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How to Follow Through on Your Goals in the New Year

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Hey, everyone! How’s your New Year’s resolution coming along? We’re approaching that time in the new year when the vast majority of folks are already abandoning their lofty aspirations and resorting to their old ways. Wouldn’t you like to actually follow through on your goals this year? Read on!

It’s no wonder so many of us like to make resolutions around January 1. After overindulging in sweets and alcohol over the holidays, people often make health or fitness resolutions. Or maybe we resolve to find a better job, or keep a neater household. The flipping of the calendar page makes us take stock, look at our lives, and reflect on what needs to change.

Personally, I love the fresh start the new year offers, even though I don’t always achieve my goals! Something about the end of the holidays breeds introspection. I think of ways I’d like to improve my relationships, my health, my career, and more.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to follow through on goal achievement. According to a 2017 Business Insider article, approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That doesn’t exactly place the odds in our favor, does it?

In the spirit of helping all of us be part of the 20% who succeed, here are nine tips for actually achieving your goals in the new year!

  1. Limit the number of big goals. It may be tempting to try to fix 37 things about your life, but that’s way too many goals to focus on all at once. For a yearly goal, narrow your list down to just a few major items, two or three at the most. This will help you be realistic and actually have the energy and time to devote to achieving them.
  2. Be specific. Just saying “I want to eat healthier” isn’t likely to spark much significant change in your dietary habits. Rather, be specific: “I’ll aim to eat at least nine vegetable and fruit servings per day and only eat sweets once a week.” A clear target is easier to hit, so you’re more likely to follow through.
  3. Choose goals that are right for you. One surefire way to sabotage your chances of success in reaching your goals? Choosing goals based on someone else’s motivation. A spouse or friend may think you should earn more money or run a marathon, but if you’re not motivated, you won’t do the work to achieve that goal. You'll be more likely to follow through on changes to reach goals that matter to you.
  4. Find an accountability partner. I can’t tell you how many workouts I’ve skipped when I didn’t have someone to push me, to motivate me. On the flip side, when I’m a member of a team, or a friend and I have an agreement to work out together, I always stick to my commitments. Tell a few people your goals and ask them to check in on your progress throughout the year.
  5. Track your progress. Map out your year with a timeline, detailing what you’ll have accomplished at each checkpoint. Then, make adjustments if you’re a little behind or ahead of your timeline. Jon Acuff’s book Finish talks about the importance of data in goal accomplishment. Due to the unreliability of our emotions, data can be a necessary tool to bring us back to reality. That way, even though we might not “feel” as if we’re succeeding, when we look at the facts, our progress is evident!
  6. Celebrate small wins. This goes right along with #5, so when you reach a benchmark, reward yourself with a fun incentive. Maybe you celebrate with a fancy dinner out after completing your first grueling semester of grad school. Whatever the reward, it should help you stay the course until your goal is fully achieved. Some goals take a year or multiple years to complete, so periodic rewards provide a burst of excitement, helping you avoid burnout and discouragement. 
  7. Create a plan for failure. What? Yep, you read that right! Expect to fail once in awhile. You won’t be 100% on track with every goal every day, so you need to prepare for those occasional slip-ups. Acuff calls this the “day after perfect”. Imagine you’re on a diet and you cave to temptation, scarfing down a dozen cookies in one sitting. Don’t throw your hands in the air and go off your diet for a whole week! You messed up once. You’re human, so give yourself a little grace. Remember that setbacks are normal and expected, and you can get right back on track.
  8. Create visual reminders. This is a fun one! You might make a list or picture of your goals your phone’s lock screen or your laptop background. Tape the list to your car’s dashboard. Make a “vision board” to help you imagine the future you want. Say you’re saving money for a dream vacation. Gazing at the photos of your dream location will help curb unnecessary spending so you’ll save more for the trip! Keeping your primary goals at the forefront of your mind, by leaving reminders everywhere you go, will ensure that you stay focused and follow through.
  9. Trust the process. Remember, things will get easier. With most habits, change becomes easier over time. So whether you’re attempting to change your diet, your spending habits, a work procedure, or anything else, be patient! 

Be prepared for goal achievement to be a journey. Change is tough, and some days will be easier than others. But don’t give up on yourself. You have everything you need to stick with your goals in the new year. You can be among the 20%--one of those who follows through and succeeds in the new year!

    Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

    By Kate Underwood

    Kate is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance, frugality, family, and change. You can find her at Changing Our Default.

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