What time is it? It’s the most wonderful time of the year that’s what time it is. You know what that means, the new year is approaching. With a new year approaching it usually means everyone is getting set to start a bunch of new goals in the new year. “New year, new me.” “This is my year.” “New phone who dis.” These are all sayings that most of us have said at one point in time in our lives, or possibly we say this every year. We start off the new year highly ambitious, seemingly motivated, ready to tackle a CVS receipt sized list of goals. Then February rolls around and the majority of us have lost track of our goals. In January it's easy to make goals while looking at the big picture, however in February, the choices we've made can be far from those goals, so we throw in the towel. I personally have done away with the new year resolution because I discovered how I was going about it was the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think if we have goals why wait for the new year to start them. However, I do think it is a good idea to set some goals for what you want to accomplish in the next year as a timeline but to have some parameters in place so that you can be successful.
Often times when we set New Year’s goals we make them huge, and we make them very vague. For example “this year I am going to go to the gym.” If we have never been to the gym before in our lives this is a huge change. Usually it’s going from limited movement to a lot of movement or the potential for a lot of movement. Also, it is ultra vague. Going to the gym once would technically check that box. Not having a set number of days per week or month that you are going to go makes it challenging to adhere to the goal. So the first thing that needs to be done when making a goal is it needs to be measurable. What this would look like is “ this year I am going to go to the gym 156 days of the year.” This way you have a timetable, this year, and you have a number of times you will go, 156.
Now “this year I am going to go to the gym 156 days of the year” is a better goal from the vague goal we started off with, but it can still be even better. That goal is what I call a long term goal which is fine. However, in order to up your chance for success in the long term goal you will need some short term goals to help send you down the proper path. If your goal is to go to the gym 156 days of the year then your short term goal may be for “the first 4 weeks I am going to go to the gym 12 days.” Breaking large goals down into smaller more manageable goals makes it much easier to see success early on, which will incentivize you to continue. Some studies have shown that instant gratification is effective for long term behavioral change(click here for the study) they phrase it as little victories. These little victories are important for many of us who may not be able to keep our eyes on the prize if the prize seems so far away. Little victories are a way to make your long term goals seem more feasible. Now, in an ideal world I’d rather have people delay gratification because in general things that give us instant gratification often sideline our long term goals. Having cookies everyday, limits us from developing that six pack we really want so make sure in most cases you are still delaying gratification.
SMART goals or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound is how I suggest setting up any goal. That is all great but it doesn’t help with knowing how many goals to set at once. Often times I find that people try to change too many things at once which causes them to change nothing. It is hard to try to focus on a dozen task at once. Starting with one long term goal and one short term behavioral goal and making those a habit before adding in any other goals is the way to go. You can make a list of 10 goals at the beginning of the year but label them in order of importance to you. Then start with the most important goal, make it a behavior first, then start to work on the next. It’s great to be ambitious but biting off more than you can chew can make it tough to swallow, which is the end goal after all.
Think about it this way, everything big started small. Small steps in the right direction is still progress and that’s what we should strive for. Setting your goals up so you can make small victory after small victory will make that big victory feel that much better at the end. I hope in the new year you are able to find your Power of Strength, one small victory at a time.