How to create goals that stick (a revolt against New Year’s Resolutions)

To be resolute means to be “admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering” and a resolution is something that you make a firm decision to do, or not to do. We think it’s fair to say that we all understand the premise behind a New Year’s Resolution – we identify an area (or two) of our lives where we’d like to make improvement and see positive change. While this is great in theory often it’s not a sticky way for people to make change. It feels a bit like a trap doesn’t it? You’ve made a public declaration and now, no matter what, you must stick to it. Any wavering and that just looks (and feels) like failure. So when it comes to goal setting and optimising, what do you do?

One of our key principals of coaching is to remind patients that we are much more like rivers and much less like trees. It’s something we attempt to stay conscious of when coaching and we even apply it in our own lives. It basically means that each and every day we are a different person based on a number of factors and because of this it’s valuable to approach each day from a unique perspective, while not losing sight of the big picture goals. We are more flow and less rigid.

How does this tree theory apply to resolutions? Well at some point in your life (Dec 31st) you make a proud, life affirming decision (I’m going to quit smoking, drink less alcohol, go gluten free, exercise more, save more money) and then you expect that every day henceforth you will remain absolute in this decision. But each and every day (indeed each moment) we are a different person. We have been influenced by new information and experiences, our hormones have made some maniacal shift, our libido might be up, down or indifferent, we feel more or less stressed and we might be dehydrated, sleep deprived or hangry and all of these things may influence how well you stick to your predetermined goal.

Phew!

Our point? While goal setting and indeed identifying what is important to you is key to personal growth, moving forward and becoming a better version of yourself, you may find the rigidity of a New Year’s Resolution more like a trap than an energy-lifting experience. Glen Carlson from Dent Global recently posed the idea that “goals become little happiness traps”. Ouch!

So what can we do to set ourselves up for positive growth without that sense of failure when, three weeks in, it all becomes too much and we quit? The solution and success lies in making incremental, achievable and realistic daily optimizations. This is the area of stickability. If you try to do too many things or something that is such a drastic change from today, you may find it incredibly tricky (and therefore less sticky) but if you instead focus on upscaling and improving the quality of your thoughts, decisions and actions over time you will soon discover that you have a whole new set of skills, beliefs and outcomes that actually weren’t that difficult to achieve.

Here are our top tips for new behaviours you might like to introduce this new year:

  • Quality.  Whether it’s your water, thoughts, sleep or food, the quality is often the easiest element to improve on. Drink filtered water from glass or metal (not plastic), create a positive evening routine that will enable you to sleep earlier, eat organic produce and use affirmations to rewire your brain for more positive thoughts.
  • Go out before you go in. This simple act of taking the focus off yourself actually makes it easier to feel good. Instead of being ‘me-centric’ ask yourself ‘how can I help someone else today?’ The act of giving and serving has been shown to create a tangible shift in your own state of wellbeing.
  • Move. It doesn’t matter how – just get some movement into your day. If you’re not fit and think you would quit the gym in less than two weeks then find fun ways to move like dancing or rock climbing. If time or practicality doesn’t allow then simply go for a walk. Even spending 5 – 10 minutes doing stretches on your lounge room floor will get you great results over time.

So this year instead of hanging your happiness on a huge shift, we recommend you find many small, positive changes that you can continue to bring in on a daily basis to drive you closer and closer to your bigger goals.

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