This year I am changing up how I approach my goal setting and “resolutions” because life happens, priorities shift and circumstances are often out of your control (Hi COVID). Normally I sit down at the beginning of the year and create yearly goals but I have found that for the most part I don’t accomplish them. Sometimes the goals were too overzealous, but for the most part the problem is that while I’m gung ho at the beginning of the year I don’t often check in with my goals and take the necessary progressive steps to reach them. If anything, I work towards the goals at the beginning of the year, cruise in the middle of the year and then pick up steam again towards the end of year when I realize the year is almost over and I haven’t achieved my goals. One goal that I have completed for the past few years is reading 52 books per year but this too has followed the same trend with heavier reading toward the beginning and end of the year.
This year I am making quarterly goals to not only keep myself on track, but also give myself additional touchpoints to check in and re-evaluate the goals that I have and the habits I am building to help me reach them. Making quarterly goals allows you to reassess where you are at, what your priorities are and what you feel is truly realistic given your circumstances at the time.
Tips for goal setting:
Set SMART goals, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable/Meaningful, Attainable, Relevant/Rewarding, Timebound. When goals are smaller and measurable you are able to reach these and gain a sense of accomplishment. This then helps to drive your motivation for the next small goal.
Write down your goals. Studies have shown that you are more likely to achieve your goals by writing them down. Read more about this here and here .
Think of your why. Why are trying to achieve these goals? Often times it is not motivation but dedication that helps you attain your goals.
Be realistic. Sometimes we set too many goals which can become stressful. People often tend to give up when they get overwhelmed so its better to start slow and grow your goals from there.
Make small changes that add up. Making smaller goals and smaller attainable changes will help you stay on course for the long run. Setting goals that are too large can make them seem unattainable and setting goals that are too far out can cause you to become complacent because you “have time” to complete them.
For me #5 is really important because building good habits is key to reaching your goals. I think it will be easier to assess and alter habits by checking in with myself more consistently.
One book that I really love about making these small changes is Atomic Habits by James Clear. His work is focused on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement. Reading this book was really helpful for me in getting my life in order, particularly my morning routine. By simply changing how I structured my morning and making sure I was following the same routine each day, I felt like I had such a better start to the day. I have been able to jump start my morning which in turn makes me have such a less stressful, productive day.
The book discusses habit formation and how you can accomplish more by focusing on less. As humans there are so many decisions that we make daily that eliminating even a few of those can make us much more efficient. One of the core philosophies of Atomic Habits is the following: You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. This book will provide insight on how to break bad habits and create better ones through small actions that add up to make a huge difference.
I highly suggest reading this book to start off your year on the right foot. Although at first, the impact a 1% improvement per day can make may appear negligible, in the case of habits, thinking small produces the biggest results over time. Per Clear, “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” Take even a small chunk of time to invest in yourself and see it pay off over time by following what Clear sets forth.
Another great book on the subject is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This book explores the science behind habit creation and reformation including why habits exist, how they work, and how you can change them.
Just remember, motivation is what gets you started but habit is what keeps you going.