You’ve probably set a resolution or goal in the past and then promptly forgot about it. Or realized you set out to climb a mountain instead of the tiny hill you’d imagined.
Creating goals can be a hard process and sticking to them can be even harder. Over 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail and most of them are abandoned by February. Those numbers tell us that meaningful change is hard for just about everyone.
Why are goals so hard to make a reality? What can you do to have a meaningful year full of all the changes you dream of?
Tips for Creating Meaningful Change
1. Look backward for clues.
The first thing you can do to start to understand how past goals have gotten derailed is to spend some time thinking about what went wrong. Did you set a goal with too high of a bar? Did you spell out the steps to achieving the goal, or did you just come up with a vague idea of something you wanted? At what point during your goal journey did you stop working toward the goal?
The more detailed you can get with what has happened in the past, the more you can start to understand what you need in order to create goals that are achievable for you.
2. Clearly define your goal.
In order for goals to be achievable, they need to be easy to understand and measurable. Goals like “lose weight” are a little harder to wrap your mind around than something like “lose 25 pounds.” Don’t be afraid to get specific. The more than you can specifically say when the goal has been achieved, the more you’ll know when you’ve completed it.
3. Make it achievable.
Humans tend to get too ambitious when it comes to goal setting. If you take one look at your goals and feel overwhelmed by them, they’re asking too much of you. We like quick feedback and rewards, so make your goals something that you can do in a reasonable amount of time. If you have a long-term goal, break it down into shorter-term goals so you can celebrate along the way. Make your journey rewarding and always focus on self-care throughout the process.
4. Find a ‘why’ for your goal.
Often we know what we want to do, but we might not have a specific ‘why’ quite yet. We know that people tend to be far more ambitious when they have a purpose for doing something. Maybe you’d like to develop a deeper wellness practice as one of your goals. But do you know why yet? Find a story that will give your goals meaning and you’ll deepen your commitment to them. Thinking about your ‘why’ might also cause you to redefine your goal and how you’ll measure it.
5. Set intentions instead of resolutions.
The classic New Year’s resolutions fail is a common story, but by thinking of goals this way you’ll already be setting yourself up for failure. Instead of being only focused on actions (“Go to the gym every day”), creating an intention means that you look at the bigger picture (“Move my body in ways that feel good and make me feel energized”). When you find the ‘why’ for something, you turn it into a more meaningful intention that is about changing your life for the long-term.
6. Check in with your goal frequently.
It’s easy to create a goal and then forget all about it. It’s important to keep an eye on your progress to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction. You don’t need to get obsessive or spend too much time worrying about whether or not you’re doing it all correctly. But it’s important to make sure you’re on track and enjoying the journey.
7. Find an accountability partner.
It’s easy to backslide on goals when there’s no one else watching what you’re doing. For all kinds of reasons, humans are social creatures and we love doing things with other people. When no one else cares about what we’re doing, it can be hard to build up enough care for it within ourselves. Finding an accountability partner solves this puzzle. It turns a lonely project into something more social and fun. Your accountability partner’s presence might mean that you’re more likely to actually work toward your weekly checkpoints when you remember that you need to report to them.
8. Work with a wellness coach.
An accountability partner is awesome for those of us who know what we’re doing but just need a little support in doing it. When you’re embarking on a whole new journey, though, you might enjoy the support and expertise of a wellness coach. That way, when you hit a roadblock and don’t have enough personal knowledge to get around it, your wellness coach can jump in to offer useful ideas.
9. Work on your mindset.
Goals can be big and daunting sometimes, which can open the door to self-doubt. Give your mind a little love every day, working on your attitude and how you see what you’re doing. When you need a little confidence boost, you can be your best friend. Optimists are more likely to achieve what they set out to do. Make sure to add in time for working on your mindset every day to help you get to the end of your goal road. Pretty soon you’ll notice all the meaningful change you’re creating in your life.
10. Make goals and intentions a lifestyle.
It’s easy to think that creating change is something people do in January, but the best part of it all is you can work on improving your life at any time. When you ditch the “100% or not at all” mentality, you’ll find that there are moments every day when you can work toward the overarching goal of feeling better and enjoying your life more.
If you miss a day of working out, that’s okay. You’re focused on the big picture, which is health, well-being, and meaningful change for your whole life.