As we usher in 2023, thoughts of setting resolutions to improve our health, lifestyle, bank account, or relationships come to mind.
Many of us will spend the next few weeks pondering what we want to change, improve or accomplish in the new year but, according to WebMD, about two-thirds of us abandon our January resolutions before the groundhog peeks his head out to see his shadow on Feb. 2.
With such a low completion rate, it might seem that setting and then not meeting our New Year’s goals is just part of the tradition. Whether goals or achieved or abandoned has a more profound impact on self-esteem, identify, mood, and motivation than expected. Poor goal-setting behavior and limited achievement is a frequent culprit in initiating and reinforcing self-doubt, fear of failure, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
We know that it feels good to set a goal and achieve it. Psychologist and pioneer in goal-setting theory Edwin Locke established that achieving a goal leaves us motivated and with greater self-esteem and self-confidence. In addition, according to the Mayo Clinic, the positive thinking that results from goal achievement is linked to living longer, lower rates of depression and increased immunity from disease and these good consequences spill over into other parts of our lives. Conversely, expecting something of yourself that you don’t achieve, feels pretty bad, and leaves most of us with self-doubt, a self-critical inner voice and hesitancy when it comes to trying again.
New Year’s resolutions are a fancy way of describing goal setting and is a good way to, at least annually, bring attention to the importance and impact of effective goal setting. Following good principles of goal setting will help you achieve your new year, mid-year and any time of the year aspirations, ambitions, hopes and dreams. Whatever your personal goals this year might be, a new relationship, work-life balance, weight loss, or quitting smoking or alcohol, the principles to follow to lead you to meet your goals are the same whether you are young or old or somewhere in the middle.
Here are some tips to succeed:
Think of goal planning like climbing a ladder. No one starts at the bottom, or even the middle of a ladder and magically ends up at the top. Think about what is needed to make it to each rung on the way up.
Identify strengths and use them to conquer your weaker areas. Use the strongest tools in your personal toolbox to strengthen the weaker ones.
Think small targets and baby steps. Small steps mean small falls. No one makes it to their goals without some missteps along the way.
Recognize small successes. We are taught to disregard small gains and say things like, “Oh, it was nothing.” Don’t fall into this trap. Celebrate each step along the way. People with strong self-esteem know how to recognize all their wins. Don’t wait for just the big ones because they just don’t come that often. Be outwardly humble but inwardly your own greatest cheerleader.
Write down strategies. Cross each off as achieved. The reinforcement of seeing each achievement crossed off helps to stay focused the long-term target. Plus, there’s great satisfaction in looking back at the list and logged measurement of success.
Change up what’s not working. The greatest predictor of the future is the past unless you make a change.
Take calculated risks. Be strategic. Winging it means that you are depending on the stars to align and bestow good luck upon you. Have a plan with a basis in reality.
Make sure your goals are realistic, that you have the time, and that your physical, financial, and emotional state can support your expectations. You need to start where you are truly at, not where you want to be.
If you are feeling overly stressed, depressed, or anxious, choose your targets even more carefully. The first rung can be the most difficult when you are not feeling well. Start where you are. Think small targets. If you are struggling to get started, get some help – from family, a friend, or a therapist.
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Carol Zuniga, CEO of Hegira Health, Inc., is a licensed psychologist with more than 30 years experience in the health care industry. Visit www.hegirahealth.org.
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