As 2011 started drawing to a close, I withdrew into my normal overly self-reflective mode, as I do every year. After mulling over events, and their lessons (and there was plenty to learn from these past twelve months) I eagerly anticipated the dawn of a new year, a fresh start, a time to work on new goals, and create the healthy life I want…
That sounds easy enough, right?
Actually it was initially totally overwhelming, and maybe you can attest to feeling that way as well!
These are some of the questions that may float around in our minds about New Year’s resolutions: Where do I start? What am I going to work on this year? How can I keep it up?
This year, I found that writing out my New Year’s resolutions didn’t have to be such a daunting and intimidating task. I realized that I have a tendency to get a bit over-zealous (understatement) when planning out my resolutions or any goals…the fantasy in my head of going to Office Max, getting a new binder, paper, new highlighters and pens, dividers to categorize the goals…yes, I am one of those kind of people who get excited about that sort of thing. Ok, it is great to be so enthusiastic, but what I now realize is that my gung-ho attitude in the past had created unrealistic, unattainable goals, and all I was left with was a sense of feeling overwhelmed.
So, learning from my past mistakes with making resolutions and goals, I would like to share my new resolution and goal writing guidelines.
1. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself!
When you get excited about making changes in you life, it is easy to get carried away, and write a ton of goals for yourself. For now, just pick one or two goals to start out with, and make those your focus. Having too many goals will definitely be overwhelming, can burn you out, and can be a set – up for failure.
I did a little coaching on myself, and shortened my New Year’s goals down to 3 from um……I won’t say! Let’s just say I don’t need a new binder with those 5 dividers anymore.
2. Make Your Goal Attainable (Write Micro Goals)
By breaking your goal down into micro goals, it makes your goal more realistic, more attainable, and definitely less daunting of a task! Let’s look at my goal to adhere to a sleep schedule as an example.
Ideally, I would love to be in bed by 10 pm and wake up at 6 am. But that isn’t happening to this late bird. I am averging going to bed around 12:30 am to 1:00 am. I know I need more sleep for better health; to be alert and energetic for work the next day, and to have time to workout and work on my projects (preferably) in the morning.
So how am I going to get to bed by 10 pm if I don’t go to bed until 12:30 am? Would it be realistic for me to just jump right in and try to start going to bed by 10 pm?
No way! I’ve tried; and it doesn’t work.
So, my overall goal is to adhere to a sleep schedule during the week of 10 pm – 6 am. My ‘micro’ goals of this larger goal is to decrease my bedtime by 15 minutes each week until I reach my goal. So the first week I am shooting to be in bed by 12:15 am; and the next week 12:00 am; then 11:45 pm…you get the picture.
The same principle of setting micro goals can be applied to anything from weight loss to other lifestyle changes. Identifying and accomplishing small goals helps to build confidence, and can lead to BIG changes and accomplishments over time.
3. Set ‘Action Steps’ Toward Your Goals
When we set up ‘action steps’ towards our goals, we are putting some discipline behind our good intentions of what we want to create. These action steps are the steps needed to help reach your goal. Ok, so you have your big overall goal, have created realistic ‘micro’ goals to help achieve that big overall goal…now it is time for your action steps.
Let’s look again at my goal of adhering to a sleep schedule from 10 pm – 6 am. What could be some action steps I could take during the day and early evening towards my ‘micro’ goals (of decreasing my bedtime by 15 minutes each week until I am in bed by 10 pm)?
- I could make a bed time schedule.
- I could make my lunch early and organize for the next day after work.
- I could exercise early in the day/evening, which would help to promote good sleep.
- I could practice good relaxation techniques such as drinking tea, taking a bath, deep breathing, yoga, and journal writing…all of which help to wind me down after a long, busy, and stressful day.
- I could have a ‘No Electronics’ Rule by turning off my phone and computer by a certain time each night.
All of these action steps would contribute in a realistic way towards achieving my micro goals and overall goal of adhering to a sleep schedule!
4. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself When Setbacks Occur
If you have a set back, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes setbacks can lead to insight. Is your goal realistic and attainable? If it is not, go back and re-write and re-think the goal over; remember to make sure that your goals are attainable and relevant to you. Also you can ask yourself “What Happened”? Here is an example. “What happened? Why did I just eat this entire package of Ho-Ho’s? Is it because I was hungry? Starving? (yes)…Ok. Now I will bring more healthy snacks in my purse because I know when I am hungry I will eat anything in sight”. (This really is not a personal example. Promise.)
5. Get Some Like Minded Friends Together
Do you have any friends that are also working on similar goals and resolutions? There is definitely power in numbers, especially when you all are supporting each other. You can set up a little group and meet once a week or once a month – whatever fits into your schedule. If you are too busy to meet, you can schedule phone calls just to check – in with each other. I have a friend with similar goals and we decided to check- in with each other once a week to help support each other, track our progress, and help each other overcome any barriers to success.
6. Journal/Track Your Progress
Keeping a journal helps to hold you accountable for what you are doing towards reaching your goals; and it also helps to idendify the action steps needed to acheive those goals. Keeping a journal also gives you a place to help you understand, correct and identify any setbacks or patterns that may occur along the way. I am tracking my goal progress so far this year, and I have already identified some patterns that I will be working on.
Hope these tips help you reach your New Year’s Goals! On that note, I am going to go get ready to head to Slumber Land….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz