Setting goals you won’t hate yourself for

Happy New Year’s Eve! As much as I enjoy the holiday, and am grateful that I get to spend it with family and friends, there’s one part about it I really don’t care for: New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think I’ve made one in years, because for me (and quite a lot of other people) it’s just a nice little goal that never gets fulfilled.

For me, that meant I simply stopped making resolutions. Instead, if there’s something in my life that I want to change, I change it as soon as I’m able. And then if I mess it up and stop following through, the easy excuse isn’t to wait until the next New Year. Amidst all the other changes this year, I didn’t have a ton of goals that I worked on, but starting to exercise consistently was one that I am really glad I’ve stuck with. At some point last year, I decided I wanted to go to more concerts, and I ended up going to seven in less than a year.

If you’re into New Year’s resolutions, more power to you. There’s no reason to knock them if you can keep them. But there are also other ways to approach goal-setting. So if you’re iffy on making a resolution this year, but have something you want to change, these are some of the tips I’ve found most useful:

  • Have multiple reasons to motivate you. When I started exercising consistently, the main motivation was to reduce my asthma symptoms. But the additional benefits are getting in shape and building strength; so when one of those reasons doesn’t feel like enough, the other gets me to put my shoes on and get going.
  • If you slip up, that isn’t the end. I haven’t exercised the last two weeks (oops), but the first week I was traveling, and last week I was both working long hours and sick. This week, I’m going to pick it back up and keep going. As much as it’s a bit of a bummer, breaking a streak doesn’t mean your goal is out the window.
  • Goals that stretch you are good, but don’t set ones you can’t reach. Because goals are centered on change, they should push you a bit outside your comfort zone. But if you set goals that are too lofty, you won’t reach them, and then it will be harder to stick with a new goal.
  • If a goal isn’t working, adjust it. If you set a goal and find that it was too much or something doesn’t fit well with your schedule or needs, don’t feel bad changing the goal. It needs to be something that can reasonably work for you. (Note: This should not become an excuse to adjust because you haven’t kept up; make changes for circumstances, not laziness.)
  • On that note, you can always move the finish line. If you set a goal and reach it, or are making progress more quickly than you had anticipated, don’t be afraid to adjust your goal to something bigger. Maybe it takes you longer to reach your new goal, but earning a new goal is an accomplishment to be proud of.
  • Set rewards for reaching (or even sticking with) a goal. If your goal is to eat healthier, maybe set up a small treat for the end of every week or two that you keep with it. The treat also doesn’t have to be relief from the goal — if you’re eating healthier, your treat can be dessert or it can be taking yourself to a movie.

Because I’ve got so many changes coming up, I’m not sure I’ll be setting new goals for a little while, but I’m excited to keep pushing toward progress on the goals I have set. How do you keep up with goals? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and have a happy New Year!

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