Now that it’s the middle of February it’s officially right about the time that most people have forgotten about or given up on their New Years Resolutions. After the indulgence of the holidays a lot of us are fiercely motivated to cut down on spending or lose the extra 10 pounds that we can’t seem to get rid of. Unfortunately, winter has a way of dragging on (sometimes very painfully for those living in frigid winter climates) and sucking the motivation out of all of us.
If you’ve fallen behind or completely forgotten about your goals for the new year, have no fear. It’s only February and it’s still a great time to focus on making some improvements in your life and setting some goals in place. Here is my best advice for getting your New Years Resolutions back on track.
Decide what kind of goal your making
Certain goals are short-term goals to achieve a purpose. Other goals are an implementation of something you want to become a habit and to change permanently for good. Each of these types of goals are great and effective for different reasons, but it’s important to be honest and label your goal as one or the other. This will help you to keep your expectations in check during the process.
a lifestyle change
A goal of quitting smoking is a permanent (I would hope) change you’re trying to make in your life. That means this goal will never be “complete”, it will continue on and on. You are essentially not “trying to quit smoking” you are trying to “become and stay a smoke free person”.
a goal with a beginning and ending time frame
A goal of running a half marathon this fall has a set beginning and end timeframe. While training for your half-marathon you’ll need to spend a lot of time dedicated to running, conditioning your body, and bumping up your milage. After your half-marathon it’s unrealistic and often not necessary to be running 40-50 miles per week. The great thing about this kind of goal is that once you’ve accomplished it you’re done. You can check it off your list and feel accomplished.
Evaluate and be honest about why you’re falling short
This could be really easy, or it could be really tricky. Realizing you’re falling short is important, but it’s even more important to identify why you’re falling short. Is it because your plan was not thorough? Is it because you’re not following your plan? Is it because the people around you are engaging in the behavior or habit that you’re trying to avoid? If you’re trying to stop mindless shopping, but you’re constantly accompanying your friend who often overspends to the mall, it’s easy to see why you’d be struggling more. Keep in mind that her goals are not the same as yours, and find another way to spend time with her that doesn’t involve shopping or overspending.
Make sure your goal is challenging, but realistic
Losing 50 lbs in 3 months, saving $50,000 in 3 months; these are not realistic goals. You’re trying to make a positive change in your life, not harm yourself or make yourself miserable for every waking moment. Setting goals that challenge and push you are good, but setting goals that are unrealistic is setting yourself up for failure. Do yourself a favor and make your goal something that you can realistically achieve.
rework your plan
After establishing what kind of a goal you’re setting and why you were initially falling short, it’s important to re-work your plan. If you didn’t even have a plan in the first place, make one. If your plan wasn’t thorough, add more detail, be more specific about the steps you’re going to take. If you’re having trouble following through with your plan find away to hold yourself accountable. No one runs a successful business without some sort of model or plan to guide them along the way, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll achieve your personal goals without a plan either.
Find ways to make it fun
Making a big change in your life can be extremely hard. Being focused and set on a goal is a great thing, but finding ways to add a little fun to your goal reaching process will make it seem less like “work” all the time. If your goal is to read more, join a book club in your community where you can couple together reading and socializing with other people. If you’re trying to cook more from home, sign up for a hands-on cooking class. Not only are you working towards your goal, but by finding ways to make it fun you’re increasing your chances of success tremendously.
break up your big goal with smaller goals
Big lofty goals are great, but sometimes they’re so big they can be daunting and it can seem like you’re never going to get there. If your goal is to save $50,000 by the end of the year break that goal up into smaller goals. Start by cutting out your daily coffee stop at Starbucks. After a few weeks of that, add to that goal by cutting out random trips to Target. From there, add in cutting down on eating out. Accomplishing all of these small goals, is a direct way to see what you are doing to accomplish your larger goal.
keep motivation and inspiration close by
Everyone lacks motivation or inspiration for their goal at some point; it’s normal, it’s natural, it’s human. The good news is with social media and smart phones we never have to be too far away from things that inspire or motivate us. If you’re trying to lose weight, follow fitness accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If you’re trying to become a better writer or blogger subscribe to newsletters and blogs of writers and bloggers you admire. Use them as a constant reminder of where you’re trying to get to.
Commit to tracking your progress
It can be hard to see how much progress you’re making if you don’t keep track of it. A lot of the most successful changes are made subtly and over time, not in a big abrupt way. Small progress is not nearly as glamorous as large progress, but trust me, track and notice the small progress and large progress will soon follow.
Make necessary changes
Sometimes you’re in the middle of reaching for a goal and you realize you want to narrow that goal, or even change it a little bit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Your goals are yours never let someone make you feel bad about making changes along the way.
tell people about your goals
Tell as many people as you’re comfortable with about your goals. You might want all 800 of your Facebook friends to know, or maybe you just want to tell your close family of friends. Either way, telling people about your goals is scientifically proven to add motivation to people to achieve those goals.
Enlist the help of a buddy
Going about a big goal with a buddy can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only does another person help you to be accountable, but it also can make the entire process a lot more fun.
See slip-ups as a way to refocus and re-motivate you
Setbacks are inevitable. They’ve happened before and they’re going to happen in the future. Don’t see one (or even two or three) slip-ups as the funeral of your goals. Spending a lot of time getting mad at yourself will do nothing to help you. Take a few minutes, be disappointed, and then move on. Learn to use setbacks as a way to recommit yourself to the process.
Reward yourself in a way that keeps you on track with your goal
“I took a spin class today, so I’ve earned that brownie.”
“I haven’t spent money on clothes in 2 weeks, so I’ve earned that designer pair of shoes.”
I always cringe when I hear people say these things. Rewards are important, but often times people reward themselves in a way that undoes all their hard work. Find ways to reward yourself that won’t detour you from your goal. If you’ve lost 10 pounds, reward yourself with a pedicure. If you’ve given up mindless spending, reward yourself with bubble bath. Don’t set yourself up to take one step forward and then two steps backwards.