How to set goals for the new year: without setting yourself up for failure.
It’s almost New Year’s Resolution season, a time of year when we’re flooded with high hopes and lofty dreams. For many, this means the time ramping up to the new year is one where you indulge as much as possible. You may put everything ahead of you, conjuring up an image of yourself being almost immediately perfect in this mythical new year. Perhaps you reach for another cookie at the holiday party, thinking “I’ll work this off as part of my exciting new year workout plan,” or indulge in a few too many extra cocktails under the guise of “Dry January.” Sounds like a great way to set yourself up for success, right?
Didn’t think so.
Many people and pieces of advice are near-sighted in their wishes for a totally fresh start in the new year. When you begin by pushing things off, you only create scenarios that then ask of you to overcorrect.
They say life happens while we’re busy making plans, but it’s possible to start thinking and planning for the new year healthily. By setting the tone from this very moment, you’ll set yourself up for even greater avenues of success. Anything that asks of us to make changes requires shifting our mindset. This is a practice. By definition, practice means showing up consistently. There are many ways to set goals, big and small, that set you up for long-term shift and success. And long-term success is the kind that really makes an impact.
Practically speaking, you may be wondering how to get started or even feeling a bit overwhelmed just thinking about the new year and new goals. That’s why it’s best to break things down.
Make a list of what you want to achieve, broken down month by month.
Sketching things out this way helps the mind process what you’re trying to do. We want to lay a groundwork for intention and success here. In the same way that a house is built in stages, so are people! If you set out to accomplish 10 things in January, you’ll be left feeling burnt out and likely disappointed. Anne Lamott’s famous book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life references this very approach. Though it’s a book on creativity, Lamott references a time in her childhood when her younger brother had procrastinated on a large school project about birds. When he asked his father for help, he replied to take it “bird by bird.” Don’t get caught up in the sweeping magnitude of your loftiest goals. Though I encourage you to dream big, use this time to break down the steps it takes to reach those dreams. Some of the goals may carry over from month to month, but pick just one per month so you aren’t overwhelmed. You can add to your goals as the year progresses, and most likely, you’ll have to make some changes.
A long-term plan will keep you consistent.
Remember that you will both fail and succeed to meet some of your goals, write them down anyways. If you’ve ever been to the gym in January, you’ve witnessed the new year’s goal-setting hysteria in action. There’s a reason it’s much more crowded in January than in March. Many of these people, amped up in January, failed to meet their goals and likely just quit. Remember, you too may fail to meet every goal, but what matters is that when you “fail” you adjust your sails. Instead of burning out at the gym, incorporate different forms of activity. Perhaps you’re more inclined to walk outside every morning or join your friends at a HIIT class or yoga.
Whatever it is, when you’re unable to follow through on a goal, look at your month by month list, get re-motivated and try and try again.
Some of the goals you focus on can include:
Your personal overall health and well-being: physical activity levels, mood, weight, hair, and skin, wardrobe, self-love, etc.
Your relationships with your friends, family, and loved ones: you may be going through major life changes such as a divorce, you may want to mend complicated relations with a parent or sibling, improving communications with a co-worker.
Goals for your career and/or business: taking things to the next step, building a better culture, increasing gross profit.
Budgeting goals for the year: Always include some wiggle room and money for vacations! And any debts you may need to pay off…
And last but not least, home goals: Is it time to replace your sofa or step up your cutting board game? Organize that shoe collection and make space in the laundry room.
These are just a few ideas.
Reframe your goals using positive language.
Instead of making the goal to “lose 10 pounds” by your February trip to Mexico, reframe it so that you’re encouraging yourself. An example would be taking the aforementioned goal and reframing it as “work out three times a week to feel strong and sexy in Mexico.” How we speak to ourselves is very important. Using kind language will help you stay motivated longer and is a critical component of having a positive mindset. While we all sometimes need to light the proverbial fire under our asses to get going, it’s not sustainable. Write your goals out with a tone of self-love. As you re-read and revisit them through the year, you’ll feel much more held. If you are taking a snarkier route, at least make it humorous! Use positive language that helps you feel supported, not punished.
When you break things down with a focus on long-term impact, consistency, and self-love, you’re much more likely to see an impact. You might even take some time to look back at this past year to review what you’ve accomplished – and remember just how quickly time passes. When the year looms ahead, it may seem like too much time to plan for (but that’s likely what you said last year ;)).
Keep in mind what you want to see from yourself when you look back this time next year and let that really light your fire this holiday season!