Finding a goal and sticking to it can be tough with the best will-power in the world, but there’s plenty of us who will be able to recall a time when we made a new year’s resolution and didn’t quite see it through. Whether its a fitness goal, learning a new skill or simply wanting to be a little happier, when it comes to this time of year, we all take a look back over the things we wanted to achieve in the last twelve months, and make a plan for what we’d like to do in the year ahead. If you’ve made a resolution this year, then here are our top tips to help you succeed.
Every January, we set ourselves a wide array of exciting New Year’s Resolutions. Unfortunately, it’s more common than not, that by February, many of us have already given up on our goals. If you’re serious about making a change, then there’s a few things that you should be thinking about before committing to your next New Year’s Resolution. There’s no point taking on that diet, if you’re not ready to change a few other things too. Every goal is going to take time, and making simple steps toward the results you’d like is the best way to stay motivated and to track your progress along the way too.
If you’re finding yourself reaching the point where you’re ready to give up early on in the year, then perhaps your goals were too difficult or too big to begin with. Setting yourself a long term new year’s resolution is fine, but remember to break that down into small and more achievable tasks. You may find that having one major goal without a clear plan is the reason why you’re struggling to get there.
Setting a set of smaller targets that work toward your end goal is a great way to get you in the successful mindset – and if it’s a tough challenge, the smaller achievements will allow you to treat yourself along the way.
If your resolution was to run a half-marathon by the end of march, and you’ve not started training until right now, then you are far less likely to achieve that goal. While resolutions like going to the gym every day might sound like a great idea, we all know that life can get in the way and it’s important to judge whether it is actually achievable for you based on your current situation and routines.
New Year’s Resolutions or any goal you’re trying to acheive should be SMART – a clever little acronym to help you work out if your goal is going to have any likelihood of success. Your resolutions should be:
Specific – Is there a clear and specific goal to achieve from your changes and hard work?
Measurable – Can you monitor your progress and measure your own successes on a scale, or can you set key dates for important stages in the challenge?
Attainable – How likely is it that you’re going to achieve the end goal, or the smaller tasks in between?
Relevant – Is it reasonable for you to be able to achieve your new year’s resolution based on your current lifestyle and environment? Is the goal relevant to a part of your life or plans for the future?
Time-Based – Can you complete your goal within a time limit and is there a deadline or date you need to be ready for?
If you’re struggling with your goal, look over your resolutions and compare them against a smart criteria to see how it matches up. If it’s not working out, see how you can make a smaller goal that fits into the smart structure and go from there instead.
Don’t Give Up… Completely
Even if you reach the point where you are really struggling to complete your tasks or you’ve given up on a goal in your head, there’s no reason why you can’t just take a little break to re-assess your new year’s resolution and start again with fresh eyes. If you’ve missed a couple of sessions at the gym, had a weekend of not eating healthily, keeping fit, running or cycling – there is no reason why you can’t re-start you goal.
Everyone needs a break from time to time, so don’t feel bad about it. Coming back to a goal is better than giving up on it altogether. If you make it half way through the year, think of that as an achievement itself rather than a failure.
For some people, the winter months are the toughest for sticking to healthier goals, so why not start to make the changes at the start of the year, but ease yourself in – aiming to make the larger steps in March or April instead? Similarly, if your goal is to read more, you might get off to a great start in the colder months, but when you want to be out in the summer, this might slow down a little. It’s all about how you balance your resolution with the demands of day to day life.
Share Your Story
When you’re making your new year’s resolution, it’s important to set a goal for your own personal challenge – but achieving the goal will be easier if you tell other people about it. Telling other people about your goals means that friends and family can offer support and motivation if they see you struggling. They will be able to join you on your journey and maybe even set a similar goal for themselves. Sharing your new year’s resolution may also make it much more difficult for you to give up completely– you’ll find it much tougher with the pressure of not wanting people to think that you’ve failed.
Sharing your new year’s resolution story doesn’t have to be a public one – you could keep a diary about your progress and then talk to your friends about your weekly achievements. Writing things down will help to keep you focused and it makes goals seem more real. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than physically crossing off a goal from a list when you reach a target. It’s also a good idea to write down a plan to achieve your resolution. For example, if you want to exercise more, you could plan a programme of when and where you will train and mark this in your diary to keep you motivated.
Sharing your story might also bring out your competitive edge, and make you strive further to reach each of your goals. If you are actively competing against your own ideals or your friends targets, then you will always want to try that little bit harder. A lot of people start a blog about their weight loss or training journeys, and you will quickly see that other people doing something similar will be keen to support and motivate you more.
Do Something For A Cause
Raising money for charity or doing something to give back to others is one fo the best ways to motivate yourself into completing a new year’s resolution. Setting a personal goal, such as running an adventure race, facing your fears, or volunteering a set amount of time to a good cause each week will keep you focused – and knowing you’re doing good will help you stick at it. Whether your choose to tell people about the goal early on, or just ask them to sponsor you closer to an event, there is far less chance you will give up on the goal with a fundraising target in mind.
This kind of goal also gives you a timescale to work with, lots of the challenge events have a pre-registration period where you can book early and set yourself a clear goal in advance. As well as all of the fitness benefits of these resolutions, it also feels great to give something back, and rewarding your efforts will definitely keep you focused giving you the added benefit of positive mental health and seeing your hard work go to a great cause.
Try Something Completely New
If you always set the same goal each year – and fail – it could be that you are not excited or sufficiently motivated enough by the idea of the resolution. If you’re in this boat, it’s a good idea to try a new approach. So instead of saying that you want to lose weight, try taking up a new sport that excites you – many, like swimming, ice skating or trampolining will provide you with a way to learn brand new skills as well as giving your body a full workout.
Alternatively, you could set fitness goals in order to allow you to to be fit enough to do something extraordinary. For example, you could plan to book a walking trip within a new culture, go ski touring or run a race in a different country. Instead of sitting by the pool on your next summer holiday, build a break that adds in an experience that will test the progress of your new year’s resolution.
Learning a new skill is something that gets tougher the older you get, so why not take up this challenge in the new year. You can easily pick up the basics of a new language within twelve months, or try learning to play an instrument. Not every new year’s resolution has to focus on getting healthier or being sporty – there’s just as much of a challenge in broadening your horizons or taking on something completely new to test the brain.
Learn From Advice
Meeting like-minded people and listening to advice from other people who have set similar goals to your own is a great way to help you succeed. Joining a specific club such as a local running group or language club, can offer new-found motivation and happiness as you aim to achieve new goals among a group of new friends. It’s far easier to get better at what you’re aiming to do if you do your chosen activity with other people who are also passionate about the activity, and have the support of people with the knowledge and expertise to get you there. This can also help you to develop skills with professional coaching, or create opportunities to make a new goal based on those you meet.
It’s important to listen to the advice you get from other people when learning a new skill or setting a new year’s resolution. In general they will be able to give you hints of where people tend to go wrong – give you personal experiences or help you with extra training or tutoring when you need it. Sharing your experience in this way will really help you to stay focused on your goal. You can also help others in this way as you progress and develop.
Get That Great Feeling
There is a lot of research to show that if you spend time doing something you enjoy, learning new skills, getting outdoors, or becoming more active, you are less prone to mental health conditions like depression and you will have more energy and increased zest for life. If you’re struggling with poor mental health, achieving one of your goals can be exactly what you need – providing you with a sense of accomplishment, flooding your brain with endorphins and helping you to share the little victories with others around you. If you’re starting to notice your own success, you’ll feel a whole lot happier and the chances are, you’ll carry on doing the activities that helped you to feel that way in future even without setting a new goal.
Even if you don’t achieve everything you set out for at the start of the year, celebrate your goals, keep moving forward and be just as supportive to others trying hard this year to reach their own targets. A new year’s resolution isn’t just for the new year after all. Make it count, make your hard work pay off and keep trying new ways to get there when you stumble or need a week off.