New Years Resolution time has fast approached. As a therapist who pushes people to make goals for themselves, I enjoy the benefits of this time, but also dread the problems that such a yearly landmark can create. Therefore, I recommend that you keep the following tips in mind while trying to reach your goals.
1. Brainstorm big. I recommend that people start with their “big picture” version of what they would like to accomplish, not only for the upcoming year, but in the years to come as well. Don’t be afraid to think beyond your normal line of thinking of what you could accomplish. Get idealistic here. This is more of a brainstorming exercise, than anything else, which can help you know where you would like to go. You may decide that you don’t want to get there, or may realize that you can’t get there, but that is fine.
2. Narrow down you goal. The next step is decide on one goal for the upcoming year. What would you most like to achieve? The big picture can remain, and you can add on other goals later on, but I don’t recommend you doing that right away. Otherwise, the tasks will seem to daunting, and it will be easier for you to give up on this. This is merely a step to increase your chances of success.
3. Create a plan. For those who I work with, they know that I am a big fan of planning. Planning is a standard element to the stages of change model. In order for you to create a long-term, personal change, you have to start with a plan. If you don’t, you are much more likely to get frustrated down the road, and stop working towards your goal.
4. Put the plan into action. Try out what you have laid out to accomplish. See what works for you and what doesn’t. Keep in mind that real change is usually a little unfamiliar and a little uneasy. So if you are uncomfortable, that is not out of the norm for someone who is trying to make a change.
5. Take a daily inventory. At the beginning of the day, set forth small goals that you want to achieve on the way to your larger goal. At the end of the day, analyze the successes and failures of the day, and amend the plan accordingly to give yourself a better chance of success on the following day. This also allows you to give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.
6. Reanalyze your long-term goal. After some time passes, and you have reached several daily/weekly goals, determine how close you are to the picture you created. How much farther do you have to go? Avoid “grass is always greener” type thinking here. This is where your line of thinking can become a trap. It is fine to get a little less idealistic at this stage to make sure that you’re not walking into a space where you’ll never be content with what you achieve. Ask yourself why you want to reach this long-term goal, and reassess how important it is to you. If it is still that important, then continue on. If you think you are close enough, then you can start thinking about brainstorming over other goals.
Although short, this guide can help you with your New Years Resolution, or any other change that you are trying to make in your life. Remember that setting goals is great, but if you don’t give yourself credit for steps toward your goal, the downfall is sacrificing your long-term contentment. Contentment and complacency are not the same. So set goals, try to reach them, and enjoy what you accomplish. Have a happy and safe 2013.