2016 is well under way. January is a great time to set a new goal or try something new. If your New Years Resolution is already losing its luster or you’re looking to set some goals, try these simple strategies. You’ll create goals that pack a punch and increase the chances that you will attain them.
Frame it right
Put your goal in positive terms. State what you will do rather than what you will not do. Our brains are wired to do what we hear. How many times have you heard someone holler at a kid to “Stop Running!” just to see them run even faster? Saying “Walk!” is a lot more effective. Framing powerful, successful goals works in a similar way. Here are some examples to illustrate the idea.
Unhelpful: Stop smoking Good Example: Start a smoking cessation plan
Unhelpful: Cut out junk food Good Example: Eat more fresh food, fruits & vegetables
Unhelpful: Stop yelling at my kids Good Example: Learn new parenting strategies
Write it down & break it down
For a goal to be effective, you have to write it down. Thinking about it, and even talking about it with others doesn’t carry the same power as putting your goal on paper. I’ll leave it up to the researchers to debate whether handwritten is better than typing the goal on a computer. Regardless of your chosen method, put your goal into written words so it is less floaty and more concrete.
A powerful goal is an attainable goal. Break down your goal into smaller steps or strategies. Your current state is a compilation of small choices and habits. Achieving something new or different will require the cumulative effect of small new choices. If you break a goal down into steps, try thinking it through chronologically. If you want to break it down into strategies, brainstorm the different behaviors that will contribute to your success. This is your chance to get creative! Here’s an example of how you might reframe and break down a written goal into multiple strategies.
Unhelpful: Lose weight (Ugh! Uttered millions of times, that goal isn’t inspiring!)
Good Example: Enjoy a more healthy lifestyle
- Pack a healthy lunch the night before.
- Put on my tennis shoes the moment I walk in the front door.
- Keep a daily food journal.
- Use an activity tracker and/or a smart phone app.
- Measure my progress every two weeks.
- Read the label on every food or drink item I put in my body.
- Walk the dog.
- Do pushups every night before bed.
- Increase my water intake.
- Do squats while I’m brushing my teeth.
- Suck in and clench my stomach muscles at every red light.
- Eat a light snack before I go grocery shopping.
The objective is to come up with multiple strategies to produce successful outcomes. Having multiple strategies gives you multiple pathways to success. You may succeed at some strategies and fail miserably at others, and still see progress toward your goal. This helps you avoid the All-Or-Nothing trap. Often, people give up on a goal when they miss a day of the new activity or slip up and do the thing they are trying to avoid.
Put it out there
Share your goal with someone. Tell them what you are doing and what you will accomplish. Depending on your level of comfort, you might tell one friend or broadcast it on social media. Engage your significant other in supporting you. Find a like-minded co-worker to be an accountability partner. Start a conversation about goals at your book club meeting. Ask your Sunday School class to pray for your success. Find a supportive group online. Enlist the help of a professional. Whatever you do, put it out there. Saying it out loud to another person makes it more real, increases your personal accountability, and makes the goal more powerful.
Be a dreamer
Finally, top off all your planning and hard work with some good ol’ fashioned day dreaming. Imagine yourself accomplishing your goal. Picture yourself being wildly successful doing whatever it is you have set out to do. Give your day dream texture. What does it feel like, look like, smell like, sound like? Luxuriate in your own success. Keep your day dream out in front of you as you celebrate forward progress or when you forget, falter or fumble along. It can help remind you of why you’re making the effort.