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How to actually achieve your goals this year

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Setting out New Year’s resolutions and goals can be a fun activity, but what about actually achieving those goals?

According to Marla Tabaca of Inc., 80 per cent of New Year’s resolutions fail. She recommends choosing a word of the year instead, but I say that it’s possible to reframe resolutions as goals and stick to them. 

Start with a mindset shift

According to psychologist Kasey Jo Orvidas, a person’s mindset will impact their exercise habits. She found that those with a stronger growth mindset are more likely to exercise more often than those with a fixed mindset. 

With a growth mindset, says Orvidas, a person will “look at (their) failures and setbacks as opportunities to grow and learn. (They) are also more likely to take criticism constructively and persist in the face of challenges and setbacks.”

While Orvidas spoke about exercise habits specifically, you can apply a growth mindset to any changes you’re trying to make in your life. 

So before writing out a mile-long list of goals for the coming year, it can be helpful to address your mindset and be conscious of the possibility of setbacks and come up with a plan for how to handle them. 

Make a few goals

Speaking of a mile-long list of goals for the coming year, I’ve always found it helpful to create fewer, but more intentional, goals at the start of the year. Writing out a list of 15 or more goals can seem exciting at first, but once it comes time to put in the work for all of those goals, it starts to feel overwhelming pretty quickly. 

I like to set three to five goals each year. While that may not seem like a lot, it’s a lot more manageable than 10 or 15, so I’m more likely to achieve the goals. The “sweet spot” for the number of goals will vary from person to person, but I’ve found that starting with fewer goals and adding to them over time works better than having too many at once. 

Set objective goals

In his podcast episode The Science of Goal Setting (How to Achieve Your Goals in 2021), Jordan Syatt talks about the importance of setting objective goals. 

While someone may want to lose a certain amount of weight, that goal is not objective because so many other factors (outside of their control) come into play when it comes to weight. A person’s weight fluctuates day-to-day because of water retention, sodium intake, inflammation from exercising, and so many other reasons. Not to mention, a person can be at their desired physique but be at a higher weight because of muscle mass. 

Instead, Syatt recommends setting goals such as adhering to a nutrition plan 80 per cent of the time. Broken down, that means being consistent for 24 or 25 days out of the month. 

The goal of adhering to a nutrition plan works because that is in your control. You can also control how often you go to the gym, put money in your savings account, or practice a new skill. Focusing your efforts on things you can control makes you more likely to achieve your end goal.

Track your progress

There’s no point in setting a goal and forgetting about it until the start of the following year. If you want to achieve a goal, tracking your progress will keep you moving in the right direction. And if you don’t achieve your goal by the end of the year, you’ll be able to look back and see why. 

If your goal was to save a certain amount of money in a year, but you didn’t track how much money you were putting aside throughout the year, you might be surprised come December to see that there’s only half that amount saved. 

Depending on the goal, the frequency of tracking will vary. Some goals require daily check-ins, such as if you’re aiming to stay consistent with your nutrition plan, while others can be tracked weekly or monthly, such as if you’re trying to save a certain amount of money. 

I also find it helpful to do quarterly check-ins. That is, every three months, I pull up my list of goals, look at my progress up to that point, and see what, if any, changes I need to make. Syatt said he checks in with his goals approximately halfway through the year. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. 

The pressure of setting and achieving new goals each year can get overwhelming, but by following the tips above, you may find it to be a bit easier.

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