Updated: Dec 10, 2019
There are two kinds of people in this world. People who make New Year's resolutions knowing they will inevitably fall off the wagon and people who have given up on them entirely because they know they won't "hold their promises". 😂 Which one are you?
I am totally the first type. I always make New Year's resolution with the best intention to follow them all year long. I love the "new start" feeling. Setting goals for the year and hoping I remember them by March🙄. In the past couple of years, I have done the impossible... I HAVE KEPT MY NEW YEAR RESOLUTION. And honestly- it was as not difficult as I thought it would be.
Let's dive deep and find out why you haven't been able to stick to a New Year's resolution and HOW to actually make it stick all year!! (PS: this works for any type of goals- not only once a year)
Side Note: I am not a big fan of the "New Year, New You" trend as it implies that the old you is not good enough. You don't need to be new and improve. You just want to improve. I do think that everyday is an opportunity to be better. I believe it's important to set goals in order to improve behaviours, however it's even more important to follow through with action.
WHY YOU HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO STICK TO A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION
1- Your goals are UNREALISTIC
As we are making new goals, sometimes we start being TOO ambitious. We want to achieve so much that we set ourselves up for failure. We overestimate what we can achieve in a year which inevitably discourages us because its unattainable. For example, I want to read 1 book per week. Although this would be great, going from reading 1-2 books per year to 1 book per week is a big jump and I am most likely setting myself up for failure.
2- Your goals are too vague
Your goals are not specific enough which makes it hard to know if you have achieved them or not. For example, I want to read more. This last statement is very subjective and hard to measure. It does not give you a clear direction on how to achieve it.
3- Your goals are wishful thinking
You made a "goal" with no plan in place. Like the famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” In order to achieve a goal you need to break it down into simple steps. For example, I want to read 1 book per month. This goal is specific but still lacks a plan. A better way to put it would be I will read 30 minutes before bed every night.
4- You set too many goals at once
As humans, we are not great at multi-tasking. Some of us believe we are however we are made to focus on one task at the time. When we spread our attention to many tasks, the quality of our work is affected. Same goes with goals. If you set multiple goals at once you are setting yourself up for failure because you won't be able to spend the adequate amount of time and energy on each goal in order to achieve it. Example: I will exercise everyday after work, I will take a bath every night, I will meditate for 30 minutes daily and I will read 30 minutes every night. All of these goals are great, however it will be difficult to do all of them at the same time. It's hard enough to create one new habit, imagine trying to create 4 at the same time. The best way to approach this is to set one goal, once you have achieve it add another one and so on.
5- You underestimate the time of completion
This happened to me ALL the time when I was in school. I would write down everything that I needed to do for each classes than estimated time of completion and set up my calendar with each task in a timeline. 99.9% of the time, I underestimated how long it took me to do a task (i.e. thinking it would take me 30 minutes to read 1 chapter in my biochemistry textbook.... when in reality it took me like 75 minutes) . This meant I was ALWAYS behind on my schedule and created unnecessary stress for myself. I ended up ditching my previous plan because it got too overwhelming and I felt like a failure for not achieving it in a timely manner. This same concept applies to setting your goals. If your timeline is unrealistic, you are setting yourself up for failure. It's easy to start feeling unmotivated if you never achieve your goal timeline which can lead to giving up altogether. Always give yourself more time to complete a task because there's ALWAYS something that comes up!
6- You are making a goal to please someone else
Goals that are made to please someone else are bound to fail. It is hard enough to reach a goal that is intrinsically motivated (motivation comes from within) but it is even harder to reach a goal that is extrinsic (outside motivation). Make sure the goals you are setting are for yourself to increase motivation to do it and overall happiness.
HOW TO SET GOALS THAT WILL STICK
1- Setting SMART goals
Have you ever heard of SMART goals? It is a very intelligent way to set goals (BA-DA-BOOM). This acronym stands for : Specific, Measure, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. This is a tool I use with every clients to set goals that they can crush confidently. Let's go through each letter one at the time.
SPECIFIC : What do you want to accomplish? Be specific and add some details.
Bad Goal: I will eat better. (Not specific)
Good Goal: I will eat 4 servings of vegetable daily. (You could potentially even add at what time of day you will eat vegetables to add more details.)
MEASURABLE: Are you able to measure objectively if you have succeeded or not? If your goal is too vague, you will not be able to measure your success
Bad Goal: I will eat better. (Eating better is subjective- there is no way to measure if you are actually eating better)
Good Goal: I will eat 4 servings of vegetable daily. (Easily measurable)
ACHIEVABLE: Is it in your power to accomplish or is it out of your control? Make sure your goals are achievable by YOU.
Bad Goal: My partner and I will eat 4 servings of vegetables daily. (This goal includes actions that your partner needs to take when in reality you have NO control over his/her actions.)
Good Goal: I will eat 4 servings of vegetable daily and motivate my partner to do the same by serving vegetables at every meal. (You can only control your own actions but you can help enable your partner to also engage in healthy behaviours)
REALISTIC: Your goals need to be realistic otherwise you will get discourage and inevitably give up.
Bad Goal: I will never eat sugar again. (In our food environment, this is completely unrealistic (and boring!!). You will inevitably have sugar again. Setting this type of goal will only set you up for failure)
Good Goal: I will have 1 treat maximum daily (This is a more realistic goal you are not completely taking out sugar but you are reducing your portion. In this case, you would have to define what "treats" are in order to make your goal specific.)
TIMELY: Like a race, knowing there is a finish line helps you push through the race. If you run with no finish line or no idea when you will stop running, chances are you will stop running as soon as you feel tired. A timeline gives you direction and purpose.
Bad Goal: I will exercise (No timeline, no direction)
Good Goal: I will exercise for 1 hour 3 times per week ( Monday, Wednesday and Friday) for the next year.
2- Visualize the end result.
This is one of my favourite exercise! Visualize your goals and celebrate them as if you already achieved them! By celebrating I mean, physically celebrate them (dance, jump , clap, do push ups, scream, sing, etc.). You can trick your brain into being excited (how cool is that!!). When you physically celebrate your goals/dreams, you will feel an amazing energy flow through you as if your goals became a reality. Use that energy to propel yourself forward to actually achieving these goals.
3- Remind yourself of your goal daily
Some goals are not executed daily therefore it can be easy to forget (especially with our busy schedules!). It is important to remind yourself of your goals daily in order to move towards them. Write your SMART goal down on a piece a paper you will see daily (on the fridge, in the washroom, by your bed,...)
Goal setting is a great exercise. It guides your behaviours towards what you really want to achieve. Although you don't need to wait until January 1st to set goals, starting a new year can be very motivating for a lot of us. I encourage you to go through these steps when setting a goal to set yourself up for success!
Now tell me, WHAT WILL YOU ACHIEVE THIS YEAR??
Marie-Pier Pitre-D'Iorio, RD