Everybody loves the feeling of crushing their goals, and setting achievable objectives for yourself is a key part of creating a healthy, meaningful life. The trouble is, there’s a lot of distance between “setting a goal” and “achieving a goal.” How do you get from point A to point B? What strategies can you use to make sure you aren’t left with a long list of unfulfilled resolutions?
1. Figure out your “Why.”
Maybe you’d like to lose weight, maybe you’d like to pick up a new hobby, or learn a different language. The first step is be honest about your reasoning for choosing this particular objective. Are you doing it for yourself, or to impress people? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do, or something you chose on a lark? Get down to the meat of why you want to accomplish this goal. Keeping that in mind will help you stay motivated, and keep your eye on the prize.
2. Make a statement of intent.
Your statement of intent is your long-term goal. You might wish to become more active and exercise more often, but how do you intend to do so? You could say something like, “I intend to become more active by walking more,” or “I want to exercise more by going to the gym on the way home from work.” Creating a statement of intent helps bring goals out of the abstract, and make them feel more concrete.
3. Break big plans into small, achievable steps.
Even after you’ve created your statement of intent, your goal might be too big to tackle all at once. This is when it’s helpful to break it down into a series of smaller goals. This also helps eliminate the “all or nothing” feeling we can sometimes experience when we don’t fully achieve an objective. Imagine the stereotype of a person who slips up and “breaks” a diet, then gives up on it entirely. Turn a big goal into smaller, easier steps, and you’ll be much more likely to achieve it. Following the exercise example above, you might say, “I’m going to wake up at 5 AM every day.” “I’m going to walk around my neighborhood before work.” “I’m going to get a treadmill, so I can still walk comfortably in cold or rainy weather.” “I’m going to work on a couch-to-5k program.” These are all easily achievable steps that build up to the ultimate goal — to become more active.
4. Look for accountability and a support system. (Or don’t.)
With some goals, working in a group can really help. Having a group of co-workers to walk with during lunch time, for example, can help motivate you to exercise more. A good support system is important for those times when things get rough, and you don’t feel like you’re making enough progress.
That said, not every objective benefits from accountability. Research shows that, when you announce your intention to complete a goal, you experience the same rush and validation as you’d get from actually doing it. This can lead some people to unconsciously sabotage themselves — since they’ve already received the endorphin rush, their drive to complete it may not be as strong. If you feel you would benefit from a support system and a sense of accountability, seek those things out. Otherwise, you might do better by keeping your resolutions to yourself.
5. Keep track of your progress.
Most big goals aren’t achieved overnight. Pick a metric to help you keep track of how you’re doing, and celebrate small victories in a way that won’t set you back. You’ll stay motivated, and you’ll be less likely to succumb to the “all or nothing” mindset mentioned above.
Nothing feels quite as good as setting a goal for yourself, then achieving it, but there’s a lot more to it than simply picking an objective and going for it. By knowing why you want to achieve this goal, setting your intention, breaking it up into achievable steps, deciding if a support system will help or hinder you, and keeping track or your progress, you’ll be much more likely to do whatever you set your mind to.