So you thought you’d set a few goals for 2018 – new year, new start, new you. Bravo and brava!
Most of us have great intentions and start the year off with a long list of things we’d like to achieve, skills we’d like master and habits we’d like to internalise. And somewhere along the way, we get distracted, derailed, and then disheartened. This is so common in fact that the second Friday of January is dubbed ‘Quitter’s Day’.
This year I’d thought I’d do some research and do New Years Resolutions differently, and I’m pleasantly surprised how well it’s going. I’m usually off the weight-loss wagon, chocolate croissant in hand, pretty quickly.
If that’s you, don’t worry. There’s no reason you can’t start again. Just put that croissant down and read on.
1. Mix it up
Have a mixture of BIG goals and small goals.
We are constantly told to think big when setting goals but experts say the little wins help us in two ways – they build the discipline we need to work towards the big goals and give us the confidence that we can achieve things to which we set our minds. So along with making more money, gaining control over your eczema and getting that washboard stomach, maybe also put down making your bed everyday.
2. Write it down
We’ve all heard that the mere act of writing down a goal makes it more likely to be achieved. It’s true, as long as you do the next three steps.
3. Layer cake
Taking some inspiration from the book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, I’ve decided to tackle one goal at a time – for 21 days (the time it takes to build a habit according to research) and then layer the next one on. This gives me enough time to complete as many as 17 goals in 2018.
So try it too: focus on one goal at a time for 21 days, starting with the one that you’re most excited about.
4. Break it down
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Most of us set ourselves up for failure by aiming to do something large all in one go and when you don’t reach our expectations, we beat ourselves up about it. What would be more effective, and equally pleasant, is doing a tiny bit at a time and then doing something else that you feel like doing. Then rinse and repeat.
In his TED Talk, Stephen Duneier advises doing just that to achieve some wildly outrageous goals (like holding the Guinness World Record for ‘largest crocheted granny square’ even though he is an investment manager by day).
So how does this work in practice? Let’s say you wanted to get control over your eczema, step one might be to moisturise more. I’d recommend starting with applying a cream – any cream – one more time a day than you normally do. If you’re not moisturising daily at the moment, aim for twice a day as a start. Then…
5. Track it
This is key, and has made a huge difference in my life since I started doing it. All you need is a sheet of squared paper and a pencil.
Taking moisturising as our example, write today’s date (e.g. 21), followed by the next 20 days along one axis, and your steps (e.g. ‘Morning’, ‘After Shower’, ‘Bedtime’ etc) along the other.
Then tick off each time you’ve completed your task. It is shocking how effective this process is at keeping you motivated to complete your 21-day challenge, but the more surprising thing I’ve found is how that same motivation and efficiency spills over into other aspects of life.
My first goal of 2018 was to do my physiotherapy exercises every single day. With all my current injuries (don’t even get me started) I have a ‘shortlist’ of 29 exercises and 4 stretches to complete at the moment. Not easy or quick. But I love me a challenge. I listed all of them out on a sheet of graph paper and got a head start by beginning on December 30 which meant that I started the new year on a win. And then a funny thing happened – I finished reading two books! Reading more is one of my other goals for this year, but it was third or fourth on the list. It’s as though becoming organised and focused in one area of my life made me more organised and focused overall.
6. Cut yourself some slack
Although seeing all those the ticks might give you a boost of positive reinforcement and keep you motivated, when you notice a huge block of empty squares, learn from it. Maybe your inaction explains why you’re seeing certain results (dry, itchy, ouchy skin) and putting the two together will spur you to get started again. But before you do, see if you need to make some tweaks to your plan to make reaching your goal a bit easier (maybe moisturise ‘While Watching TV’ instead of ‘Bedtime’).
Bonus: Get Accountable
Some people find that being accountable to someone makes it easier for them to stick to a goal. Although I am not one of those people, there are plenty of options if you happen to be. You could start a group bet like Steve Aoki does when he is on the road (the ‘Aoki Bootcamp’ as mentioned in Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss) or sign up to a website like stickK.com (as mentioned in Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein). You could even make yourself accountable to me – there’s no one more strict and judgemental than a true Tiger Mom 😉
I wish you all the best for 2018. May you, and I, achieve all we set our minds to and together make this world exponentially better.
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