One exciting thing about new year time for many, is that you get to make new goals and resolutions, perhaps with a renewed sense of vigour and enthusiasm. With every new year, you are availing yourself a great new opportunity to reflect, restore and turn a new leaf and though I appreciate you can do this any time of year, the new year tends to be a time that many choose to do so.
You maybe made new resolutions last year as well. How many of those did you complete? And have you set out some plans for yourself this year? Have you planned to meditate daily? Or decided to eat healthier? And maybe even to prioritise yourself? Or exercise daily? If so, how has your past record of sticking to your goals gone in past years?
I understand that some things are easier said than done. You often need the motivation to realise your goals and to help you achieve them. But again, motivation isn’t necessarily that easy. Learning to tune into it the right way, you’ll have so much to gain. And your past struggles don’t mean that you can’t find success ahead.
You may not know it, but setting goals can be good for your mental health and for your personal satisfaction. But we may at times set goals and aspirations that, in reality, are far too difficult to attain. Failure to achieve these goals can result in a feeling of frustration, often to the extent that it can shatter your self-confidence. And again, the key to sticking to plans is embedded in motivation. Fortunately enough, there are several effective ways to help you trick yourself into staying motivated – and productively positive. This could really help you attain your goal, no matter how big or small.
You’ll find this article useful about the evidence-based principles of goal setting too.
Here are a number of tips and techniques for you to manoeuvre your way through the different goals you may have set out for yourself. Here is to making more goals – and achieving them!
Different Ways to Stick to Your Goals
Most of the resolutions and the goals we make do not usually make it past the ‘intention’ stage, and even those that you may start to practise usually just make it through one or two months.
1. Cognitive Restructuring Is the Way
Cognitive behavioural psychology and its practitioners often use one particular tool to help their clients. They often aim to change their perspective through cognitive restructuring. This technique involves tracking when and how your emotions change – say from happy to sad. These thoughts are then reframed.
We can take an example here as well. Assume you plan on including more vegetables in your diet. You find this goal achievable and fun to follow for some time, but then you decide you have a sudden urge for some fast food such as pizza and order one for yourself. This can lead you to adopt an “all-or-nothing behaviour” according to which you completely give up on the goal, rather than accepting that since you are human and that you will sometimes prefer salads (in keeping with your goals) and sometimes you would want to eat something a little too cheesy. This way, you compromise on the goal somewhat.
Once you have hit this “all-or-nothing” mindset, the second stage in cognitive restructuring is an attempt to change your thoughts from absolute disappointment to more realistic ones. In the example above, cognitive restructuring can help mould your thoughts from “I have failed in my resolution and am now giving up” to “I have failed in my resolution and look forward to continuing with my goal of eating healthier”.
This article has much more on this process: Why A x B = C.
If you can change not only your diet but also your thoughts to be healthier, there is a greater chance of you staying motivated and devoted to your plans and goals.
Psychologist Yvonne Thomas says that “You can consciously convert the thoughts to a more middle ground perspective, so you can remain logical versus emotionally fired up, which can interfere with motivation to stick with goals.”
2. Make a Clearer, More Fun Vision of Your Success
Jeffrey Ditzell, a psychologist, says that it is better and more beneficial if you fall in love with the vision that you so devotedly created. If your goal is one that does not make you excited or does not seem fun enough to you to push through, it can be difficult to stay motivated because we might eventually get tired of the work it takes to meet your goal. This is one reason why a vibrant and encouraging vision of your aim can help you stay committed to your goal.
Some people tend to be more creative and artistic, who can easily respond to visual reminders. It has been recommended by experts that such people can collect images or words from different magazines or online resources that include what they desire or want to achieve. It is effective when you put these pictures that trigger your imagination and foster your inspiration in front of you so that you can see them every now and then. Such tactics can trigger the neurotransmitter dopamine to induce pleasure and excitement, thereby successfully fuelling your performance.
Keep in mind that you can always go back and slightly modify your vision of the goal to make it more inspiring and newer to your mind.
3. Decompose – Disintegrate Large Goals into Smaller Goals
This tactic can apply to any goal at all! If you want your life to be more organised, and a newspaper article recently encouraged you to do so. Your schedule may seem something like cooking, exercising, sleeping and eating in the same place all day, every day. Imagine you want to make your home a neater, cleaner and more organised place. Now, if you plan on cleaning and organising each room and getting done with all of them in one day, it may be more difficult to accomplish the goal or even achieve it halfway. In order to ensure that you achieve your goals, it is more practical if you plan on cleaning and organising one room a week, and even if you focus on cleaning one week and organising the other week. This also ensures that you are not overwhelmed by the amount of work your goal or aim requires. Dividing the huge impossible task into smaller, more manageable tasks can enable you to tackle them more effectively and also feel more confident about completing the goal and attaining your aim. You will be more confident not only of the task at hand but also of the next pieces you have to do.
Never start with the huge, impossible task, instead start it small and start it steady! You can break big goals into bite-sized chunks to make them less overwhelming, and reward yourself along the way for achieving each milestone.
4. Think of a Positive Reason to Pursue Your Goals
When you are thinking of new goals and dreams to achieve, always try thinking of why you want to achieve them. Maybe you want to pursue a specific goal to enrich your life further or to just make your day a little smoother. Maybe you just want to be more satisfied with your job and your relationship.
Every time you try making a new goal or aim for yourself, maybe just try to ask yourself these questions. These will help you identify whether these questions are coming from a positive and more meaningful source. In case your aspirations are coming from an area of shame and fear, such a mindset can be dangerous and can cause you to become stuck in an endless cycle of negative thoughts. Remember that focusing on your self-perception with a perspective of self-compassion can really help you stay motivated.
Now even if your goal does not change, your mindset and motivation may change over time.
5. Prepare for it every single time!
One way of staying on the route to success is to come prepared – that is, to have done your prep work. You must lay out the path with the right tools to support your effort, which also must be continuous. When you set out a goal for yourself, see what the pre-requisites are. What is it that you need to do or have in order to proceed? One other question to think of is what might the potential hurdles be? Once you easily identify these roadblocks and are able to equip yourself with the required tools, you can easily proceed. With all the supports in place and all potential threats at bay, you will be all ready to not only proceed but also stay devoted and committed to a vision and a goal you have crafted for yourself.
6. Team Up with Someone You Know You Can Trust
It is always better to join forces with someone you know you can trust. This accountability and support is proven to help greatly.
Having constant support and accountability help you remain naturally focused. However, it is really important that you are sure that the other person is willing to accompany you throughout and stay by your side. It will help you make leaps in your path to achieving your goals. You will be able to find ways to be there for each other and will be able to push yourself towards achieving your end goal. You can easily talk to this person daily about all the hurdles you go through and the entire process. When you know you have someone to report your progress to, you are much more likely to stay ready and motivated to stick to your goal. And teamwork in itself is effective in helping you achieve your results in a far better way. Research suggests that activities in the form of a team require interaction and communication and that teamwork increases the effectiveness in achieving your goals and aims even in contexts outside of science.
7. Make a List of All the Benefits Your Goal Could Help You Achieve
Some researchers might even want you to list down some of the benefits you might be getting from making a new goal or putting in the effort to try to achieve it. What might help the most is making a list of pros and cons of working towards your goal – and you might as well install that list in a place where you get to see it every day. Thus, for example, if you intend to make a goal of waking up early every day, you can make a list of all the benefits and all the positives you will be getting from waking up early and becoming a morning person. Thinking about the positives will really motivate you to put effort into your goal, no matter how difficult it might seem, and enable you to pull the covers off your head every time the alarm rings.
8. Appreciate your Wins
Sometimes working alone for your goal can seem really difficult and does mostly require long term efforts. Things will not change overnight or even over a period of one week or month. This all is part of a huge, long-term process. Here it is a trial and error process, where you will be able to make mistakes and fall one day, and the next day you thrive wonderfully. Remember, it is all part of the process. Own your wins and achievements. Once you have worked hard for something and reaped the rewards, own it. At the same time, whenever you fall short, just try to own it and accept it; it will help you move on better and not let you blame yourself for too long. Thereby preventing you from giving up on your aim and staying committed to it.
Sticking to your goals and resolutions can be difficult, but you can make them happen! Make sure you take out the time to plan, weigh and execute your goals, and give your best in the process. We have summarised a few tactics you can use. Try them out, and let us know if they helped!
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