Family Life

Ready, Set, Goal! How to Make Resolutions and Goals You’ll Actually Keep

This year, you swore, it was going to be “new year, new you.” Nothing was going to stand in your way! You got ready, geared up and made some New Year’s Resolutions. 

Well, January isn’t even over and you’ve already broken them. What now?

Accept That Imperfection and Failure Are Just Parts of the Human Condition

First, don’t feel bad. You’re in good company. Americans have generally gotten reluctant to set New Year’s Resolutions in the first place. In fact, just 29% of folks in this country even intended to bother making New Year’s Resolutions for 2022 (which is a significant drop from the 43% who made them just a year before).

Plus, roughly 80% of those who do actually get around to making their New Year’s Resolutions are going to fail, anyhow.

Frankly, human beings are notoriously bad at sticking with a plan – even when it’s a plan they make! It’s often hard to keep the future in sight when the present requires unpleasant sacrifices. Future You may very much want to fit into smaller jeans, but Present You is the one who has to climb out of a warm bed and go out into the cold air for your morning jog. Future You may want to save more money, but Present You can offer some pretty compelling reasons why you need takeout tonight. We’re hard-wired to live in the moment, and failures will happen.

So, how do you game your own brain, beat the system and actually keep the goals you make? We’ve got the answers:

Get SMART About Your Goals

You can set goals in one area of your life or several. Since you’re a complex human being, you may have financial goals, professional goals, relationship goals and more. 

Psychologists say that – before you set your goals – spend some time thinking about the areas of life where you feel discontent, frustrated or outright unhappy. Then, spend some more time thinking about what you can and cannot control about each situation. This is how you ultimately begin to figure out goals that are both obtainable and meaningful to your life.

Then you take the SMART approach. If you want to obtain your goals, they need to be:

1. Specific

This is the “who, what, and where” section of goal-setting. The more clearly you define your goal, the more concrete and obtainable it will become. 

For example, you can’t just say, “I want to get healthier.” That’s so broad and vague that it becomes meaningless – and meaningless is uninspiring. That’s not really a goal, just a wish. 

Saying something like, “I want to lose weight and get into better shape,” isn’t much better. While it’s a tiny bit more focused, it’s still pretty unclear. How much weight do you want to lose? How do you define getting into “better” shape?

It’s far better, clearer and more productive to set concrete goals by saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds and be able to walk two miles a day.” Now you’re talking in specific terms, and that’s something you can really work on.

2. Meaningful

Why is this goal important to you? Do you want to fend off the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle on your body? Do you want to be healthy and active enough to hike the local trails with your significant other or your kids? Do you just want to feel more confident in your own skin? 

It may sound obvious, but a meaningful goal is one that matters to you. If something doesn’t really matter to you, you aren’t going to work very hard to achieve it, so make sure that your goals resonate with your innermost desires.

3. Achievable

A good goal is neither too easy nor too hard to reach. If a goal is too easy, it’s not really much of a goal, and it probably won’t leave you with any true feeling of accomplishment. If a goal is out of your reach, that will lead to nothing but frustration and disappointment.

This is the “how” part of goal-setting. How can you start building up your walking endurance and prompt your weight loss? Can you start by spending half an hour every evening on a walk, gradually increasing both your time and your distance? Are there one or two small dietary changes you can make that will help you lose weight?

By thinking through the steps that take you from Point A (naming your goal) to Point B (achieving your goal), you can evaluate just how obtainable they really are – and get a game plan together.

4. Realistic

Ultimately, your goals need to be realistic to feel real to you. If any part of you, no matter how deeply buried, can’t believe in the goal, you won’t give it your best.

That’s why it’s better to break a big goal down into smaller, achievable goals. Maybe you really want to lose 100 pounds and, eventually, run in a local marathon. It’s okay to have that in the back of your mind for tomorrow, but it’s much better to focus on losing those first 20 pounds and getting that daily walk in today.

5. Trackable

Finally, this is the “when” part of your plans for yourself. Goals that allow you to measure your progress are better than goals that don’t – because those measurements give you tangible proof that your efforts are paying off. That can give you just the right dopamine push and emotional encouragement you need to continue.

Again, you need to be realistic with yourself. You probably aren’t going to drop 20 pounds in a month – but you can aim for a steady 1-2 pound loss each week and keep track on the scale. You don’t want to exhaust yourself by walking a mile your first day out, but you can just aim for a leisurely stroll for 20 minutes and start working on increasing both your time and your distance from there.

Once you’ve achieved your first set of goals, it will be time to set new ones – and that’s how you ultimately “trick” yourself into greater and greater accomplishments.

Final Thoughts

Don’t pressure yourself into goals that you’re not ready to keep. Goal-setting should feel positive, even exciting. Give yourself plenty of time to think about the goals you really want to make, and set yourself up for success by following these tips. After all, as the old saying goes, “Well begun is half done!”