Setting GoalsA new year often brings hope and the promise of a new start. Gyms and fitness studios see their largest crowds in January as people resolve that this will be the year that they get down to their target weight or get stronger. Then in February, the crowds subside as lives get busier and working out gets relegated to the back burner. You may have even set some resolutions yourself during the recent holidays only to see them fade away as you stepped back into your regular routine.

Rather than be discouraged by this phenomenon, you can choose to see it as an opportunity to reexamine your goals. It’s possible that you didn’t lose momentum because of lack of willpower but rather because the resolutions you set are vague or don’t reflect your overall values. There may also be many obstacles in the way. When you set clear goals that mirror issues that are important to you, you are more likely to form the habits you need to reach them despite whatever challenges you have to face to do so.

Set Specific Guidelines

Most people want the same general things. They want to be happy, healthy, loved and secure. That’s why so many people have the same resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Save money
  • Achieve financial security
  • Spend more time with family
  • Find a partner
  • Build stronger faith

All of these goals are noble pursuits, but they also share a common downfall. None of them are very specific. Setting your sights on a vague destination you hope to reach someday is not a strong pathway for getting there, but having a clear, quantifiable outcome you want to achieve can help. Gabrielle Oettingen designed the WOOP (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan) method to deal with this problem. In the first two steps, you state your wish, or goal, and then determine how a successful outcome will look. For example, rather than just saying you want to have a stronger faith, you can specify that you want to pray for five minutes every morning and meditate for at least ten minutes every evening. This gives you two distinct behaviors that you can track to monitor your progress.

Identify Obstacles

Setting clear goals is just the beginning of achievement. With every habit you hope to form, you are likely to encounter obstacles that are already present in your life that make those new practices harder to incorporate. Chances are that you will have to give up something else, such as hitting the snooze on your alarm one last time or watching an extra hour of TV, to make your wish into a reality. Identify the obstacles that are most likely to keep you from your specific goal. Once you know what those barriers are, make a plan to overcome them in the moment. The better you are able to articulate this plan, the more successful it will probably be.

Match Goals to Values

Regardless of how specific your goals are and how strong your plan for achieving them may be, if they don’t actually match your overall values, they may not last long. For example, many people say they want to lose weight because of some arbitrary social standard, not because they are unhappy at their current weight. Learning to distinguish between what outside forces imply you should want and what you actually desire for your life can help you set goals that you are truly excited to work toward and thus more likely to attain.

You may be working successfully toward the resolutions you set at the beginning of the year. If the process is not going as smoothly as you hoped, though, consider reviewing your choices to see if they goals themselves may be part of the problem. Once you match your values to specific outcomes and have a solid plan for achieving them, you may have better luck.

Category: Health and Wellness Holidays and Observances

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