how to achieve your goals
The beginning of a new year seems the perfect time to set goals and make a fresh start. Each January, at least half of us make New Year’s resolutions to be and do better. The goals we pick are often familiar – lose weight, exercise, quit smoking, get a new job, save money. We begin with grit determination that ‘this time it will be different – I really mean it’ and we stay on track for at least a week, but alas, the momentum for change fades and fewer than 10% are still on target six months later. So why is sticking to our goals so difficult?
The main reason we don’t stick to our resolutions or goals is simply because changing any behaviour or developing new habits is really hard. The other big reason is that we often, with good intentions, set ourselves too many goals or try to change too many things at once. Keeping up your resolution-momentum to stay on track to achieve your goals is a challenge, but here are 8 things you can do to give yourself an advantage.
1. Answer 2 questions. To help you decide whether the goal is something worth doing, ask yourself: (1) Do I really want to change? (2) Am I prepared to feel uncomfortable and get out of my comfort zone to learn new skills or do things differently in order to reach my goal? You need to answer ‘yes’ to both, in order to succeed.
2. Know your Why. Take time to really understand what you want to accomplish. Having a clear vision of what you want and more importantly, WHY you want it, makes it easier to achieve your goals. For instance, I want to lose weight, because I value my health and feel more in control of my life when I am in a healthy weight range.
3. Be realistic. Start with changes that you can keep and are practical. Ask yourself this simple question, “Could I and Would I do x toward my goal – if the answer is no, then find a different solution. For instance, if your goal is to exercise and you have never been inside a gym in your life, then joining a gym with the idea of attending every day is probably unrealistic – Perhaps a better place to begin would be to go for a walk every second day, to gradually build up your strength. Breaking up long-term goals into more manageable short-term goals can increase the likelihood of you staying on track.
4. Be specific. Write down your goal with a clear intention and plan. Instead of “I want to exercise more,” map out exactly what you could and would do. “I will walk 30-minutes, three times per week after work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I will go with my friend (insert name here!). If I miss a day, I will go on the weekend to make up for it.”
5. Do it with others. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to succeed. Enlist the support of a friend who shares the same goal. Or is there a group of like-minded people that you can join? Perhaps an online community can offer support? People who have already “been there, done that” can be great motivation while you form new habits.
6. Do one thing at a time. One of the quickest routes to failure is trying to work on too many goals at once. For instance, if you want to improve your health, introduce one change at a time. Cut back on alcohol. Give up smoking. Join a gym. Eat more healthily. But don’t do them all at once! Start with just one or two changes.
7. Lapses are normal. Falling off the wagon is a normal part of any change process. It’s inevitable that when trying to give up something (alcohol, cigarettes, junk food) or make lifestyle changes, there will be times you lapse or circumstances make it tough to stay on track. Expect this will happen (it’s life) and simply start afresh. Two steps forward, one step back.
8. Get a coach. You can’t expect to get the best out of yourself without some guidance. Just like an athlete who wants to get better, willpower alone is not enough - you need a coach to help you stay accountable and teach you skills to improve. A clinical psychologist is like a coach or personal trainer who can teach you evidence-based strategies to help you reach your goals as well as address any underlying issues that may be getting in the way of your success – whether it is the new year or not. For more on personal growth, see our blog post called a simple formula for life.
If your goals feel out of reach or you can’t seem to make lifestyle changes that stick, you are certainly not alone. It takes time, persistence and consistent effort to effect change. The most important thing is to never stop trying because nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. If the idea of life coaching or having an accountability coach interests you, then try working with one of the clinical psychologists at Fulham Consulting, in person or online. Make 2019 the year that you reach your goals.