We’re a week into 2017. Have you made any resolutions? How are they going? How confident are you of success? Here’s what psychology knows about how to win at goals and resolutions.
Resolutions may not be your thing but I hope you’ve given some thought to how you will create YOUR brilliant 2017?
A New Year’s Resolution is nothing special. It’s just a goal that we set when the days feel fresh and new. The timing is irrelevant. It’s having a goal that is critical.
What you should know about goals and success
Psychologists know that goals are vital to our well being. They help us to be happier. They give us a sense of meaning and purpose and they focus our attention. Goals bring us a sense of accomplishment.
Without goals we languish. Life lacks direction. Did you know that having goals and intentions for life is a special feature of being human? As far as we know it’s unique to our species. It drives us forward to learn more, grow, develop and discover. We’re born for goals.
How to set goals
Goals don’t need to be big and bold. A small goal to walk the kids to the bus stop each day provides all of the necessary ingredients for wellbeing and satisfaction. The experts in goals and goal setting will tell you this:
1. Make approach goals. Approach goals that encourage trying new things and developing new skills will win over avoidance goals. An avoidance goal requires you cease a behaviour or eliminate an activity. Stop eating chocolate or getting angry at the kids are example of avoidance goals. These goals have a negative slant that bring us down before we begin.
Find a way to turn a negative avoidance goals into a positive approach goal for greater satisfaction and success.
2. Keep it simple. You’ve got a much better chance of success if you create a series of simple mini goals rather than anything too complex. Rather than a goal to ‘get fit’ this year, why not come up with ‘five fun ways to feel fantastic’ this year?
3. Write it down. Studies have shown that when we commit our goals to paper we significantly increase our chances of success. Thinking vague thoughts about goals is not enough. Make specific notes about what you want to achieve by when and you’re on the path to success.
4. Find a way to track your progress. This is where turning your big goal into a series of smaller steps helps. It’s much easier to tick a small step off the list as soon as it’s done. You see your wins instantly and this helps you maintain motivation. You might have a chart on the fridge, a spreadsheet on the computer or use a goal setting app on your phone.
5. Reward your success. Especially if your goal involves a tough slog. Your brain is wired to reward success with a happy hormone dopamine hit every time you tick a small step off your goal list. You can take this a step further by planning a treat or reward for bigger milestones. Walked the kids to school every morning for the month? Time for a treat! By building rewards into your plan ahead of time you have an additional incentive to work towards.
6. Don’t buy into ‘shoulds’. Make sure your project is something you really want to do and not just something that you feel you should do. ‘Shoulds’ are the fast track to failure. Focus on why you want to achieve the goal, not just the outcome itself. What feelings will success bring?
7. Accept that failure is part of the process. Achieving a goal requires a change in what we do, how we think and often how we feel. It’s impossible to keep this up every day. Expect failure and forgive yourself for slipping every once in a while. Success lies in trying again the next day.
8. Focus on getting better, not getting there. All the research says that it’s striving to attain the goal rather than achieving it that brings us happiness and a sense of wellbeing. Don’t worry about the end point. Just do a little every day.
Good luck with your goals for 2017!
Next week: How to Fight Procrastination
Last week: It’s Time to Create Your Brilliant 2017