At the end of each year, like clockwork, we start thinking about resolutions for the New Year. However, for many of us, setting goals quickly turns into a wish list. Rather than thinking realistically how to improve our lives, we start fantasizing about how to transform them.
Let’s face it: you can’t quit every bad habit overnight. Change takes time, and coming up with a successful strategy is the first step. Imagine sitting at a desk designing the blueprint of your life. What are your long-term career, health and relationship goals? How can you break them up into short-term goals? What do you want to prioritize first?
Goal setting can be overwhelming if you’re not organized. Here are three strategies to set yourself up for success in 2021:
1. Use SMART goals
I’m a major fan of the SMART system, which says your goals should be: specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-based. If you create goals with these guidelines in mind, it’ll increase the chances that you’ll follow through and accomplish them.
Here’s an example:
General goal: I want to grow my business.
SMART goal: I will grow my business by X amount by generating X amount of revenue from January to March, X amount of revenue from April to June, etc. I will create more sales opportunities by participating in one networking event each week and making two new connections each month.
Now, let’s break down why SMART goals work:
Specific – when you have a specific objective, you have something real to work towards. So, rather than “get in shape,” it becomes “lose 20 pounds.” Specific goals answer who, what, when, where, and why.
Measurable – tracking your progress is essential. So, using the previous example of losing 20 pounds, you can keep track of the weight loss and where you’re at in terms of achieving your goal weight.
Actionable – the steps you need to take in order to make your goal a reality. For instance, “be rich” isn’t an actionable goal, unless you break it down into how much you want to increase your income and define what “rich” means to you. Think about the actionable steps you need to take to get there.
Relevant – the real reason most people struggle with goal setting is because they don’t stop to ask themselves: Why is this goal important to me on a deep level? How is it going to enrich my life? What problems does this goal actually solve?
In other words, what’s your why? If you don’t have a strong enough why, you won’t have the motivation and the energy to follow through, especially when times are tough.
Timely – think about a deadline. Studies show that setting a time and date makes you 91% more likely to reach your goals.
2. Focus on what you’re adding, not what you’re taking away
It’s a simple psychological shift that can make a major difference.
For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I want to eat less junk food,” you can say “I want to incorporate more healthy food in my diet.” If you think in terms of taking something away, you’ll unconsciously feel deprived. By trying to replace unhealthy with healthy food choices, you won’t feel like you’re making as much of a sacrifice. Ultimately, you will accomplish the same goal. It’s just about reframing your perspective.
This ties directly into thinking less about breaking habits, and more about developing new ones.
Which brings me to my next point…
3. Develop healthy habits
The difference between people who achieve their dreams and people who don’t is consistency. It’s not a coincidence that the most successful people in the world are the most consistent. They have incredible self-discipline and habits that bring them closer to achieving their vision.
Through repetition, positive habits become ingrained in your mind. They become part of who you are. In the wise words of Henry David Thoreau, “what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”