Setting Your Goals For The Year In January Doesn't Always Work, But Here's What Does

As the year is fast drawing to a close, it's about time we started making resolutions for the upcoming year. "The New Year offers a blank slate — an opportunity to get things right," says facilitator Dennis Buttimer from Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. Setting New Year's resolutions is akin to putting into practice the theory of self-efficacy — which means that you are more likely to follow through with your goals and succeed when you have a sense of control over it, Buttimer explains. While getting all pumped up about a fresh start is a good thing, not all of us who begin self-change attempts are able to go the route with them.

According to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse polling 200 New Year's resolvers over a two-year period, 70% of the participants kept their pledges for one week, while only 19% managed to follow through for another two years. This goes to show that everyone can set goals, but very few can walk the talk. If you're one of those who've kept failing to make good on your promises to yourself, you might want to take a different approach to making New Year's resolutions this time around. It is not about changing your goals or lowering your expectations but rather tweaking the way you get around to them. Below, check out some tips that might help reroute your goal-setting process in a more practical direction and make your New Year's resolutions more achievable.

Inject a sense of urgency into your goals

The truth is: no matter how fancy your goals are, you'll never be motivated to get around to them if they don't look urgent to you. Procrastination is the enemy of productivity. We might get all excited about putting intention into action at the beginning of the year, but we tend to become complacent throughout the year, thinking that we will always have time on our hands to achieve our goals. And it so often happens that we spend most of the year doing something else, and when the window of opportunity is finally closing, we scramble to get things done. If that's how you usually approach your goals, you'll never make solid progress. So, if you want to make your goals happen, inject a sense of urgency into them, so they don't slip your mind before you get started on them.

One way to do that is to set a timeline — or a project period — for every goal you put down. Having deadlines to chase gives you constructive pressure, motivating you to stay on schedule and complete tasks on time. If you think about it, brides-to-be who set goals of losing weight before their wedding date usually have a higher chance of succeeding compared to those who approach their weight-loss goals with imprecision. The pressure of fitting into a wedding gown by a set date makes them work hard to achieve their goals. 

Quantify your goals

The key to feeling motivated enough to plow through your goals is to feel that you can achieve them. In order to do that, you must break your goals down into a manageable action plan, making every step look as detailed and measurable as possible. For instance, instead of saying, "I want to become a Kpop trainee," specify each and every hurdle, you must cross to get there and how much it costs, like studying Korean, getting vocal and dance training, and participating in periodic auditions. To boost your productivity, note down your progress in a journal or on your phone to monitor your behaviors. Some goals might take years to complete, but unless you get specific right from the onset and apply yourself to them, you'll not get anywhere.

Another thing you might want to try this time around is to view new goals as a chance to introduce new and wholesome habits into your lifestyle rather than ticking something troublesome off your list. Approach-oriented goal-setters are those who focus on obtaining positive outcomes, while avoidance goal-setters are more concerned with averting undesirable ones. For instance, start viewing physical activity as something good for you, not just a compulsory method for weight loss. A study published in the journal PLoS One revealed that 59% of approach-oriented goal-setters succeeded in keeping up with their goals, while only 47.1% of avoidance-oriented goal-setters succeeded. Therefore, take on your goals with a positive attitude.