photo by breaking pic for Pexels
by Andrea M. Darcy
Set the same New Year goals every year, and every year it’s a blowout?
5 Steps to making your New Year goals a success this time
Often, without realising it, we are setting ourselves up to fail with your goals. But there are steps we can take to turn it around this New Year.
1. Change the charge.
Most new years resolutions are negative, or come with built-in judgement systems. They sound like, ‘I’m going to lose weight’ (I’m too fat), ‘I’ll quit smoking’ (I have no willpower), ‘this year I’ll finally find a better job’ (I’m undervalued at work and complacent).
The problem is that nobody is inspired by dreary things that make us feel bad about ourselves or point out what we perceive as our flaws.
Turn the charge of your resolution around by looking for the BENEFIT it would bring to your life if you achieved it, and make that your goal instead.
- lose weight becomes ‘feel healthy and energised’
- quit smoking becomes ‘being able to breathe deeply and go running’
- find a better job becomes ‘work in an environment where my talents shine’.
Find the benefit that works for you personally. When you think about your rephrased resolution, it should feel good instead of exhausting.
2. Break it down and break it down again.
Most New year’s resolutions are also hugely overwhelming. They are too much for us to take on without panic.
The human brain is designed to scan for and avoid danger. And it often sees modern-day stress as danger. In other words, you are designed to avoid things that feel too stressful. The moment you choose a New Year goals that feels really big, you are writing up your own failure.
So break the proverbial mountain you’ve decided to climb into boulders, then rocks, then gravel.
For example, the mountain of losing weight could break down into the ‘boulders’ of changing your mindset around food, starting to learn about health and self-care, finding exercise you love doing, and getting help if you have binge eating disorder.
Picking the first one, changing your mindset, this ‘rock’ can involve getting some books, taking a course, or joining an healthy eating group. To get those books, that means researching the books, deciding what ones you want, and then ordering them. So the ‘gravel’ is to spend an hour researching books.
3. Get the feeling of success now, not in six months, to reach those New Year goals this time.
The secret of making goals happen is to get a taste of success as soon as possible. So once you have that easy ‘gravel’ goal, do it today or soon.
Then take all the other small steps you came up with and schedule each one into your diary and make each step as important as any other scheduled thing.
Isn’t finally feeling good in your life which improves your mental health as important as, say, seeing a doctor for your physical health?
Ideally, one small action a step a day, at least Monday to Friday, is the way forward. Even one phone call is a coup, and keeps you in the energy of success.
4. Record everything and reward yourself.
We feel successful when we remember to pat ourselves on the back. And yet time can go so quickly, we can forget all the small steps we put time into, and forget how far we’ve come.
So take the time to record every small achievement in a designated journal you can look over when losing incentive. And each time you achieve a certain amount of steps towards your goal celebrate, whether that is by going out for dinner or buying some nice bath salts for yourself.
Do not overlook this ‘reward’ step as it’s actually a brain hack. The brain is designed to continue things that it feels rewarded for. For example, it releases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine to give us a ‘feel good’ sensation so that we will continue things it sees as essential to survival, like eating. (Although unfortunately our brain didn’t evolve with the times, and doesn’t realise that a pile of junk food is non essential). Regardless, when it starts to realise something leads to rewards, we are more likely to continue.
4. Expand the time container.
Most of us grossly underestimate how much time a goal will take. Then are hard on ourselves when we don’t meet what is a totally unrealistic timeline. But picking a realistic timeframe is part of good SMART goals.
So a simple trick is to double your timeline or ‘time container’.
If you have decided you will quit smoking by your birthday in a few months, give yourself six months. If you’ve decided to be in a bikini by summer, decide to be in a bikini for a trip away in the autumn.
Yes, you might achieve your goal before you think. But if you stress yourself out with a short timeline, your unconscious mind is far more likely to decide it’s too much and simply sabotage.
Not sure what timeline works? Here’s a simple trick – use mindfulness. Find a quiet private place, practise deep, focussed breathing until you feel settled into your body. Then think of the new timeline you have in mind. Do you feel tension in your body? A clenching in your jaw or stomach? Try adding a few months. Keep going until you reach a timeline that feels good.
[Never tried mindfulness? You are in luck, we offer a free, easy-to-read and follow Guide to Mindfulness.]
And the fastest way of all to reach New Year goals?
Set the same new year goals for several years now? Then the truth might be not that you can’t achieve it, but that you need help to get there.
The fastest way forward can be seeking support. For some of us this can be using the power of accountability that friends can provide.
But if we really struggle to move forward in life, it can be down to unresolved issues that go back as childhood that are leaving us trapped in unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaving.
Working with a good therapist or life coach can help you finally see what is really holding you back. You’ll learn what you really want instead of what you tell yourself you want, and how you can raise your confidence and take practical steps forward at last.
We connect you with a team of highly regarded London-based coaching psychologists who can help you reach your goals this year. Or use our new therapy listings site, where you can find UK-wide counsellors ranked by client reviews.