2017 is coming to a rapidly approaching end. Which means a lot of us start to think about setting new goals for ourselves, using the New Year as a benchmark for new beginnings.
Statistically, the first few weeks of your resolutions go off without a hitch. But by February, people start to veer off course. And a huge reason why?
Because the date January 1st does not hold magic powers. Real change does not occur in an instant. You won’t wake up on the first day of 2018 and suddenly be able to completely overhaul every single area of your life.
But don’t allow this to discourage you! I believe most of the time we quit right before our breakthroughs. Because that is when life gets the toughest.
Real change in your life comes at the price of real, persistent and hard work. Every single day. There are often no immediate rewards. There are no crash diets for new goals. Quick fixes, easy buttons and being comfortable do not exist in the same realm as change in your life.
Likewise, you do not need to wait for a new calendar year to reinvent yourself. That mentality puts so much pressure on you that you may get discouraged at the first sign of a setback or obstacle.
So when setting goals, whether they come in time for New Year’s Resolutions or you simply want to implement some life-changing plans without waiting for the Times Square Ball to drop, it is important to tackle them wisely and with a real sense of long-term vision.
Let’s discuss some ways to set REALISTIC goals to launch you into long-term and overall success, and not simply rely on the gusto of a “New Year, New Me” mentality.
After all, there are no crash diets to your bigger goals.
1) Write it down
The first thing you should do is WRITE DOWN your goals. I’ve said this before, but the act of writing things out helps to solidify what the goal looks like to you. See the words clearly on paper.
Begin with some BIGGER PICTURE goals. The long-term visions, the 3 month, 5 month, and year plans. Buying a house, losing weight, working out more, changing careers etc.
Now that you have that, it is equally important to specify your SUB GOALS under that category. The small daily steps that you can take to achieve the bigger picture. Ask yourself how realistic the time frame you are putting on this goal is. Do you have the resources to achieve it in the desired amount of time? And how can you work on those sub goals daily?
2) Get very specific
Huge goals can feel intimidating. Sometimes it’s that uncertainty of where do I even begin?
“I want to lose weight” or “I want to have better relationships” are all broad statements. Get very specific about the results you want to achieve. Your expectations should be both REALISTIC and MOTIVATING.
When you SPECIFY the desired outcome, it makes the journey towards your goals more achievable.
You can begin to see BIGGER PICTURE goals by mentally visualizing your results, before you actually seeing the results manifest. You want to lose weight? What size and colour of jeans do you want to fit into? You want to work out more? What kind of workouts, what days are you going, do you want to put on muscle or lean up? You hope to travel more? What’s your budget, do you need to cut back on certain things to achieve those dreams? Get SPECIFIC about the goals you want to crush. Properly DEFINE your resolutions in a REALISTIC, TIME APPROPRIATE manner.
And when it gets tough, come back to the WHY. “I want to lose weight because I want to feel amazing at my daughter’s wedding.” “I want to cut sugar from my diet because it makes me feel sluggish and unproductive.” Having a WHY allows you to come back to the root of what made you start, which is motivating during times of doubt.
3) Stop procrastinating
I’ve had so many people say to me “I really want to try SoulCycle! But I have to get into better shape first. Once I do that, I’ll feel ok to try.”
Instead of this approach, I encourage you to just GO AFTER the things you want!
I promise, you will never achieve your visions if you are stuck in the endless holding pattern of waiting. If you find yourself “waiting” for a new job, a better body, a new partner, more money, or for things to “settle down” before you take a leap of faith and just BEGIN… you will undoubtedly be stuck waiting forever.
So when you set goals, do so with the intention of starting them without hesitation. You’ve set the realistic time frame, you’ve been smart about the approach. Now it’s time to GO AFTER them.
4) Focus on slow and steady changes OVERALL
Without a doubt, we live in a world of instant gratification. We post a pic, we hope to get a ton of likes immediately. We want a date, there’s an app for it. You want to find an answer, pull out your smart phone and google it.
But life’s changes can’t be achieved instantly.
So instead of expecting to see immediate results, and getting frustrated when you don’t, focus on those sub goals. The ones that are smart and achievable on a daily basis.
Let’s take, for example, the goal of working out more. If you are someone who typically works out twice a month, it’s going to be such a dramatic change to decide to work out 5 times a week. You may be ok for a few weeks, but the intensified routine will probably start to feel exhausting. You will possibly feel overwhelmed because rapid change is not often met with ease.
Instead, create some steady changes to your habits that won’t lead you to feel discouraged. Decide to BEGIN by working out twice a week, and make changes to your diet to support your increase in workouts. Ensure that you are taking your supplements, drinking enough water and resting (sub goals, working towards the bigger picture results). As you start to feel better overall, increase the workouts to 3 times a week. Once that starts to feel ingrained in your body, see what happens when you challenge yourself and increase the number.
Imagine you just went from 2 workouts a month to 5 a week without changing any other parts of your life. You would be setting yourself up for failure. If your workouts increase, your diet will need to improve. You will need to sleep more, you will have less time for friends or family and you may need to sacrifice some weekends out. Changing big habits like that takes a bit of time, so grant yourself the patience and the vision to keep moving towards your bigger picture goals does not mean a crash course in change.
Slow and tangible changes to your OVERALL life daily allow you to increase your progress to your big picture goals.
5) Take control of what you can control
Some things are simply out of our control. You can have all the right reasons to want to do something, or make a change in your life. You can write it down, visualize it, desire it with your whole heart, but not always achieve it in the way you hoped to.
So when creating your goals, it is important to remember that you can’t control all the factors required to achieve those things. Maybe your goal is to receive a promotion, or to meet the partner of your dreams.
You don’t know (nor can you control) who else may apply for your job, and likewise you may go on a bunch of dates and meet people who are not relationship-worthy. So the tone of your goals is just as important as the goal itself. Instead of “I want a promotion” or “I want to be in a committed relationship”, focus on doing things to increase your chances of job advancement (maybe your goal could be taking a new course, or showing more workplace initiative) or putting yourself out there and going on more dates. Those are all factors within YOUR control, they are bigger picture goals and the Sub goals can be achieved on a daily basis.
6) Expect to fail before you win
I can not stress this enough.
On your road to success, you will undoubtedly fall down. You will hear the word “No”, and you will feel like giving up. You will get tired, sore, hit a learning curve. You’ll go on dates and it will be awkward AF. Some weeks you may fall off your workout regimen.
Setbacks are not enough to give up on yourself. When we set goals, we can not only be happy in the moments that we are achieving them. Stay focused, adaptive and resilient even in the times that you are struggling.
Know that it is ok to not always be “crushing” your goals according to your plan. Free yourself of that pressure, and bring it back to the WHY. You set those goals for a reason. Breathe, allow the space to make mistakes. But just don’t use a setback as an excuse to give up.
7) Benchmark your progress
We talked about breaking your goals down into manageable chunks so they do not feel overwhelming. With your BIGGER PICTURE goals, allow yourself more time to achieve them. Continue to narrow in and focus on your sub goals, and on those small steps that can be taken daily.
Measure your progress. If it’s a weight loss journey, document it through photos. If it’s taking more fitness classes, keep records of the number of classes. Whatever it may be, from career to personal, find a way to measure your growth.
While I love to encourage forward vision and always striving for more, it is essential that we do not get so wrapped up with our aspirations that we forget to appreciate how far we have come.
So measure your progress. Look back and celebrate your victories, and forgive yourself for moments of doubt. After all, we can not control everything, and we are all just doing our best.
Real changes in your life can not be achieved through a crash diet of non-specific Resolutions. Long-term vision, and daily dedication is required to create LASTING results. I promise you that January 1st is not a magical day, that whatever you want to achieve will just happen because you wished upon it really hard.
If you made a resolution, then know in your gut that you made a smart, time appropriate, and realistic goal. That you made it for a reason, that you can measure and track your progress. And most importantly, know that your goal is not going to be some overnight transformation. There are simply no quick fixes to bigger picture goals.
If you want more tips for staying motivation to take action, click here.