example of all of the things I wrote down and how I organized it into groups.
What is very clear now is I have 4 specific goals to work on. The previous list becomes part of this list because there are activities that help me achieve the goals. This creates flexibility which allows you to stay on track. For example, maybe taking a yoga class doesn't work for you because you also tried a HIIT class and you really like that better. It doesn't matter which activity you do because either one of them meets the goal of exercising more.
#2 CREATE CHECKPOINTS
Keep your goals posted somewhere that you can see them everyday. It might be on a computer screen, maybe it is on your phone. By seeing your goals everyday, you are reminded to work on them everyday.
Creating a checkpoint, a time that you go back and evaluate how you did against your goal, is a great way to see if you need to modify a goal. It may even turn out that the goal has become less important to you! That is OK. Our lives change, things happen that may change our priorities. Being flexible with yourself will only help you create new routines.
Let's take the goal of eating plant-based. I know if I have achieved this goal simply by how I've been eating and cooking. If I am on track, I will know that eating less meat is simply part of my routine. Instead of eating 4 days of meat based dishes, I am eating 3 days.
Let's say I do a check-in and I realize I haven't been able to consistently eat 4 dinners plant-based per week. Now is the time to figure out what happened. Am I having difficulty finding recipes that incorporate more vegetables? Is my family not supportive so I've been going back to the same old cooking routine?
I have to ask myself, what can I do differently to achieve my goal. If needed, you may need to find a coach to help you plan how to achieve your goal.
#3 YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR GOALS
Life happens! What goals you had two months ago can very easily change. Maybe you get a new job which doesn't give you the time to achieve one of the goals your working on. Maybe you need to take time off to care for a loved one. Maybe you need to cut back on spending to increase savings. Maybe you develop an allergy that needs to be corrected.
What ever change has occurred simply means you can change how you achieve a goal. Let's take one of my goals from above. My goal of continuing to focus on my health means exercising 3-5 times a week. This requires an investment of $56 per month for the gym, $60 per month for hot yoga and $100 per month for strength training.
A couple of months ago, that investment is not a problem. Now, I have a new job that lowers my income. So I must reorganize my monthly budget. I no longer can spend $216 per month on working out. This doesn't mean I can't keep up a workout routine to continue focusing on my health. It simply means I have to change how I achieve my goal.
Instead, I can scale down how often I go to strength training and hot yoga. Instead, I look on YouTube for free classes I can do at home. I can keep the monthly gym membership for $56 per month or I could switch gyms to go to a $10 per month gym.
For birthdays or holidays, I can ask for gift cards to a yoga studio as a treat. Sometimes we need to think differently to achieve our goals versus just give up on them.
#4 SCHEDULE, SCHEDULE, SCHEDULE
Most of us can create new health habits by making a schedule we can stick to. I find if I write down weekly activities that support my goals, I am more likely to achieve my goals. If working on increasing the amount of exercise, plan what exercise activity you will do each day of the week.
But be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself. While having a plan can help achieve a goal, sometimes you may not feel up to it. For example, I may plan on going to Spin class but when I get to the gym, I felt more comfortable working out on the elliptical machine. That is OK. I am still achieving my goal of being active.
If your goal is eat more fruits and vegetables, create weekly strategies to get there. Maybe you write down what you are eating for meals and snacks for the week. Maybe you look for a vegetarian recipe for dinner to make for the family one night during the week.
The beauty of writing down activities that help you achieve your goals is that you have history. You can look back during your check-in and see what you achieved. If writing it down isn't appealing to you, you can always create reminders in your phone or on your computer.
#5 ASK FOR SUPPORT
Don't underestimate the power of support. If you are working on a goal and you haven't told your family and friends, you will have a more difficult time achieving your goals. Clearly ask them for their support.
Tell them why the goal is important to you. Tell them to ask how you are doing towards your goal. This gives you a forum to talk about progress or roadblocks you have experienced. You can also ask them to join you in your goal. You never know what their answer may be.
Years ago, I started eating a mostly plant based diet. I had been doing a lot of reading about how meat consumption just isn't good for our bodies. So I tried it.
This meant I had to make two dinners for the days I ate plant based. One for my meat eating husband and a plant based recipe for me. While this was extra effort, I knew I was doing something good for my health so I was willing to take this extra step.
After about a year, I asked my significant other if he would be willing to have at least one plant based dinner per week. He shocked me in saying yes. I never even thought of asking him to do it when I first started doing it!
I assumed his answer would be no. Now, I even make him a plant based lunch once a week. He never complains! This year my husband decided to eat two plant based dinners per week. I am so proud he is willing to cut back on eating meat.
I hope this blog post gave you some ideas on how to create and organize your goals to make them achievable. Waiting for New Years Day to create a new habit is an old school way of thinking about goals. We can make change in our lives any day of the year!
Do you think you will create goals to start working on? Let me know what tips above you'll be using by leaving a comment below.