The New Year is typically a time for people to hit the "reset" button on their personal goals. If the words "epic fail" describe most of your New Year's resolutions from previous years, it's time for a wake-up call. You've made too many promises you haven't kept, and you've felt the sting of disappointment too many times to go down that same road again this time.
If you're tired of being haunted by the let-downs of the past, it may be time to take a closer look at whether or not you're setting the right goals. Below are some ideas you can use to help you set sound, realistic goals that can propel you toward lasting changes in your life.
1. Make your goals specific.
It's not enough to say "I want to get in better shape," or "I want to earn a higher salary." While these types of statements might describe the endgame of your efforts, they carry little force if they can't be translated into something more definitive.
Instead of saying "I want to get in better shape," say "I want to lose 15 pounds in the next 90 days." Instead of saying "I want to earn a higher salary," say "I want to earn at least $10,000 more per year, and I want to find a job that will pay me this type of salary within the next six months." By doing that, you've given your mind a specific target it can shoot for.
It has often been said that "goals are dreams with deadlines," so the more specific you can get with your goals, the more likely you'll hold yourself accountable to them.
2. Make your goals realistic.
This is closely tied to the previous point in that you not only have to have a clear picture of what you're shooting for, but it needs to be realistic, too. For example, if you're setting a goal to lose 20 pounds in the next 30 days, it's likely you're going to be disappointed, because that type of dramatic weight loss is not even close to normal.
The same thing holds true for financial goals; if you're making $40,000 a year, it's an unrealistic leap of faith to think that you're going to achieve six figures within the first six months of the year. Setting realistic goals is all about finding the right balance--you want to set a goal that will provide a healthy challenge for you, but not one so lofty it will only produce frustration.
3. Employ the power of incremental progress.
There's no such thing as an insignificant action if it's something you're doing to move toward your goal. It could be as simple as adding an extra 5 minutes onto your elliptical training session, saving an extra 1% of your weekly income, or reading one extra chapter of a book each night. By consistently achieving these small incremental victories, you're building momentum that will carry you toward the realization of your goal.
4. Put your feelings in your back pocket.
As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, there will be days when you won't feel like working toward your goals. Do it anyway. Do it when you're frustrated, aggravated, discouraged, apathetic, or any other number of emotions. Feelings come and go, so don't let a temporary mood hinder your long-term progress.