How To Set New Year’s Goals That You Can Actually Achieve
Your garbage can is still overflowing from the wrapping paper (thanks, Santa!), but the blank pages of your journal are begging to be filled before the clock strikes midnight.
Feeling the pressure to set new goals for the new year? Like you, nearly half of all Americans establish annual resolutions. The objectives stretch from a better diet and more exercise, banishing bad habits or starting new ones.
If we’re honest, we fail more than we succeed when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. We sometimes fall off the tracks before the first month has even passed. And by the time next December rolls around, we’ve already forgotten our resolutions.
What’s the point of New Year’s resolutions?
If we feel deemed to fail, why do we even try? Because we care! Our passion urges us to weigh less, be more creative, expand our social circles, or achieve the impossible. Rewind the cassette tape of your mind back to childhood, back to the days when your dreams were infinite and you took the first step right away.
- You wanted to be an author? I bet you started writing down your story in a black and white composition notebook.
- You dreamed about being a mommy? You probably started playing with baby dolls or babysitting.
- You thought it would be so neat to be an astronaut? Your bookshelf likely had library books about outer space, or you rented movies about rocket ships.
Your childhood zeal to reach your dreams was real. Although it’s been modified with life experience, it’s still there. That’s why you want to set New Year’s resolutions.
Oh, and there might be a tiny part of you that sets annual aspirations because it’s grown into such a cultural norm.
What determines your success or failure?
It all boils down to self-control.
A 2005 study concluded that individuals who believe that self-control is unlimited will set and achieve more resolutions. They are the people who say things like “I can lose 20 pounds this year. I just have to put in the effort and I will succeed.” Or “I’m creative enough to write a book, especially one that people will enjoy reading.”
Conversely, people who regard self-control as limited tend to do worse in the goals department. They don’t have high levels of self-esteem and therefore make excuses for their limited amounts of self-control. “I can’t help my weight. I inherited the ‘fluffy’ gene so it’s not my fault.” Or “I’m not smart enough to write a book.”
To summarize the study:
- People who have greater amounts of self-control and self-confidence are more likely to set resolutions and achieve their goals.
- Those who lack self-control or self-confidence will set goals with the expectation that they will fail, and will likely not achieve their objectives.
How to set New Year’s resolutions—and fail
What does it look like to write a solid list of fancy aspirations for your upcoming year...and then to fail miserably?
- Hastily write down some goals on New Year’s Day...or on January second.
- Thoughtlessly crafting goals based on your emotions or problems right now, and not considering what your year may hold.
- Being too extreme. Like declaring that, “I will never eat sugar again. And I will never go to bed without exercising.” Or “I’ll write at least 2,000 words everyday.”
- Immediately telling yourself that you will never succeed.
- To never think about your resolutions, especially February onwards.
How to set New Year’s Goals that you can actually achieve
- Thoughtfully create your goals. Remember how it all boils down to self-control? It starts there too! Begin thinking about your goals ahead of time. Ask your family and closest friends about the resolutions you are considering. Start a list of ideas that you can narrow down to a manageable few before the fireworks pop on New Year’s Eve.
- Consider your upcoming year while planning resolutions. Big family changes, vacations, or other events that could impact your progress?
- Set yourself up for success by doing your research. Do you have the right tools to make the changes you desire? Research weight loss workouts or local gym programs, and arrange your calendar to accommodate. Learn the basic elements of a book and understand the complete publishing process. Remember, if you believe you can (aka self-confidence), you are already more likely to flourish!
- Set actionable steps rather than one giant end result. Losing 20 pounds over 12 months sounds overwhelming. But losing 1.5-2 pounds per month feels more reasonable. Losing weight can be daunting in general, but establishing a habit of three workout sessions per week feels manageable. The same applies to writing a 50,000 word book by writing 5,000 words per month or 1,000 words per week.
- Have an action plan to cope with problems, road blocks, or failure. Anticipate success and aim for victory! Yet be aware that the journey will not be smooth sailing. What will you do when you skip a workout or a writing session? How will you adjust if you don’t lose any weight one month or don’t add any words to your manuscript? What about when you get sick or are on vacation? If you have an action plan right now for the foreseeable problems, you are one step closer to reaching your goals.
- Track your progress. Place reminders on your calendar to re-read your original goals and note where you are right now. Every time you give yourself feedback on your goals, make a minor shift toward victory. Continue on that pattern and you will see every baby step of progress along the way.
- Encourage and reward yourself. Speaking of tracking things on your calendar, mark places where you can reward yourself along the way. For example, going to your favorite restaurant after you lose 10 pounds. Buying a new book after you have written 25,000 words.
- Celebrate success! Will it take you the entire year to accomplish your goals? Maybe. But some individuals will reach their target before that time, and some will lengthen their deadline beyond twelve months. Whenever you achieve success, celebrate! You thoughtfully and intentionally persevered to reach this moment—and now is the opportunity to do whatever feels like celebration! Have a party, dine in a special restaurant, have a book launch party, buy a new outfit, etc.
Set your eyes on the prize
Envision that final celebration. Maybe you can see yourself in a brand new outfit that flaunts your 20-pounds-lighter body. Perhaps you’re hosting a book launch event. You get to reward yourself with whatever feels special—but only after you accomplish those goals.
Success is possible, especially for your New Year’s resolutions.
We believe in you, but we also know that we can be our own worst critic. If you struggle to see the good in your heart, the capabilities you possess, or even battle to glance an ounce of hope for your future, we can help.
You are good, capable, and worthy. Your future is bright. Would you allow us to go on the journey toward success with you? Call us so we can get started today.
Clinical Director and Co-Owner at Redeemed Life Counseling