More Than Resolutions: A Simple Guide for Achieving Your Goals

It’s that time of year. Have you made your New Year’s resolutions?

In all honesty, I think resolutions get a bad rap. Taking time to evaluate the current state of things and make goals for the next year is a good thing. The problem with resolutions isn’t in the concept but in the way we approach them.

The problem with resolutions.

For some people, resolutions become broad, vague ideals that are impossible to reach:

  • “This year I’m going to try to get in shape.”
  • “I’m not going to yell at the kids anymore.”
  • “This is the year I’m going to start a business!”

For other people, they’re so detailed and specific that they become overwhelming and failure to do exactly as you’ve resolved becomes the excuse for giving up:

  • “I am going to exercise for an hour every single day.”
  • “This year we’re only going to eat whole, unprocessed foods.”
  • “I’m going to keep my house clean every day.”

Either approach is setting you up for failure, but that doesn’t mean resolutions themselves are bad!

Let’s take a look at 8 ways to approach your resolutions so that you can actually achieve your goals this year:

1. Don’t just try.

Several weeks ago, I read this post from Michael Hyatt, and he was spot on. He said:

The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want.

Do you understand the difference? You either do something or you don’t do it. Trying is really the same as not doing it. It just makes it easier for us to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.

When we say we’re going to try to do something, we’re often saying, “It’s probably not going to work, but at least I can say I tried!”

2. Dream big, set realistic goals.

At the same time, I think it’s important to dream big while setting realistic goals. For example, you might dream of one day having a published book, but if you haven’t taken any steps toward that dream, then it’s a bit lofty as a goal. Instead, set concrete goals to start you down the path — writing an outline, creating a proposal, finding an agent, etc. — and work on those goals rather than resolving to “publish a book”

3. Choose MICRO goals.

When deciding what your goals should be, think about these five characteristics of MICRO goals:

  • Whenever you’re trying to make a change, it’s important to set measurable goals.
  • Set inspirational goals that give you a reason to invest the time and effort into achieving them.
  • To make concrete goals, define exactly what you mean.
  • set realistic goals that work with your personality and lifestyle.
  • Finally, it’s important to set obtainable goals.

Read more about MICRO goals here.

4. Start small.

If your goal is to read through the Bible in a year (or in 90 days!), but you aren’t already reading your Bible daily, that may be a bit of a lofty goal. Instead, start with a smaller goal — for example, to simply read your Bible for at least 15 minutes a day. Once you’ve developed that habit, you’ll be in a much better place to take the next step.

The same can be said for any resolution. If your goal is to “eat better” in 2012, pick a small area to start with — eliminating high fructose corn syrup or soda, eating an afternoon snack of fruit and veggies, etc. When you have reached that goal, begin to work on another small goal. By the end of the year, you really will be eating better!

5. Figure out what works for you.

There’s a reason this site is called Life…Your Way. When we first launched as Organizing Your Way three years ago, my desire was to highlight how many different ways there are of organizing and that there’s no one right way to do it, and the same is true for virtually every area of life.

If your goal this year is to “get in shape”, you may have read that early mornings are the best time to exercise. But here’s the thing: if early morning exercise doesn’t work with your schedule (maybe you’d have to exercise at 4am in order to get it in before your husband leaves for work or you need to start getting the kids ready for school) or your personality (maybe you’re perfectly happy with staying up until midnight and then getting up at 7 to start your day), then  it’s important to figure out what does work for you.

Don’t try to live up to someone else’s standards; make your own!

6. The value of accountability.

Trying to achieeve a goal by yourself can be lonely. There’s no one to share your successes with or to commiserate with when things get tough. On the other hand, working with a friend by your side can be a lot of fun!

Is your goal to run a 5K or a marathon? Do you have a friend who’d want to train with you? Even if you can’t physically run together, knowing that you’re each working toward the same goal — and checking in with one another to share your progress — is great motivation. Just make sure you find someone who is equally committed to achieving the goal!

7. Expect setbacks.

This is the one that gets me. When I make a resolution and then I slip up, I find myself instantly wanting to throw in the towel. Instead of expecting perfection, expect these setbacks and plan to get right back on the horse after you fall off. Missing a day — or a week — of exercise doesn’t mean you need to give up on your goal of losing 25 pounds and losing it with the kids doesn’t mean you should give up on your goal of responding without anger.

Allow for setbacks as part of your goal so that you have the motivation to keep trying.

8. Celebrate your progress.

And finally, look for ways to celebrate your progress, no matter how small! When you lose your first pound, walk that first mile or make your first batch of homemade healthy snacks, acknowledge it as a success and give yourself credit where credit is due. It might not be your ultimate goal, but it’s still something, and you should be proud of the progress you’re making!

It’s a great time to reevaluate your life and make goals for the future, so don’t let the negative connotation of “New Year’s resolutions” stop you from doing that!

Looking for resources to support your goals? Check out this list of ebooks.

What has kept you from achieving your resolutions in the past? How could you approach them differently this year?