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Building Goals to Get the Best You

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by

Almost half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Only 8% achieve their resolutions, according to Forbes.

Are you really surprised the number is so low? Be honest—how many times have your resolutions lasted all the way through the year? What about even through February?

You’re not alone. Forbes said that 92% of people don’t keep their resolutions. Why?

Set Goals Not Resolutions

When the ball drops in Times Square, you do not suddenly become a blank slate. The old year, with all its successes and failures, does not disappear. Nor should it.

Resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent yourself, says Timothy Pychyl, professor of psychology at Carleton University.

It’s human nature to focus more on the negative aspects of life than the positive. We get to the end of the year and think of all the things we didn’t accomplish—the weight we didn’t lose, the money we didn’t save, the degrees we didn’t earn.

We want to push those old, unpleasant memories aside and start fresh.

But imagine if we all started over every year. No one would ever get anything done. We would be emotionally immature. We wouldn’t be able to learn from our mistakes, which is also human nature.

So maybe the truth is that resolutions are not always the right way to approach New Year’s if you want to be healthy and successful. Instead, set goals. Goals should be small, manageable tasks that you can achieve. There are a few key components to include in your reflection in order to set manageable, realistic goals.

Recognize Your 2016 Successes

When making resolutions, people can have “false hope syndrome.” This means their resolutions are unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves, according to psychology professor Peter Herman.

So, before starting a list of goals, first take time to reflect. What did you accomplish in 2016? What are you proud of? You did have successes so take the time to recognize the good. Your self-esteem will appreciate it, and your motivation depends on it.

Without building on past successes and learning from past mistakes, you cannot hope to move forward in real tangible ways.

Build a positive view of 2016 by making a list of how you succeeded, whether large or small. Instead of wishing you had volunteered more, think of all the times you did volunteer. Instead of wishing you had saved more money, think of all the bills you paid on time.

Little victories add up quickly, and successes need to be recognized as a tool to prove to you that YOU CAN DO IT!

Brainstorm Your 2017 Goals

It’s all about small steps that will make a big difference. Don’t dream up an extreme makeover. Instead, set goals that build on your list of successes from 2016. After all, you have already started working toward a goal with a few past successes.

According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, it’s better to set “small, attainable goals throughout the year, rather than a singular, overwhelming goal.”

“Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time,” Bufka says.

Rather than universal “resolutions,” set achievable “goals” that are tailored to you.

Make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time sensitive. Keep them attainable.

According to U.S. News & World Report: “To cultivate a capacity for self-trust, you must succeed… If, for example, you’re not sure you’ll stick with going to the gym five times a week, then don’t promise yourself a high frequency of visits, but rather build up to it. Choose one day a week and then two days a week. Better to do the best you can than to fall short and wind up jeopardizing your growing capacity for believing in yourself. When it comes to building trust, it’s better to lose the battle than the war.”

Need some help seeing reasonable goals. Go to our Online Quiz to help you set personalized, SMART goals that are just for you.

Decide How You Will Hold Yourself Accountable

After setting goals, find a way to keep yourself accountable. Our How to Hold Yourself Accountable article will help you fine tune your plan.

Next year, you’ll be able to look back on your successes (and failures) from 2017 and build on them again in 2018.

You are not a blank slate. You’re building and growing continues. Keep up the good work!


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