December 31, 2014
Christmas and Hanukkah have come and gone, the cold weather is settling in for an extended stay, and another calendar year is coming to a close. For some, this is a time of excitement and joy. For others, it can be stressful or even disappointing.
Wherever you are on the spectrum this January, you are likely reflecting on the successes and challenges of 2014 and wondering how to shape 2015 into a productive and fulfilling year.
This month, if you’re conjuring up those New Year’s resolutions, or simply looking for a way to achieve your goals more efficiently, here are 5 tips to keep in mind.
1. Focus on the process, not the result
It’s very common to fixate on an issue in your life, and create a general, overarching goal to help you solve it in the New Year. We tell ourselves, “This year I’ll lose weight,” “this year I’ll get a job,” “this year I will be a more positive person.”
The problem with these big goals, is that sometimes we are so focused on the end result that we’ve forgotten to figure out how to get there and how to know when we’ve arrived. What constitutes a success? Is it 5 pounds lost? Is it saying one nice thing to your neighbor? In order to set a SMART goal, it’s important to make it specific and measurable.
----> Example of a vague goal: I’m going to be healthier in 2015
----> Example of a SMART, specific goal: I’m going to exercise twice a week during the month of January
2. Start small
Feeling motivated in the planning stages of a new goal is easy: we feel ready for change, excited to get started, and we sometimes make lofty resolutions that are difficult to stick to. When this happens, we often end up putting so much energy into holding ourselves to an impossible standard that it is too overwhelming, and we don’t end up achieving what we set out to achieve.
To prevent this, it is best to start small. If you’ve never gone to the gym before, is it reasonable to set out to go every day next year? If you only read two books this year, is it reasonable to attempt to read 50 in 2015?
When setting a reasonable goal, it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions:
A) What progress have I made with this goal in the past?
B) What is a sensible goal to set?
C) Will I be able to do this thing as often as I think I should?
Regardless of your dedication and motivation, sometimes life gets in the way, and it’s nice to have some wiggle room. If, after some time has passed, you find your goal to be too easy or too hard for you, it’s a good idea to reevaluate and adjust your goals accordingly.
----> Example of an unreasonable goal: I’m going to eliminate all unhealthy foods from my diet
----> Example of a reasonable goal: I will only drink soda once a week this month
3. Stay Organized
Keeping track of your progress is essential for success. Websites like HabitRPG can help you to stay on top of your tasks and you can even download custom planners free of charge.
4. Find an Accountability Partner
When left to our own devices, many of us find it difficult to meet the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Whether due to time constraints, lack of motivation, or the feeling that we aren’t strong enough to succeed, our goals are at the mercy of our sometimes unhealthy thought processes.
It’s no secret that doing things together makes them easier, and working towards goals is no different.
Reach out to a friend, a coworker, a family member, the 7 Cups community, or an online accountability partner to:
A) Make your goals known
B) Work towards similar results
C) Share your struggles
D) Receive encouragement and a gentle push when needed
“What I’ve found that helps most isn’t me promising that I’m going to do it and then failing and promising and failing. What really helps is somebody out there asking me ‘how’d you do today?’ or ‘is there anything you need help with?’ and ‘what’s your plan for tomorrow?’”—Linda Roggli
5. Celebrate Successes
Dr. Kristen Neff, a researcher on self-compassion, says this about motivation: “While the motivational power of self-criticism comes from fear of self-punishment, the motivational power of self-compassion comes from the desire to be healthy, to reduce our suffering.”
It is hard, at times, to give credit where it’s due. It’s hard to tell ourselves, “I didn’t meet my goal, but I did make steps towards it.”
This year, I encourage you all to celebrate your successes—no matter how small—of which there are many! Whether it’s folding your laundry instead of leaving it in the basket, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, being kind in the face of adversity, or achieving a major feat you’ve been working towards for quite some time, you are amazing and you do amazing things every single day.
----> Ask yourself, what have I done lately that’s worthy of praise?
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015,
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