As January is the time for starting work on New Year’s resolutions, February might as well be the time for forgetting or abandoning them. For some, this process of setting and failing to accomplish is an annual tradition which leads to feelings of guilt and lowers self-worth, as frequently people are critical of themselves for not achieving what they set out to do.
So, how do we avoid this annual trap?
1. Set small goals. Going to the gym every day sounds like a great idea, but most people find that it takes a lot of work. Why not plan on going to the gym once a week instead?
2. Set quantifiable goals. What I mean by quantifiable is “measurable.” Setting a goal of “being happier” is one that is hard to measure in the same way that you would measure something with a ruler or measuring cup or thermometer. Set goals that you literally can count. If the desire is to be happier, perhaps set a goal of writing down one thing you makes you happy or that you appreciate every day. (This is something measureable, because you can literally measure how many items you write down each day.)
3. Do not set goals that are dependent on external factors. Setting the goal of going on more dates presents an obstacle out of one’s control: the person you ask out may not want to go out with you. Instead, remove the other people from the equation. Consider reframing your goal as “Ask more people out.” (And, while we’re at it, let’s make sure we keep that incremental number small and quantifiable.)
4. Make yourself accountable. Ask a friend, family member, or a therapist to follow up with you on your progress. Make sure this is someone who will be supportive and not someone who will tear you down for missteps.
5. Most importantly, don’t frame missteps as failures; frame them as bumps in the road and be sure to anticipate them. If your goals is weekly exercise, expect to miss a week from time to time. There is no reason to stop because you’ve missed a week. You’ll feel better in the long run if you keep the process moving forward.
There is one more method for succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions: don’t set them. This my particular method of choice, and it works almost flawlessly. Self-improvement is a continuous process, and there is no rule saying that it has to begin on January 1. I like to encourage my clients to continually keep their aspirations in sight, regardless of whether it is winter or summer, and therapy is a great way to ensure that you are working toward succeeding your personal goals.
Want to think more about goal-setting? Feel free to reach out! I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484-222-6436.