The year 2013 is upon us and as we reflect on the year behind us, we also look to the year ahead and everything it has to offer. For many, this time of year provides the inspiration to make life-altering changes and resolve to live better.
Fast forward to January 30, 2013 and most of us will have already let our goals slip, causing us to revert back to our old habits. It’s a scenario many of us know too well, and if we could understand why this happens, then maybe – just maybe – we might be able to firmly (and finally) stick to those New Year’s resolutions.
According to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a psychologist and author of the book Succeed: How we can reach our goals, it all starts with self-control. Think back to the achievements in your life. When you’ve done well, it’s likely because you’ve worked hard, remained persistent and stayed focused. The use of self-control, as Halvorson suggests, is like a muscle that needs to be worked and trained, not strained. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
If you are setting goals for yourself and not meeting them, the goals you are setting for yourself may be too challenging or not challenging enough. Halvorson suggests that one of the main reasons goals aren’t met is because they haven’t been properly defined. Quite often we find ourselves defining or setting specific goals in terms of one concrete action rather than focusing on the “why?” Halvorson argues that if we think about why we want to do something, we are less vulnerable to actions or situations that can jeopardize our ability to maintain self-control. As such, she suggests we think about the “why” for long-term goals and the “what” for short-term objectives.
When considering “what,” we must also think about the (potential) obstacles that stand in our way and the triggers than can help us meet our goals. Almost anything, including images, sounds, people, places and things, can trigger your ability to meet your goal. If you can acknowledge these triggers, you will be better prepared to face them and exercise self-control.
If you scour the Internet, you will find endless checklists and information on how to set goals and decide on New Year’s resolutions. Taking Halvorson’s advice into consideration, we came up with these very simple steps to help you choose and stick to your 2013 New Year’s resolution.
- Be realistic. Be specific. Did you know that 25 percent of New Year’s resolutions are broken in the first week? Or that among gym goers, 80 percent drop out within eight weeks of January 1st? You need to be realistic about the goal(s) you want to set for yourself. Sometimes it takes a few smaller goals to help reach a larger one. For example, if your goal is to get healthy and lose weight, think about how you will achieve this. Will you change your diet? Will you work out more? Or maybe you just need to get more sleep. Think about whatever behaviours you need to change to help you meet your goal.
- Write them down. If you write down your goals and spend some time each day reviewing them, you are more likely to meet them. It is also beneficial to write down any feelings and actions you may be experiencing or facing. This will help you to determine any triggers and devise ways to cope with the triggers.
- Set a timeline. Some people will only have one goal, others will have many and a few will have none at all. If you have chosen to set a number of goals across different aspects of your life (e.g., work, home and health), give yourself time to work towards these goals. Start with one goal and set benchmarks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. By doing this, you can track and make any necessary adjustments to your progress.
- Reward yourself. A little positive reinforcement never killed anyone. Be sure to reward yourself when you’ve accomplished or met a benchmark. Do not, however, punish yourself if you didn’t. Simply pick up where you left off and move forward. Every moment is an opportunity to move forward with your life and your goals.