It’s December 31st and you have written goals for the upcoming year. You have ambition, plans, and so much motivation. It’s the day before the new year and there is no way you can fail with your list of goals happily tucked away in your jacket pocket as you clink champagne glasses with your friends, enjoying your last night before hitting the gym, eating healthier and reading more books. January 1st you feel great — you’ve got this — but a couple months later you’re starting to have doubts. Your grandiose plans and goals somehow seem much less attainable than they once were and eating nothing but carrots and waking up at 5 a.m. for morning yoga and shopping less have all become really difficult. Maybe you should just give up — there’s always next year, right? New Year’s Resolutions have their place, a new year is a fresh start, but it is actually possible to fail at your goals if you aren’t prepared for reality.
Here are five steps to help you actually stick to your New Year’s resolutions all year long:
1. Be realistic.
You know yourself better than anyone else. The last thing you need to do is set your expectations for yourself too high because then (unfortunately) you are destined to fail. Try to find a happy medium between the “new you” and the old you — somewhere that gets you closer to your version of ideal.
2. Be organized.
Organizing your goals into individual categories will help you determine how realistic they are and also what areas of your life you are focusing on. A good way to categorize your goals is: personal, professional, financial and fun / miscellaneous. Once you write all your goals into their categories take a moment to decide if you are satisfied with the amounts in each category. Is there an area that is getting too little or too much emphasis? This will also help you prioritize — if one of your goals is “personal” (to eat healthier, for example) and another is “fun” (to travel more) it’s easier to decide which is more important to you when they are split up.
The worst goal we can set is a general one without any tangible end point. A perfect example is the resolution to “get healthier”. What on earth does that even mean? Eating better? Exercising more? Drinking more water? Not smoking? It’s too vague and there are also no numbers. A better resolution might be: “Eat five healthy meals per week,” or “Exercise once a day.” Only you will know how to quantify your own goals but unless you do, you will have no actionable way to accomplish them.
4. Set milestones.
A year is a long time. 365 days to fail (if you want to think of it that way). Instead of trying to make it to the end of the year accomplishing one goal, break your resolution up into several mini-goals and track your progress throughout the year. Perhaps sit down once per month and determine how you have been working towards your overall goal or set something more concrete — “read one book by June.”
5. Be focused.
Everyday is a new day to work towards the resolutions you made at the beginning of the year. If you start off each day thinking about what you can do to accomplish your goals there is no way you can fail. In the same sense, don’t spread yourself too thin. It is tempting to make hundreds of goals and resolutions but it is much harder to actually stick to so many. Focus on the ones that are most important to you, and save the others as bonuses. If you zero in on those few must-do’s, you will succeed.