Make New Year’s Resolutions Work: 5 Psychological Tips to Reach your Goals!

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It is that time of year as another year ends and a new one begins. A popular topic of New Year’s resolutions often comes to mind. I think that people think about New Year’s resolutions because they think about past regrets and/or future improvements. There is the sense that it is a new year and somehow this is a bigger opportunity to start with a clean slate and work towards personal growth. I personally admire people who make New Year’s resolutions because it shows me that there is a desire for improvement and some level of insight around things that need to change. I also know that there are many people who just don’t bother with these resolutions. Why? Because people believe that they just don’t work. The last thing that these people want is another failure on their belt and a reminder that they lack commitment. 

As for me, I believe the future is for the dreamers and people with vision! So even if New Year’s resolutions are aspirational goals, I believe that setting that intention already sets you up for a closer win then those who do not aspire for anything at all! So if you’re reading this and are contemplating being a better version of you, here are five tips (or rather thought processes based on psychology) on how to make these resolutions a win for you this year!

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  1. Start with your values.

    Before setting any goals at all, I would recommend taking a look at what is meaningful to you in life. This may take a little time to reflect but I feel it is so important and often an overlooked step. Let’s say that you want to lose weight this year. As Simon Sinek has proposed, start with why! Why is losing weight important to you? Is it more about body image and wanting to look a certain way? Is it about meeting societal expectations so people will accept you? Is it about having more energy and health? Depending on your answer, there may be other ways to achieve your core value other than blindly aiming to lose weight (or rather release weight because we tend to find what we lose!). If the goal really does not matter to you, you are much more likely to give up!

  2. Work S.M.A.R.T-er.

    I love the saying “Work smarter, not harder.” You may have heard of SMART goals before in your business but this is equally true in your personal life. If you don’t know this acronym, this is a way to make your goals laser-focused. Whatever value-driven goals you have created, now is the time to make it very clear. Make sure that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. We want to move away from abstract ideals and shift to actionable behaviors. For example, let’s say you want to write a book. Instead of simply setting that as a broad goal, a SMART goal may sound more like “I want to write an e-book that consists of 100 pages and at least 5 chapters about the topic of healthy relationships by the end of October.” The more specific, the better! If in doubt, ask another person whether or not he or she would be able to tell if this goal was achieved.

  3. K.I.S.S. your goals.

    This is another favorite acronym that I learned during my time in the army. It stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid.” I have interpreted this phrase as keeping the goals so simple that even someone dumb would be able to understand and do them. This is extremely important because complicated goals with too many steps create confusion and sometimes overwhelming feelings which increases the likelihood of quitting. Take some time to break down your goals into as many little steps as you can and keep it simple.For example, if you are trying to write a book, the first step may be to start by evaluating your schedule and setting time aside to write. The next little step may be to think about a title for your book and come up with three possible names. The key is not simply the speed in reaching your goal but rather making sure there is forward movement in the right direction.

  4. Identify your barriers.

    This is also important because the last thing you want is to pursue your goals with great intentions but be ignorant of opposing forces. If your goals were easy, you would have achieved it last year! So think about why these goals have not been accomplished yet. What held you back? What are other competing commitments that may be getting in the way of making progress on your goals? This may be a good time to look at your SMART goals again and see if they are do-able given other life commitments. Then factor those things in and how you can still make gains towards your goals. Going into the new year with your eyes wide open will take out some of the unexpected surprises and prepare you for potential setbacks.

  5. Create accountability.

    The final step is getting someone or people to help you stay on track. When we make these New Year’s resolutions in secret, there is little consequence when you decide to quit because no one else knows! We raise our intention by letting a trusted other know exactly what we are aiming for and give them permission to speak into our lives. Some people decide to do this on a larger scale and put out their goals on a public forum like social media. There is something about our pride and the need to look good that we can leverage to our benefit in achieving our goals. 

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That is it! Take the extra time to mentally prepare though these five tips and it will definitely make the process much more likely to happen given the framework that is set up for your success. For more entries like this, please visit me on my blog.

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