Words on Wellness: Sticking with Your Goals

The start of a new year always holds such promise. We tell ourselves that this will be the year that we get that career we want, put our personal health first, and organize our homes so neatly that Martha would approve.

So you have all these great goals in mind. Maybe you even wrote them down. But now what?

The truth is that most of us forget our goals by February. Some die hards will make it through the spring only to toss it all out an open window one carefree and unstructured summer day. And many of us will find ourselves next January 1st, with high hopes and unwavering conviction, writing down the exact same resolutions from the year before.

Through my work as a therapist and my (many) setbacks/mistakes along the way, I have learned a few strategies that seem to be helpful for most of us procrastinators, perfectionists, and so-called “normal” people. Listed here are a few tips that may help you evolve into your best self throughout the year.

1. Reality Check

If I were to have stuck to all of my New Year’s resolutions, I would currently be fluent in three languages, have the body of a beach volleyball player, and meditated my way to nirvana. Sound familiar? Of course you should dream big, but having too unrealistic of goals can set you up for disappointment or feelings of failure.

Think about those perfectionistic types (I know you’re out there) who plan to go to the gym every night of the week, only to find it impossible to return when too many long nights at the office has turned into a week of missed cardio sessions. Been there, done that.

My motto now is: keep it real, keep it in perspective. I try to get to the gym several times a week, but I don’t give up if I skip a few days. Plus, I still have some colossal goals, but they are scaled back a bit to fit my real life.

2. Make them Measurable

So you want to “eat healthier” or “relax more,” but what does that really mean to you? This is an issue that I fall into all the time–creating broad goals that are not clearly defined. By more throughly identifying our goals, we are better able to know when we have actually accomplished them.

When working with clients, I was always taught to make their treatment plan goals measurable. Now why it took me this long to apply it to my own life, I don’t know, but making measurable goals has been a real game changer for me.

Instead of deciding to “eat healthier,” I now have a goal of eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, limiting my dining out to a max of 4 times per month, and serving up at least 3 home-cooked, low-cal dinners per week. Measurable goals are so much more easier to track, stick with, and get results than those vast, sweeping statements.

3. Break it Down Now

Once you have some more measurable goals in mind, its time to break them down into smaller parts. I now have yearly goals, which I broke down into monthly goals, followed by weekly goals. Being far from perfect, I often have the goal to take it one day at a time. Breaking it down takes some sweat and well-thought out moves. However, its the small steps that eventually result in the biggest personal growth.

4. Reward Yourself

I am still that little girl who wants to see shiny metallic stars next to her name. Only now, my rewards usually come in the form of bubble baths, coffee, or a good read. I reward myself along the way because it really seems to keep me motivated. Sometimes I even keep my rewards in line with goal, like buying new gym clothes after sticking with it for a month.

Keep in mind that your rewards don’t have to be expensive or cost anything for that matter. For example, after completing a weeks worth of goals, I’ll take some time out to see a movie, hang out with friends, or just lounge around the house with green tea and fashion magazines. Sometimes just allowing myself to do nothing is a reward in itself.

Think about what rewards might motivate you along the way and dangle those carrots (or lattes) to keep you on track.

5. Review and Revise

Sometimes even our most thought out plans just aren’t working. Case in point, last year I was on a quest to get more organized. I purchased this pricey day planner that I ended up barely touching all year. It wasn’t until the fall that I realized that the planner was just too small, making me resort to writing out my to-do’s in hieroglyphics in an attempt to fit it all in.

Had I of taken time to revisit my goals of getting organized, I might have thought clearer about what to do. Instead, I toted this sad, empty planner around with me all year.

If your actions to achieving your goals aren’t working out for you, try not to focus on what you lost out on. Rather, consider what you have learned through your mistakes and carry that knowledge with you into your future goal-setting.

6. Do What You Like

When revising your goals, ask yourself if they are what you truly desire. It is not uncommon for our goals to evolve and change over time, just as we do. When looking at your long term goals, determine if they are really what you want to achieve or if they just sound good on paper.

When examining my own goals, I realized that I didn’t really want to learn 3 languages. Of course that is a wonderful goal if that’s what your looking for, but for me, learning one additional language was more manageable. I had to ask myself if I really wanted to designate the time and energy into the necessary classes, practice, and studying. The truth is that I’d rather be spending my time on other things. In the end, I concluded that learning ONE new language is more than enough for me. Und, ich liebe Deutsch. 

7. Buddy It Up

Having a friend or family member help you stay on track can really keep you motivated. Find a goal-setting buddy and agree to check in with each other at least once a month. Pick a person who you think can be supportive, but will call you out on your bull. I chose my husband because he always compliments even my smallest successes, but he is also the first to point out when he thinks I’m fooling myself. And vice versa. I am his biggest cheerleader, but I’m also not afraid to smack a donut out of his hand. He’ll thank me later..I think.

I hope you have a year full of happiness, learning, and achieving your goals. May we all gradually become the best version of ourselves!

Do you have any tips to goal-setting that has worked for you? Any mistakes you have made and learned from along the way? Please share your thoughts here.