Downsizing Your Goals Makes Them Doable
Text by Ron Jensen

After the unpredictable, zany year we’ve had, the idea of making New Year’s resolutions for 2021 might seem a bit overwhelming. Rather than compiling a long list, experts say that in 2021 — or any year, really — writing out one or two specific, short and attainable goals can help develop confidence and a sense of pride, improving your well-being. And right now we could all use a little more positivity in our lives. Here’s how to get started.

Above: It’s best to select one or two goals that are specific, realistic and represent your innermost objectives.

Consider your motivations.
Just because it’s the first week of January doesn’t mean you will automatically be ready to hanker down into creating new habits. Behavioral change requires internal motivation, so knowing why you want to make those changes is key.

If you want to lose weight because you’re trying to conform to society’s standards about body size or because your doctor told you to, these are external motivators that are less likely to help you reach your goal. On the other hand, if losing weight appeals to you because eating healthy foods and exercising make you feel physically and mentally better, those are internal motivations that will make you more likely to build new, long-term habits.

Select modest goals that are actually achievable.
For New Year’s resolutions to work, avoid pie-in-the-sky wishes and focus instead on goals that are doable and easily measurable. Resolving to get healthier, for example, might be too vague.

Rather, if you haven’t exercised in years, don’t aim to start working out at the gym three days a week for an hour at a time. Instead, readjust your expectations and start by going to the gym once a week for just half an hour. If you can do this consistently for several months, try going twice a week. Each small success can help propel you toward bigger ones.

Analyze your goal to create a plan.
Having a goal is a great start, but you’ll need a plan to achieve it. For example if you want to increase your income, it’s best to consider ways to reach that objective: volunteer for overtime projects, expand your skill set by taking a college course, or show your abilities and interest in a promotion. The more thoroughly you analyze your goal, the easier it will be to take positive steps towards your objective. Also, with a strategy in place you can anticipate the obstacles that may arise and you’ll have a recovery plan in advance.

Put it in writing, share with others
Once you’ve selected the goal that most resonates with you, write it down. Be positive and phrase your plan in terms of what you will do. It’s better to say that “I’ll turn in by 11 p.m. every night” rather than “I want to stop going to bed so late.” Place your written goal in a prominent spot, one that guarantees you’ll look at your commitment daily. That notation will help you to focus and keep you on track. Also, consider sharing your goal with a close friend, dear family member or trusted colleague, which will hold you accountable. The more deeply you engage with others, the more likely you are to follow through.

Cut yourself some slack.
We all agree that 2020 has been a rough year, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself when trying to meet your goal. Research shows that people are more likely to pursue their goals during times that feel like new beginnings in their lives. Perhaps starting on a Monday, the first of the month, your birthday or another personal milestone will be your kick-off date.

Encourage yourself with gentle reminders to keep you on track like setting your phone alarm to nudge you to take that jog or get ready for bed. If money is a concern, set yourself up for success by choosing goals that are inexpensive to achieve. If gym membership will stretch your budget, opt for a jog along a neighborhood trail.

Even if you don’t accomplish your goal as quickly as you want to or in the exact manner you had planned, it’s still important to celebrate that you’re working toward making a positive change. After all, in a year like the one we’ve had, we need to cut ourselves some slack and allow a generous amount of self-compassion.