With the New Year upon us, it is officially goal setting season! Did you know that while 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only ~9% of them feel they are successful in keeping them? This doesn’t mean we should stop making resolutions; rather, we should be smarter when developing them. Here are five tips that will help you set healthy New Year’s resolutions that you will see through to the finish!
1. Focus on What’s Most Important.
It is easy to get carried away when setting New Year’s resolutions. From health and wellness goals to academic achievement and career advancements, the sky is the limit when thinking about ways you can improve your quality of life over the next 12 months. However, to see your goals through to the finish, it is best practice not to set more than you can manage. In fact, Entrepreneur and Lifehack suggest choosing only one habit or area of your life to fucus on. This will allow you to spend the time and effort that is necessary to make real change. Then, once you’re successful, you can either build upon that change or direct your focus towards a new endeavor.
“Remember that real change takes time, effort and patience. According to research from University College London, it takes about 66 days to completely break an old habit, and it can take much longer to master something new.” – Entrepreneur.com
Once you become a seasoned goal setter, you may be able to take on more at once. One way to achieve this is to not limit yourself to one goal setting session for the entire year. Try setting fewer goals at the onset of the year and refreshing your intentions every quarter (or even once a month). While too many goals at once can result in burnout, a few new goals each quarter may provide just the vigor and motivation you need to get you to the finish line.
2. Set Goals with Intention
Many people set New Year’s resolutions, but are they the right resolutions? Your resolutions should align with your intentions. An intention is the meaning behind your actions. To see if your resolution and your intention align, try using the ‘three whys’. When you set a goal, ask yourself ‘why’ you selected this goal. Then, ask yourself ‘why’ to your response. Finally, ask ‘why’ a third time to the second response. Do your answers align with your original intention? Let’s consider this example:
A student’s intention is to get into his dream college. And so, he set a resolution to study for two hours every school night. Does this align? Let’s see:
1st Why: Why do you want to study 2 hours every school night?
Response: I want to get better grades.
2nd Why: Why do you want better grades?
Response: I want to improve my GPA?
3rd Why: Why do you want to improve your GPA?
Response: I want to be a competitive candidate for my dream college.
Does this align? Maybe and maybe not. In this example, the student should research all the factors that College Admissions Officers consider when reviewing applications (ACT scores, essays, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, etc.). He also should know what the average GPA is for students at his dream school and how his current GPA measures up. Finally, he should consider if there are specific subjects that he is struggling with that may have a bigger impact on his GPA than others. Would studying two hours on his own truly improve these grades, or would tutoring be more effective? This resolution may require further development.
“To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.” — Seneca
By using the ‘three whys’, important questions will come to light and help you refine your resolution. When you dig deep and find the right goal, you are more likely to stick with it.
3. Make your Goals S.M.A.R.T.
Once you have found the right goal, you want to tighten it up by writing it in S.M.A.R.T. format. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.
To stay focused and motivated, your goal should be clear and specific. When drafting your goals, MindTools recommends asking yourself the five “W” questions: What do I want to accomplish, why is this goal important, who is involved, where is it located, and which resources or limits are involved? If you set a vague goal such as ‘I want to be healthier’, you may get frustrated trying to decide where to begin.
“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” — Stephen Covey
Your goals should also be measurable. By adding a unit of measurement, you ensure you will know when you’ve accomplished your goal. You can measure your goal with a number (I want to lose 15 pounds), a date (By July 12th, I will be able to run 5 miles), or a percentage (By the end of the year, I’ll complete 80% of my online course).
Attainability is also important when deciding on your goals. Consider your time and resources when choosing your New Year’s resolutions. If there is just not enough time in the day to get something done, edit your goal to make it more reasonable or chunk it into smaller ones that can be completed within your chosen timeframe. Don’t forget to also consider other factors as well, including cost and the amount of physical space required.
Relevance ties into Tip # 1 and #2. Your goal must matter to you and align with your true intentions. Your goals should not only drive you forward—they should drive you forward in the right direction. Ask yourself if your goal will be worth the effort and if it is the right time to try and tackle it.
Finally, goals should be time bound, meaning they have an end date. While many New Year’s resolutions stretch across a full calendar year, remember that goals can be set quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily! However, if you do not achieve your goal by the end date, do not change the date. Rather, reflect and assess why you did not meet the target. Then, set a new goal that you can pursue after rectifying your shortcomings.
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” —Confucius
4. Break Down Lofty Goals
Now that you’ve narrowed down your resolutions, aligned them with your intentions, and made them into S.M.A.R.T. goals, it is time to chunk them into manageable steps. This is where the ‘attainable’ piece of S.M.A.R.T. really comes into play. You do not achieve goals all at once—you work towards them slowly but effectively. Little by little, you can build habits and make progress.
“The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.” — Michelle Obama
If your resolution is to get more fit (with a S.M.A.R.T. goal of completing 200 weight training sessions by December 31st), your steps in January may be to: 1) purchase a weight set, 2) make a workout video playlist on YouTube, 3) register for personal training sessions at your gym, and 4) start with two weight training sessions a week. The following month, once you’ve learned weight training basics and mastered your form, you may up your sessions to 4 times a week and start adding a weekly yoga class to stretch and rest your muscles. In short, there are many different avenues you can take when breaking down your resolutions into action steps. When mapping out your plan, refer to the S.M.A.R.T. acronym and always stay true to your original intention.
5. Manifest Using Imagery
We are nearly to the finish line! With intentional resolutions and a S.M.A.R.T. action plan, it is now time to manifest your success using imagery. That’s right, I am talking about a vision board! A vision board is a visual representation of your goals. Psychology Today writes, “A vision board is usually a collage of images that represent goals and dreams. It can include cut-out pictures from magazines and words that help inspire you to manifest your dreams and get where you want to go.” Vision boards help you imagine what success with your resolutions looks like. This serves as a motivational tool and a reminder of what’s to come if you stay focused and dedicated to your goals.
“Some of the world’s most influential thought leaders—Deepak Chopra, Gabrielle Bernstein, and Oprah, for starters—all agree: It’s wholly possible to turn your dreams into reality. It’s called manifestation. Well, that and hard work.” – Oprah Daily
To make a vision board, gather your inspiration. In other words, collect images and words that evoke a visual representation of your goals and collage them together onto one paster board. These can come from online printouts, magazine clippings, photographs, stickers, postcards, or any other materials that represent your goals. You can also create a digital vision board on your computer, phone, or tablet using Photoshop, Canva, or other graphic design tools. Once your vision board is complete, put it in a place where you will see it often, such as your bedroom wall or the desktop on your computer. This will keep your resolutions on your mind year-round.
Get Started Today
Now that you know how to choose and stick with your New Year’s resolutions, get started on your goal setting today! At Nevada State High School, one of our Core Values is continuous improvement. We encourage our students to be lifelong learners and goal getters with motivation to grow and succeed. Writing S.M.A.R.T. goals and long-range college and career planning is embedded into our curriculum to ensure our students are on the right track.
Interested in learning more about Nevada State High School? Join us for an Open House! Applications are OPEN for 11th and 12th grade students. Applications open on February 1st for 10th grade students.