It’s that time of year again: a new year is on the horizon, a clean slate ahead...and possibly the urge to make grand plans for all the goals you want to accomplish in 2022.
There’s nothing wrong with using the new year as a jumping off point for change or goal setting – in fact, using some kind of milestone, turning point, or other significant event can be a great strategy for implementing change.
Where things tend to go off track is how we go about implementing change. Especially when it is tied to something like the beginning of a new year, where motivation and inspiration are super high, it’s easy to overestimate what is reasonable and realistic to achieve.
Instead of making a huge list of BIG EXCITING GOALS and trying to commit to doing everything all at once, here are 10 tips for creating resolutions, goals, or changes that you can actually stick to and make happen this year:
1. Create a clear action step
This is pretty self-explanatory, but often overlooked. Once you’ve determined your
goal or end result, you aren’t done yet – you have to figure out what are the actual
steps that will get you there.
Starting with the bigger picture, narrow down until you get to one tiny action step
you can take right away – and repeat consistently. Make it very clear what you are
actually going to do.
If your goal is to get more movement/exercise each week, that might mean doing
some kind of movement daily. And that might break down into something like
walking around the block after dinner each night, or doing 10 squats every time you
stand up from your desk.
Create a clear and deliberate action step that moves you toward your goal.
2. Make it small
If there is one strategy that I think can be most impactful, it’s probably this (which is
why I repeat it so often!), and it’s also the concept I think most of us miss or forget
Breaking down your larger overall goal into ONE very small action step that you can
repeat consistently is key for actually moving towards your goal without getting
overwhelmed and giving up.
If you want to get more movement into your life, setting the goal of going to the
gym 5x a week or walking for an hour everyday is probably not the most helpful or
doable way to start.
But saying you will move your body for 5 minutes every day, or that you’ll do 10
bodyweight squats every time you get up from your desk (or whatever feels
ridiculously easy to accomplish that still moves you towards your goal), helps
ensure that you not only actually do it consistently, but that you build momentum
and success so that you keep going.
3. Make it easy
This might sound the same as tip #1, but it actually goes hand in hand with
"make it small."
Making something easy to do means making it accessible and almost
unavoidable: if you want to eat more veggies, having a bunch of pre-
chopped veggies at eye level in your fridge makes it significantly more likely that
you’ll actually eat them than if you have a few sad looking vegetables way in the
back of your produce drawer.
Make your action step so easy to do that it's harder to *not* do it than it is to do it!
4. Make it fit into your real life
Sometimes the goals we set or the behaviors we want to incorporate into our lives
are great in theory, but they really would only work in a context that is entirely
different from our actual everyday life.
Wanting to go to the gym to workout 3x a week when you have three young kids,
are working from home, and are barely able to make it to the grocery store once a
week may mean you need to rethink what is really going to fit into your real life.
(maybe that means doing at-home workouts, having a trainer come to your house
or doing virtual session, or involving the kids into your workouts).
If your goals and action steps don't fit into your real life, your much more likely to
get frustrated than to find success.
5. Add in vs. take away
Quite often, the goals we set for ourselves involve removing something or doing
less of something – also called an avoidance goal. This would be something like “eat
fewer processed foods,” or “watch less TV at night.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these goals, but framing them as a “don’t do”
means we are putting ourselves into a negative/deprivation mindset, which makes
it harder to follow through.
Instead, if you can reframe your goals to be an “approach” goal – moving towards
something, doing more of something, or adding in – it’s often easier to make it
happen and do it consistently. Your brain feels more positively about it, and you are
actively doing something rather than using willpower or trying to *not* think about
the thing you are wanting to avoid.
So, instead of having a goal to eat fewer processed foods, your goal might be to eat
more fruits and vegetables. Instead of “watch less TV at night,” you might reframe
that goal to be about reading a book at night, or doing some other activity.
Frame your goal as an approach goal by adding in instead of taking away.
6. Leverage your strengths (instead of trying to improve your weakness)
Another thing we humans tend to focus on is the areas where we feel we need
improvement, or how we can make ourselves better at something that we maybe
aren’t great at already.
Again, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to improve an area of weakness, and
you can certainly be successful with that goal.
But sometimes it can be more beneficial to focus on something that you’re already
pretty good at, and seeing how you can leverage that strength and get even better.
Let’s say you’ve been doing really well with eating a piece of fruit each day, but less
great at getting some vegetables in. Rather than focus on the veggies, could you
add in another piece of fruit?
Because it’s already something that is going well, it’s not only easier to do *more* of
that thing, but you also then build in success and create more momentum and
Your return on investment can be much higher when you focus on something you
already do well and see how much better you can get!
7. Ask for help and support
I think it’s pretty clear to most people that there is a strong benefit to having social
support or help with any kind of project, challenge, or goal. And yet, we rarely take
that step to ask for assistance or guidance right off the bat – it’s usually not until we
are feeling frustrated or stuck that we reach out to others.
Getting support – whether that’s from a coach, a family member or friend, an online
group, etc. – can make all the difference.
Not only does your goal become more “real” when you share it with others, but
you’ll also have someone to offer encouragement, help you troubleshoot, and
celebrate your successes.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
8. Track progress (via behaviors, not outcomes)
Tracking progress is not *necessary* for reaching goals, but it can be a very helpful
strategy to make sure you stay on track and are moving in the right direction.
That said, you do want to make sure you’re actually measuring something that is
useful, and that let’s you know if you are indeed making progress or if you want to
change your approach.
For example, if someone has a goal of losing body fat, they may have the inclination
to measure progress by using a scale.
But measuring the *behaviors and actions* that move you towards that goal - such
as eating more veggie, getting enough protein, daily movement, or hours of sleep
each night - are going to be much better indicators of progress.
While you can’t ultimately control the outcome, you can control the behaviors and
actions that lead to the outcome. Track your progress, and measure the behaviors
and actions that matter.
9. Know your “why”
Sometimes when we set a goal, we have an initial reason why we want to achieve it.
“I want to start strength training so I can be strong and healthy and maintain muscle
That’s a perfectly valid reason, but if you keep digging a little deeper, you may just
find that you have a much more interesting (and motivating) “why” behind your
Keep asking yourself “why” until you’ve really discovered your truest, most
meaningful reason for wanting to reach that goal. (For more on how to use the “5
why’s” exercise, check out this post.)
10. Aim for consistency, not perfection
Another mistake we tend to make with our BIG EXCITING GOALS is that we are all in,
100% committed, do or die. And then, when we deviate the tiniest bit, it’s all over
and we give up.
It’s no wonder most New Year’s resolutions last only a couple of weeks!
We make it impossible for ourselves to do the thing, and then we throw in the towel
when we can’t do the impossible.
Instead of going for “perfect,” aim for being consistent. Do something every day,
even if it’s the tiniest of tiny things.
If you can’t get to the gym that day, but you do a few exercises at home, or take a
walk around the block, you’ve kept up the practice of doing the thing, and taken one
step closer to creating a habit and routine.
The little things you do again and again have a much greater impact than the huge
thing you do once.
Create consistency rather than pursuing perfection.
If you’re setting New Year’s resolutions, or using January 1st as a jumping off point for creating change or starting a project, I hope some of these tips help you navigate the process and set yourself up for success.
And if you’re looking for personalized guidance on your journey (as per #6 on this list), coaching can help! I’d love to help you clarify your goals, simplify the steps, and create an action plan that fits into your real life.
Do you use New Year’s resolutions or make changes starting January 1st? What would you add to this list of tips and strategies for creating better resolutions? Leave a comment and let me know!