Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution that you didn’t follow through on? Most of us have. Too often, we start the year overflowing with motivation to work toward our goals – only to watch that motivation flow away as the months go by. One survey by Forbes Health found that the average New Year’s Resolution lasts just over 3 months.
But it’s possible to do things differently – to set goals in a way that helps you to actually achieve them.
In our last article of 2023, we’ll give you simple tips on how anyone can set realistic, achievable goals – and sustain long-term motivation so that you continue to take steps toward your resolutions all year long.
Why are goals important?
Research has found that setting goals is an important component of good mental health and overall well-being. Setting and reaching goals helps you stay motivated and uplifted in life. It can also help you reflect on where your life is headed and make changes when you need to. Going on to meet those goals can give you a sense of confidence and mastery.
Setting goals is especially important if you live with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. When we set goals for recovery, we can measure each small step we take toward taking care of ourselves and overcoming mental health challenges.
But New Year’s isn’t the only time we can set goals. Goals are important all year round. The start of a new year can mark a great opportunity to start working toward a new goal, but you don’t need to wait until January 1st if inspiration strikes another time.
How to stay focused on your goals
There are simple changes you can make to help yourself stay focused on your goals throughout the year. Here are some helpful, easy tips that you can follow as you prepare to make resolutions for the new year.
Set clear goals
When goals are vague, it becomes difficult to measure whether or not you’re meeting or even making any progress toward them. For example, take the goal, “Improve my physical health” – one of the most common goals that people set. What, exactly, does it mean? How will you know whether you’ve met this goal, and exactly how much “improvement” is enough?
Avoid this confusion by setting clear, measurable goals. For example, instead of “Improve physical health,” think about exactly what you want to improve and how. Is it taking your prescribed medication every day? Going to the gym 3 times per week? Whatever it is, make it as specific as possible.
Research has found that committing to your goals publicly – telling other people about them – makes you more likely to stay focused on them. It’s the accountability partner effect – when others know that you’re working toward a goal, you don’t want to let them down. It becomes about more than just you.
But be careful about who you tell. Accountability partners are only effective if you value their opinions. Choose your partners wisely, and tell people you respect about your goals.
Think about what you want, not what you don’t want
A 2020 study looked at what helped people stick to New Year’s resolutions. They found that people who had approach-oriented goals (trying to get closer to what they do want) rather than avoidance goals (trying to move away from what they don’t want) were more likely to be successful.
When you’re setting your resolutions, look toward what you want rather than what you don’t want. Stay away from goals that start with “stay away from” or “stop doing.” Reframe them to think about what it is that you do and what your life looks like.
For example, instead of “Stop drinking,” set a goal of “Call my sponsor every time I want to have a drink.” Instead of “Stop mindless scrolling,” set your sights on “Spend at least 5 waking hours every day doing screen-free activities.”
Connect to your “why”
Motivational interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based counseling technique that was originally developed to help people overcome alcohol addiction. One of the core concepts in MI is ambivalence or the idea that we usually both want to change something and don’t want to change it at the same time.
For example, if your New Year’s resolution is to go to the gym, there are probably lots of reasons why you want to accomplish that – losing weight, increasing energy levels, and so on – but also lots of reasons why you don’t want to go, including a lack of energy and want to spend your time doing other things.
To overcome this ambivalence, it’s important to be aware of the reasons that it’s important for you to meet these goals. Think deeply; why is it important to you to go to the gym? What would improved health mean for your life? What’s the deeper reason why you chose this goal?
Ask for support
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s challenging for any of us to meet all of our goals on our own. Asking for the support you need may mark the difference between being able to stay motivated toward your goals and letting them fall by the wayside.
Ask your friends to check in with you and encourage you to take steps. Be specific about how they can help you; for example, do you need someone to go to the gym with you? Do you need a sober friend to hang out with when you feel tempted to drink?
In addition, a professional counselor can help you stay focused on your goals by:
- Helping you identify triggers that lead you to stray from your goals
- Equipping you with coping tools to overcome those triggers
- Providing a safe and therapeutic space to explore the inspiration behind these goals
- Addressing any underlying mental health issues that could get in your way
Employee support and well-being with MINES
MINES has free and confidential counseling available to you 24/7. We’ve been offering unparalleled expertise in the area of business programs and employee psychology for 43 years – and 2024 will be no different.
We look forward to continuing to work together to support your organizational and personal wellness.
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team