How To Set New Year Goals and Stay On Track
The final month of the year offers an opportunity to reflect upon the year, including the challenges and achievements, and to ponder on the opportunities for the next 12 months. It is a time for setting goals and establishing New Year's Resolutions; and to drive performance and fulfillment in the new year. This article explores the concept of a New Year's Resolution, how to stay on track with your goals, and suggests strategies that you can implement to ensure you achieve your New Year's Resolution.
A survey of more than 1,500 people found that only 41% of participants made a New Year’s Resolution. Common resolutions related to weight loss, relationships and finances.
However, only 8-9% of the people were found to attain their New Year’s Resolution. One reason for this was that their resolution seemed overwhelming. A strategy to overcome this obstacle is to make the goal more realistic and attainable to you (Carlson, D. 2018).
Let's explore some key strategies that you can implement to increase the likelihood of achieving your goals.
Apply the SMART principles:
First, break down your New Year's Resolution into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented goals. Let's use the example goal ‘to stress less’.
(S) Specific – what will be accomplished? This is your mission statement and includes Who (i.e., you), What (e.g., meditation), When (e.g., regularly), Where (e.g., in the garden), and Why (e.g., to relax and calm the mind)
(M) Measurable – how will you measure the achievement of your goal? Subjective (e.g., rate how you feel out of 10; 10 = positive; 1 = negative), and Objective (e.g., amount of time spent meditating each day or week)
(A) Achievable – what resources do you need to achieve your goal? Are these resources easy to access? For example, downloading a meditation app onto your mobile phone can help with practicing meditation in the garden each day
(R) Relevant – how does this goal relate to my broader New Year’s Resolution? For example, the positive outcomes of regular meditation are related to my New Year’s Resolution ‘to stress less’
(T) Time-oriented – when would you like to achieve your goal? Set a realistic date you want to achieve your goal, then set another date (mid-way) to review your progress. Setting dates can give you direction, motivation and keep you on track
Creating a Habit
A habit is an automatic routine, which helps preserve energy and is a part of our daily activities. Often, repeating a behaviour as little as seven times can help form a habit.
Here are a few ways to help yourself create a habit:
- Set reminders
You could set an alarm onyour phone or send yourself a calendar invite. These reminders will act as a prompt to practice the new behaviour.
- Make it easy and convenient
Stage your progress ie. aim for half the desired duration and effort to begin with. The aim is to create a routine, which is easier than trying to achieve the end state right away. The end state will come with time and practice.
- Review progress
Review your progress intermittently and involve a trusted friend or family member to hold you accountable. Research has shown that social support (i.e., friends, family) is one of the most commonly reported influences to maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviour change. So, ask a trusted friend or family member to support you and hold you accountable for you achieving your New Year’s Resolution.
Start by reviewing your (M) measurables (i.e., subjective and/or objective measures) that you documented since the beginning of your New Year’s Resolution. Review these measures with a trusted friend or family member and together, set a reward for your progress or adjust your timeline to make your New Year’s Resolution more achievable.
Setting New Year’s Resolutions is only one part of the process of setting goals and achieving them. This new year, carefully select those New Year’s Resolutions that matter most to you and are realistic and apply some of the strategies that we have walked through above to ensure that you’re able to achieve all that you endeavour.
Carlson, D. (2018). Setting goals for success. Optometry Times, 8–11; Statistic Brain Research Institute (2018) New Year’s Resolution Statistics
University of California – SMART Goals: A How to Guide (2016)
Knestrick, J. (2019). New Habits for a New Year. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 15(1), A8
Murray, et al. (2013). A qualitative synthesis of factors influencing maintenance of lifestyle behaviour change in individuals with high cardiovascular risk.(Report). BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, 13(1)