Full of New Year resolution? Good for you! To help you achieve your goals for 2019, I make no apology for dusting off this timely post. Watch out for 4 typical traps we can fall into when goal-setting – and what to do about them. Here’s to your success.
It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be giving something up, starting a diet, or joining a gym. And soon it will be that time of year when people lose their new year resolve – to the tune of £37m wasted annually in the UK on unused gym memberships* to take just one example – and slip back into their old habits.
I think there are several reasons why January’s resolutions fall flat by February, such as:
- The goal was unrealistic – “I’ll clear all my debts, save £50,000 and put down a deposit on an apartment”
- The goal was vague – “I’ll be fitter and healthier”
- There were too many goals, some of them competing with each other
- The goal was drifting off in the distance without the anchor of a detailed, specific plan of action, thus diminishing the likelihood of new habits ever forming.
I want to take each of these four reasons in turn and help you turn them round to stay on track.
Set a realistic goal
“I’ll clear all my debts, save £50,000 and put down a deposit on an apartment” may not be the most realistic goal. A more realistic place to start could be to “clear my debts by September and start to save regularly”. To begin with, aim to make affordable, regular payments – set them up at your bank so you don’t have to think about it. If you suddenly start saving hard after being more easy-going with your cash, you’re unlikely to keep doing it. Set a realistic goal about how much you can pay down each month to get started and you can aim higher over time.
Turning your resolution from a dream to a habit needs you to get specific. You’ve got a goal of being ‘fitter and healthier’ – what about where and when? Where will you be? Mental rehearsal can be very powerful here: see and hear yourself swimming, working out or in a dance class, right down to the music. Visualise yourself moving and pay attention to how you feel physically, and notice the emotions you feel on the inside.
Have one goal to work towards
Too many goals can compete for our time and attention – and other resources, such as money. If you’ve got the debt payment goal AND a fitness goal to work towards, decide which is the absolute priority. If you’re hell-bent on getting fit, and getting out of debt – both of which are perfectly valid goals – you may not achieve either if you try to get started on them simultaneously. And how will you pay down your debt if you’re paying to go to the gym? Choose one goal and get going on it to load the odds of success in your favour. Once your resolution becomes a habit, then you can move onto other goals you want to achieve.
Have a plan
Our New Year resolutions tend to be grand statements and big pictures. These are a great place to start. However… what many of us miss completely is a plan of action. You need to break the goal down into small and even smaller mini-goals and actionable steps – say from 12 months to 90 days, from 90 days to a month, from a month to a week until you get down to actions you can take on a daily basis that will help you get there. Tiny tweaks to your routine can make a disproportionate difference, particularly if the new habit you want to build can be grafted on to an existing one, and you create a “whenever I x, I will y” phrase to keep you going, such as, “Whenever I travel to work I will walk the last mile”. You’ll also benefit from having a ‘plan B’ for when you have a setback. This is where ‘if/then’ can come in very handy, such as, “If I can’t pay down all my target amount one month, then I’ll sell some of my books/DVDs/clothes online to make up the difference.”
* sources: which.co.uk, SportEngland.org
You may also find this post useful: 5 falsehoods we tell ourselves that stop us reaching our goals.
Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.
Image by catd_mitchell