2017 is very nearly upon us and with the new year come new goals. The tradition of making new years resolutions / goals / plans / intentions is beginning again. We see the new year as a clean slate and as an ideal time to put our plans to better ourselves into action.
Making resolutions is a good thing. It shows that we are interested in and aware of self improvement, gives us vision and motivation. We all start with good intentions, but for many, inspiration fizzles out within a few months. Setting meaningful, personal goals is the key to setting goals that stick.
Here are five steps to help you set meaningful goals that you will (hopefully!) stick to.
You can’t set truly meaningful goals until can really understand what is important to you. Spend some time reflecting, evaluating and working out your values. Although this sounds like an obvious place to start, giving it proper thought will make a big difference to the goals you set and whether you stick to them.
Consider these areas of your life:
Reflect on the previous year – did you give these things the time and energy they deserve? Are you happy with the way your life looks in each area? What is important to you in each category? How would your ideal life look and feel?
Now you’ve considered your true values, what are your goals? What are your dreams?
Brainstorm your goals. Write them down. This step is about working out what you really want. It doesn’t matter if it’s unrealistic or unattainable at this stage.
You need to decide what you want your life to look like – not what your family, friends or society tell you it should look like. Setting your goals around your true self and your values will help you to stay motivated as you aim to achieve them. If your goals don’t fit with your bigger picture then the chances of you sticking to them are slim.
You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before. To be honest, I don’t ask myself if I apply each SMART principle every time I set goals, but I think the principles are important and worth reminding ourselves of.
According to the SMART principle, goals should be:
Specific – goals should be clear and complete and set out exactly what you want to achieve.
Measurable – quantify your goal. Be specific (as above). Instead of ‘Exercise more’, try ‘Go for a run three times a week’.
Attainable – Now may be the time to rein in your dreams just a little. Goals should be realistic, so you may need to break down your big dreams into smaller, attainable steps.
Relevant – Your goals need to be relevant to you. See above, about building the life you want, not the life others want you to have.
Time – Time frames are important to keep you accountable and motivated. Time can also be used to break down big goals into smaller chunks – for example, I will achieve x by this time and y by this time.
Write down your goals. I usually write my yearly goals the inside cover of my diary so they are easily accessible. Writing your goals down helps to keep you accountable.
New goals are not just for the new year. Check-in with yourself and your goals regularly. Ask yourself if you are on track to attain them. If not, what changes can you make to help? Do you need to set some smaller goals, each with their own time frame, to help you to achieve them?