Failed at your resolutions already? Here's why you should be setting goals instead

23rd Jan 19 | Lifestyle

Liz Connor asks an expert to explain why setting measurable goals is more likely to lead to long-term success.

Quit smoking. Lose weight. Be a nicer person. These are the general clichés people talk about in January when they’re thinking about setting resolutions.

For most of us, it’s a do-over month; a time for self-reflection where you dig deep and resolve to overhaul those niggling bad habits you’ve been promising yourself you’d change for months.

But for all of our good intentions, few of us actually stick to our promises. In fact, University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

The inherent problem with resolutions, says success coach Jody Shield (jodyshield.co.uk), is that the magnitude of the task means you’re often primed for failure.

“January is a great opportunity to start thinking ahead in terms of new behaviours, new thoughts and new belief systems that you want to put into place.

“However, what tends to happen is that your resolutions are only short-term,” says Shield, author of Self-Care For The Soul (Yellow Kite, £7.69). “This means the subconscious part of the brain thinks these big promises are only applicable for January.”

While we might stick to difficult or challenging changes at first, Shield says it’s all too easy to revert back to old patterns and behaviours. That’s why setting micro goals, instead of mammoth resolutions, might be the key to real, positive change.

Break it down into small chunks

The main problem with resolutions, as opposed to goals, is that a big list of huge life changes can be overwhelming and unmanageable. When you’re thinking about the year, Shield says it’s better to drill down resolutions into achievable goals you can put a deliverable date on.

“If we have a huge change in mind, we need to start breaking it down into steps. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and give up,” she says, “especially if we are trying to completely reset ourselves in a major way.”

“Something I’ve found that works really well is asking yourself, ‘What’s one thing I can change and implement right now?’” says Shield.

“When it comes to setting resolutions, our self-limiting beliefs often trip us up before we’ve even got started,” she adds, “so we need to break the overall vision down into digestible pieces.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself 

The language we use to set resolutions can also be inherently negative, while shifting to goals instead is arguably more positive.

Rather than thinking, ‘This year I need to stop smoking’, a goal could be, ‘I’m going to give up smoking for three months and put the saved money towards a holiday.’

“Major changes can be scary and fear is such a huge stumbling block,” says Shield. “That’s why we need to completely re-frame the picture if we want to stick to them in the long-term.”

Tips for setting some achievable goals this year…

Write down the things you love

Start by making a list of the things you love doing and aim for at least 10. What makes time fly? When do you feel most energised? Be very specific about the things that are unique to you – it could be spending time by the sea, or getting up early and enjoying time to yourself in the morning.

Spider diagram the areas that you’re not happy with

“A great exercise I suggest is drawing a spider diagram with the different areas of your life coming off it, such as work, home and relationships,” says Shield. “Rate each area out of 10 and then you can really hone in on the areas that are making you most unhappy.”

Visualise where you want to be a year from now

Imagine your life a year from now. If you could ‘live your best life’, where would you be living? Who would you be with? What would your dream existence look like? Spend five minutes existing in your dream life.

Set your goals

Now you know what your ideal year looks like, set a list of 10 measurable and manageable goals that you’ll attempt to tackle over the next 12 months. Focus on adding a date next to each so you’ll have a deadline for making them happen by.

As Shield says, an easy way to not feel overwhelmed is to tackle each goal one by one. Start with the one with the shortest deadline and work through the list in chronological fashion.

© Press Association 2019

MORE FROM XPOSÉ