Every year, people—maybe even you—write out a list of resolutions for the year ahead. More often than not, these are promises we make to ourselves to swear off old habits, or at least try to avoid them for as long as possible. Unfortunately, according to some publications, 80% of these resolutions will have been forgotten by February. A major reason for this is that it’s deceptively difficult to develop or deny ingrained habits cold turkey.
While the effort to break old habits shows an admirable sense of positive intent, a better alternative is to develop new goals for the future. And it helps to work toward them gradually, focusing on implementing one habit to start and then once that foundation is set, building additional habits on top of that. The general idea is that rather than expecting change immediately and feeling like a failure before we even get to experience spring, you get incremental success year-long.
Setting the right goals, having a plan to reach those goals, and following through on what is required to achieve or maintain those goals, can make the difference between having a happy, fulfilled and less-stressed lifestyle, and experiencing guilt-driven remorse about a few bad habits. But let’s not forget, goals can also be a source of stress, which is why many people forgo setting New Year’s resolutions entirely. It’s difficult to keep going after your goals if you don’t reach success with them.
There are four tips to go after your goals in a way that creates less stress and more success:
- Take small, concrete steps. In developing new behaviors, consider setting small, attainable goals, and adding more steps as you complete each one. Instead of saying, “I’ll stop buying my daily coffee and start saving the money,” or “I’ll go to the gym every morning,” plan to cut your coffee habit from five days to three, or go to the gym every Monday and Wednesday, and work your way up from there. This way, you gradually work your way toward the life you want and the necessary changes, but you experience much more success along the way, rather than feeling like a failure if you don’t experience ultimate change immediately.
- Look at the whole picture. When you’re setting these new goals for your future, remember to be holistic in your approach and look at both your health and finances. Both of these are key contributors to reducing stress and in turn, improving your overall happiness. Your end-goal here should be to focus on ending the year healthier and in a better financial place than you began it.
- Reward yourself along the way. Change is hard, let’s not minimize this. As you experience successes during the journey of turning your goals into habits, don’t forget to reflect on your achievements. Each win is a building block to living to life that you want.
- Consider slip-ups to be part of the process. Remember that progress takes time, and expect to encounter challenges as your work your way up. There’s no need to stress about maintaining flawlessness and feeling let down if you don’t achieve your goal(s) immediately.
Most of us know there is short-term and long-term value in making good decisions, especially as it relates to our health, wealth and overall wellness. I hope these tips help you hit the ground running in 2019, and limit the stress that typically accompanies the pressure to set and keep New Year’s resolutions.