What if I told you that New Year’s resolutions are created to fail? That they never work and you’re wasting your time?
That sounds really harsh, right? Unfortunately, it’s also true.
We’ve all done it, set THAT New Year’s resolution with all the best intentions in the world, but by the time February rolls round, it’s likely that around 80% of people would have abandoned their resolutions.
Hell, I’ve done it many times before. Usually it’s lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, that #newyearnewme vibe. Before I know it, I’m cancelling my gym membership and eating a bunch of take out (like it’s a bad thing).
There’s a lot of reasons why this annual, age-old tradition is doomed to fail before you’ve even digested Christmas dinner, and it really isn’t your fault. Body hatred is everywhere this time of year, we’re surrounded by it. No one really talks about how to achieve goals either, just that they need to be set and sheer will power does the rest. Wrong.
Why? Well, a couple of things. Firstly, those types of resolutions come from a place of guilt and “should” rather than something that inspires. Apart from the fact that weight loss goals are problematic at best, the odds are actually stacked against you from the get-go anyway. Secondly, the goals set are often vague and don’t have a plan around how to actually go about achieving them.
A goal ought to be something that makes your heart happy. Here’s how to go about setting and achieving real, meaningful goals in 2021.
1. Stop “shoulding” on yourself
A therapist said this to me once. Stop telling yourself what you should be doing and ask yourself what you really want to be doing.
“I should lose weight” or “I should eat healthier” are goals resulting from societal pressure to conform to Western beauty standards. They all relate to shrinking the body and calling it “wellness” is just a diet in disguise (not even a very good one). This is a hard thing to get your head around if you don’t engage in HAES communities or body positivity.
How about something that nourishes your body? A goal like,“ I want to take better care of my mental health this year,” with steps on how to do it? How would it feel to take care of your soul instead of punishing it?
2. You know your what but not your why
This is the biggest reason resolutions fail is that we aren’t clear on our WHY and therefore, can often lose focus on the WHAT.
Sit down and write out why this resolution is important to you. Keep this somewhere you’ll see it often so you can refer back to when you feel you can’t be bothered anymore and motivation has dropped off.
One goal you might have is to “save more money”. Here are some questions you could ask yourself to discover your WHY and start to create specificity:
Do you have a particular purchase in mind? A car, a house, a guitar?
Do you want to lower stress levels around Christmas time? Or around big expenditures, like unexpected bills?
Do you want to be able to live a lifestyle that leaves more time for family and less time working?
Do you have a particular amount that will allow you to live the life you desire?
Whatever the reason is, it must be true for you, and not about some preconceived notion or societal pressure of “I should be more financially secure at this age.” This won’t motivate, but actually stifle progress.
3. Break it down
Once you have set your goal; and are clear on your WHY, it’s time to break it down into smaller, more achievable action steps. For example:
Take better care of my mental health
Make a doctor’s appointment
Book in to see a therapist
Make a time to put down my phone and read
Get 8 hours of sleep per night by going to bed at an earlier time
Drink 8 glasses of water a day by using a water intake tracking app
Make sure I’m eating regularly throughout the day by setting an alarm that reminds me to eat
Disconnect myself from relationships that no longer serve me by setting boundaries and ending unproductive connections
If you’re starting from a place of real difficulty, perhaps you’re only getting four hours of sleep per night at the moment, it might be more realistic to increase the hours by one hour increments each day or each week. That way, the goal is realistic, manageable and accumulative, rather than daunting and out of reach.
We’ll work to adapt the goals to your personal situation. From there, we can keep track of our wins and know we are working towards our larger goal.
4. Accountability is Key
Accountability sounds like a scary buzz word, but it doesn’t have to be. A goal isn’t a goal until it has a reason, steps and someone to keep you honest, especially when it gets tough.
We all have habits we’ve been forming our entire lives, some good, and some not so good. Give yourself some credit here, you’ll have skills and abilities that have served you well over the years – that have gotten you this far. But if you’ve got big goals, outside accountability is necessary to maintain the momentum once the spark dies and it’s time to really make moves.
Here’s where the accountability partner, in the form of a life coach, comes in. A coach doesn't have all the doubts about you, all your ‘what ifs’, and “that one time I failed so hard I told myself I’d never try again” moments. They’re on your side and believe in your ability to achieve your goal before you’ve even made headway with it. They’re also going to tell you exactly how it is and how your approach is (or isn’t) working. Here’s where you get to work on the tools needed to see challenges in a new light.
To succeed, the goal needs to feel real to you. The more you can narrow down and be specific, the more clear the particular goal will be in your mind. A clear goal that you can visualise vividly is encouraging and keeps you on the right track, all the way to success! Just remember that you can do it!