By Sarah Justine Fowler
A new year symbolizes a fresh slate, and many of us find renewed energy to make positive change in our lives, often through setting resolutions that we have the best intentions of keeping. But how many of us actually follow through with our resolutions? Whether it’s to get in shape, eat healthier or be more productive, the data says we’re not very good at it.
I’m just as guilty as many of us in dropping the ball on my resolutions, which is why I don’t make them anymore. Instead, I like to think of each day as if it were a new beginning. Rather than waiting until January 1, I start working toward change when I am truly ready, not when the calendar and popular culture dictate it so.
But how do those of us who achieve our goals get there in the first place? Well, I can’t speak for all of us, but I can share what works for me, and what others in my network have said works for them. Here are six tips that I hope you’ll find helpful as you set out to accomplish your goals.
1. Break it Down
Take a moment to write down the individual, achievable steps that will lead you to your ultimate goal. Identifying these steps, or smaller goals that are part of your larger goal, will make the journey to reaching that goal more manageable. According to Dr. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and nutrition professor at Baylor College of Medicine, “moderating your resolutions could be the difference between giving up in February and creating a lasting lifestyle change."
Thinking in small steps in order to accomplish bigger things is also much more rewarding. Personally, if I'm able to check things off as I go, I feel that I'm actually making progress toward my goal. Seeing progress, no matter how small, keeps me motivated. The more motivated I am, the more likely I am to succeed.
2. Visualize Success
Positive visualization has many benefits, and it can be an especially useful tool if you struggle to find and maintain the level of focus that is required to achieve a goal. An easy way to do this is to take a few minutes each day to close your eyes, block out your doubts and simply envision yourself reaching your goal. Your willpower and commitment will likely increase, and what once seemed difficult will begin to look much easier.
3. Ask Someone to Hold You Accountable
This person must be reliable and truly committed to your success. Make sure they understand what you're trying to accomplish, and that they're supportive of your goal. Then, commit to setting time aside for regular (I’d suggest bi-weekly) progress check-ins.
Whether it’s over a phone call, a walk or a coffee date, decide what works best for your schedules and take a minute to plan your next 3-4 check-ins in advance, ensuring you'll both have the time available. You may also find it helpful to identify the type of support you'd like to receive from your accountability buddy when you check-in. It could be words of encouragement, emotional support or advice. No matter what your needs are, make sure your buddy is prepared to give you that support, and the whole experience will be more productive and rewarding for both of you.
4. Find a Partner in Order to Achieve a Common Goal
Ask someone you trust and feel comfortable partnering up with if they'd be interested in tackling a common goal with you. For example, if you have a friend who's working on eating healthier and you'd like to do the same, suggest cooking one large, nutritious meal together once a week, and portion it out for lunches or dinners over the next week.
Not only will you get to spend quality time with this person on a regular basis, going through something with someone else by your side every step of the way is a great motivational tool, and it makes the journey more fun! Which leads to my next suggestion...
5. Make it fun!
Find a way to have some fun as you work toward your goal! A great way to do this, as explained in tips #3 and #4, is to share your experience with others. You could also establish a reward system for yourself. For example, let’s say your goal is to cut back on your weekly sugar intake. If you go an entire week without consuming unnatural sugars, treat yourself to something special. It could be that massage you’ve been thinking about getting for the last few months, or a night out at the movie theater; whatever gets you excited and keeps you motivated.
6. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
This is very important. Sometimes we fall short of what we intend to accomplish. Maybe you wanted to lose 3 pounds in one week, or set aside 20 minutes each night to read before bed, but instead you lost 2 pounds, or went to bed early a few nights to catch up on sleep instead of on your reading. And you know what? That’s OK.
Remember, no one is perfect. And hey, you still lost 2 whole pounds, or probably read more in one week than you have in the past month! That’s something to be proud of. Give yourself some space to fall short once in awhile and be kind to yourself when it happens.
Do you have motivational tips and tricks to share? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, or share with your network if you found these tips helpful!