On New Year’s Eve a friend announced some big intentions and a significant resolution for the new year. We talked more about how she was going to achieve it than the goal itself. Two days later another friend asked for advice on how to actually stick to goals and resolutions. If New Year’s resolutions feel like a repeated exercise in setting yourself up for disappointment, this year how you set your goals might be more important than what they are.

These two conversations prompted me to share what works when I’m helping clients set and achieve their goals:

Build on your strengths
Resolutions often feel like they need to be full reversals of bad habits or massive transformations. Sure, the beginning of the year is a great time to commit to some of these big goals. It’s also a good time to think about how to continue your momentum.

  • What are you great at that you would like to do more of?
  • What are you grateful for in your life that you would like to see continue?
  • What is working well that you can build on to take you in the direction you want to go?

Make yourself accountable
Publicly committing to a goal is a powerful way of holding yourself accountable. How can you keep yourself on the hook to stay focused on those resolutions?

  • Find a friend – someone trying to achieve a similar goal, or someone who will keep tabs on you and not let you get away with excuses.
  • Post your intentions on a relevant forum where you can record your progress, read others’ stories, or get support.
  • Work with a coach if you need some extra challenge and support from someone committed to your success.

Know why it’s important
Tie your goals to something that really matters and be clear about the benefits. If you want to get fit this year, why is your health important to you in the big scheme of things? What will change if you achieve your goal?

  • Make this year’s resolution one important step towards your long-term vision. 
  • You will feel more committed at a deeper level if your goals are connected to your values. Which of your values are you acting on when you are working towards your goal?
  • If you really struggle to stay committed, consider how achieving this goal (or not) is a matter of life or death. While this may sound extreme, personal experience has taught me this mindset really helps with those health and lifestyle goals!

Give yourself small milestones
While a Great Big Goal feels motivating, keeping yourself going may mean setting milestones along the way.

  • Your first step towards your goal may be getting into the habit of a daily 10 minute practice that leads to the bigger achievement.
  • An appropriate reward (not one that contradicts all of your progress!) at the end of a week or a month can be motivating.
  • Break the bigger goals into smaller steps so you’re achieving something noticeable more frequently.

Enjoy the journey
When we try something new or pursue a challenge, we often learn surprising things about ourselves. Achieve more than you expected by focusing on the journey, not just the destination.

  • Give yourself time and space to notice and appreciate what you are learning about yourself. You could try brief meditation, a short journal at the end of the day, or a gratitude practice.
  • Consider how else you or others will benefit from you working towards this goal. When motivation for achieving the goal itself wanes, those side benefits can breathe new life into your resolve.
  • Growth and change happens on the journey. Leave space for changes to the destination. You may find a different end goal is more relevant.

Keep it in the front of your mind
Life happens and can get busy before we’re able to form new habits that support our resolutions. Simple actions can work wonders. If you find you get distracted, you might try:

  • Post-its on your computer
  • Pop-up reminders on your calendar
  • Signs on the bathroom mirror, the car, or the refrigerator

I’d love to hear from you…

  • What would you like to achieve this year?
  • How do you plan to stay motivated and focused?
  • When have you set a goal and achieved it? What worked for you?