Why setting goals shouldn’t just be for January

It’s New Year’s resolution time. Chances are you’ve set yourself a goal this year to get fit, read more books, save money, see more of your family or learn a new skill.

The New Year is seen as the perfect opportunity to open a new chapter in your life. It symbolises fresh beginnings and hope for the future – so why do so many people fail in the goals they set themselves?

According to Psychology Today, there are several reasons why we fail in our New Year’s resolutions:

  • People set them as a way to motivate themselves, but just aren’t ready to change their bad habits
  • False hope syndrome describes where a person sets a goal which is too unrealistic and they don’t really believe they can achieve it in the first place
  • Many people set goals such as losing weight or saving money and expect their lives to be completely changed. “When it doesn’t, they get discouraged and revert back to old behaviours.”

So what’s the solution to this resolution problem? You just need to rewire your brain.

Habits are created by reinforcing thinking patterns which become the default basis for your behaviour when you’re faced with a choice or decision. Trying to change that default thinking by “not trying to do it,” in effect just strengthens it.

This may sound complicated, but it isn’t. Here’s how to achieve your goals by creating new habits instead:

  • Set more realistic goals
  • Be more specific. Instead of saying you’re going to lose weight, set a goal to lose five pounds in a month, for instance.
  • Create smaller milestones. If you have a particularly big overarching goal, like changing your career, set smaller goals to help you achieve this, such as identifying and researching the career you want, taking a short course or getting a new qualification, spending an hour a week improving your business network or LinkedIn presence, or finding a mentor.
  • Don’t wait for the start of the year. Creating new goals and working towards them should be a daily process to keep you motivated and get ahead in life.

Mindtools.com reiterates why your goals should be far more than just a half-hearted chocolate ban after Christmas or a vague promise to lose weight:

“Many people feel as if they’re adrift in the world. They work hard, but they don’t seem to get anywhere worthwhile. A key reason that they feel this way is that they haven’t spent enough time thinking about what they want from life, and haven’t set themselves formal goals… By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray.”

Think about your own lifetime goals. Is there something you want to achieve in your career or education? Do you want to create something artistic? Do something for your family? Overcome a physical or emotional challenge? Or perhaps you want to change the world?

We’re betting your goal can’t just be achieved overnight, or in January for that matter.

Lifetime goals take time, naturally. You need to break these down into smaller, more manageable goals, which give you a daily sense of achievement because you’re working towards something bigger.