With a new year comes new resolutions. With new resolutions comes another attempt at establishing new habits and ultimately heeding some level of disappointment. Change isn't as easy as taking advantage of a clean slate to be reborn a new you. There are challenges, struggles, failures, and successes that contribute to the long road of goal-setting and reaching the finish line.
While everyone has goals and intentions for where they want to be in the future, whether short- or long-term, following through is the hardest part. To learn more about raising the bar and challenging the self, I turned to the expertise of Marci Moberg, mindfulness and transformation expert; Ariel Banayan, co-founder of Habit Nest and co-author of the Morning Sidekick Journal; and David Pearl, LCSW, psychotherapist and performance coach.
As Banayan tells me via email, "When we work really hard towards anything, our valuation of ourselves grows. ... The more you struggle, the more you grow. The more you grow, the more you believe in your own ability to go out and get you want. The more often you work hard to get what you want, the higher you strive."
Here are 11 ways to set better intentions and attainable, reachable goals.
1Determine Who You Want To Be
"Design goals focused on how you want to feel. Danielle La Porte’s book, 'The Desire Map,' based on the teachings of Abraham Hicks, suggests getting clear on how you want to feel when setting goals. This helps us get clear on who we want to be and how we want to show up in our everyday interactions. When we start with high-level outcomes, we can feel intimidated by the daunting task of following through. Starting with who you want to be focuses you on inspiration versus achievement," according to Moberg.
Ask yourself, "How can I be better version of me?" A better version of yourself could address inner, characteristic change or something more tangible, like advancing your career.
To add to that point, Pearl says, "Before establishing goals, it is important to clarify your values. Values are established by asking what is most important in this world to you. Values cannot be checked off a list, they are overarching."
2Establish A Positive Mindset
"Adopt an 'I have nothing to lose' attitude. The reason we get psyched out when setting high-level goals is due to the fear of failure and the feeling of being overwhelmed by how much we have to do in order to accomplish our target objective. The truth is, if you set a high-level goal and don't end up accomplishing it, you're no worse off than you are before you set the goal. In fact, you learn something about yourself and how to change the way you're approaching the task 100 percent of the time. Rid yourself of the word 'failure' from your vocabulary," Banayan tells me via email.
Approach a goal with the confidence that you will succeed; failure is not an option. There's nothing that can stand in your way on this journey but you.
"Break down the overall goal into action steps. To avoid feeling overwhelmed when setting difficult or large goals, it is really important to break down into specific steps what needs to be done to accomplish the overall goal. The hardest part of doing anything is starting it. When you have small actions to take on a consistent basis, the overall goal doesn't seem so overwhelming," Banayan suggests.
A big-time, long-term goal can be daunting when considering the time, work, and dedication needed to achieve it. Start now by breaking the big picture into smaller, short-term goals, with actionable steps toward achieving it every day.
Moberg adds to that point, "Identify three doable actions that take less than 20 minutes. Ask yourself: What are the three most important steps I could take this week that would get me closer a breakthrough? Put them on your calendar or to-do list. This enables you to focus on what matters most, start building momentum immediately, and to be realistic about your time."
"By getting extremely specific about what needs to be done from the first moment one works on the goal until its achievement. You start by estimating how much time you need to accomplish the objective and writing a day by day timeline on a piece of paper. Write the specific actions you need to take from day one and adjust the timeline accordingly," Banayan recommends.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Outline your values and intentions to address each of these factors, and your goals will instantly feel more attainable.
"Write down the goal in the present tense as though you already have it. So instead of saying that you will get a 20 percent raise in six months, write down that new salary as, 'I earn X dollars.' In addition, clearly evaluate why this new salary is important to you. Does it allow you to be more present with your children by relieving additional financial pressures? Does it mean that you have reached a certain level in your career that brings a new sense of validation? Clearly outline how this goal relates to your value. Then break the goal down into small, manageable steps and check the 7-Rule to see how likely you are to complete it. By constantly breaking down the big goal into smaller steps, you will have a direction in which you want to go and will see accomplishment throughout the process," Pearl further explains.
5Hold Yourself Accountable
"Choose three to five people that hold you in high esteem, and whose opinions of you are genuinely important to you. Tell them what you're setting out to accomplish, along with a timeline for accomplishing your goal. Ask them if they'd feel comfortable checking in on your progress once a week. There's nothing more motivating than the fear of losing respect from someone whose opinion you genuinely care about," Banayan states.
To hold the self accountable is a challenge in and of itself. Seek out the help of a parent, close friend, or peer with similar goals to be the backbone of your accountability and consistently encourage you to keep pressing on.
Pearl contributes, "Think of accountability as a form of motivation. In order to remain committed to a goal, it is important to connect it with your values. Values can be thought of as directions on a compass. You can head west, but you can never be west. Goals are then used to move in the direction of your stated value. As you approach your goals, it is important to check if they are in line with your value. You will find that if a goal goes against your value there will be sense of discomfort and lack of energy to approach it. When goals are aligned with our values we have a renewed sense of commitment to working towards accomplishing our goals."
6Differentiate Between Desires & Intentions
Banayan says it best, telling Bustle, "Understand one thing: We want what we do. We want what we make time for. It's illogical to think that I want to accomplish something I consistently avoid making time for. Even if I do 'want' to accomplish a given objective, my lack of willingness to take action towards my goal is evidence of my wanting something else more...try to see the difference between your sincere intentions and passing desires. Passing desires are those things we say we want, and sincere intentions are directly related to the actions we actually take. Evaluate when you have time to do the things you say you want but end up failing to take action. What are you doing instead of acting on your goal? Is the other action you're taking benefitting you in any way?"
In other words, if you want something badly enough, you will stop at nothing to make it yours.
"Ask yourself, what people or resources could support your success? So often we think we need to achieve a goal alone, but we are more likely to follow through with additional support. ... Enrolling support creates accountability in your goal-setting to increase chances for follow through," according to Moberg.
Trailing the point of accountability, having the support of family and friends is crucial when it comes to making a big life change. Not only is it beneficial to have a source of accountability, but also to establish an environment lucrative to creating change and solidifying new habits. An unsupportive network is conducive to failure.
8Take Time To Reflect & Regroup
"Dedicate time every Sunday evening, or mid-way through the week to reflect on your progress. With a notebook and pen, reflect on the steps you have completed to date. Collect the successes, acknowledge the momentum you’ve built, and get clear on what you are most excited about moving forward," Moberg suggests.
Take time to thrive in what you've achieved up to a certain point, how far you've come. Crossing the finish line to a big-picture goal will be a long road, so enjoy the process and allow yourself ample time without the self-added pressure of getting there quicker.
9Set A Challenge
"Ask yourself, what one outcome would be miraculous if it occurred in the next 30 days related to your high-level goals? How does this achievement bring you closer to who you want to be? By focusing on one outcome for 30 days, you identify the most important path forward for achieving your goals," Moberg tells Bustle.
Thirty days to achieve a long-term goal that could take a year or more is an egregious thought, but this practice will lead you to identify the most direct, appropriate path and to set realistic short-term goals to getting there.
10Be Realistic & Honest With Yourself
"When deciding if a goal is most appropriate, I recommend living by what I call the 7-Rule. Set a goal and honestly check with yourself on a scale from 1-10, 1 being no confidence in completing it and 10 being 100 percent confidence. If you do not reach a 7 on the scale for each goal, it is important to pick a smaller goal that will get you to a 7. You should be able to set 7-Rule goals for short, medium, and long-term goals. The reason it is important to distinguish between time and confidence is because of the power of accomplishment. The more we achieve, the more motivated we are to keep pushing. It is also good measure to look back and see how far we’ve come," Pearl recommends.
Try different techniques for breaking down your goals and making them more realistic to the eye, so as to prevent feeling overwhelmed and avoid getting started right off the bat.
11Keep A Journal & Write Everything Down
"[To write] down your goals is always a good idea in order to a) remember what your goals are, b) see the progress you have made, and c) allow yourself the flexibility to add and adjust your goals. ... There is no reason to stay fixated on the original list if you are stuck. It is perfectly acceptable to make adjustments and set yourself up for success moving forward. ... See if you the goals you set for yourself were too small, and if they were, come up with a list moving forward and check again with the 7-Rule," Pearl tells me via email.
The journey to achieving your goals should not be a stagnant one. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows, and you should allow yourself the flexibility of reevaluating and resetting your standards periodically. Remember, nothing is set in stone.
To aim for greatness is admirable in itself. Do not sell yourself short when considering all that you are capable of and the magnitude of what you can achieve if you only set out to do it. No goal, big or small, is out of reach with a strategic approach and a positive mindset.