#Project2016 | How to set goals that stick

Thursday 31 December 2015

A few days ago, I launched Project 2016, a series of posts about self improvement. 

I explained why New Years Resolutions are a bad thing for most people and explained how I'd never managed to get mine to stick, long term.

Instead, I'm looking at incremental lifestyle change and how to make lasting changes. 

In this post, we’ll look out how to set goals that actually stick.

Choose the Right Changes

Change is hard. Nobody ever said different, and if they did, they're lying! But the first thing to know is that the changes have to be the right ones or they’ll never work out in the long term. 

And by ‘right’, I mean ones that are specific, tailored to your lifestyle, personality and ability. 

For example, say you are unhappy with your weight. Maybe you go all out for 2016, vow to start a strict diet that requires a lot of preparation time for meals. 

That's all fine, as long as you know you have the time, patience and dedication to follow through. 

But if you know your lifestyle and willpower are incompatible with this aim- that you don't have time and inclination to pre-prep a load of healthy snacks each week, and that by day three you'll be face down in the biscuit tin, then you're just setting yourself up to fail.

“Okay, but I still want to lose weight!”, you might say. You can still do that, but you have to make it realistic by breaking it down into smaller, more realistic milestones. Try replacing one meal a day with salad, or just only eating chocolate on one day a week. 

That way you'll make progress, make a positive achievement and eventually gain the know-how, willpower and positivity to reach for larger goals.

Don't follow a trend when it comes to goal setting for the New Year either. This has to be about you, and what you really want.

Make a Plan

Having a vague idea of how something is going to work won't cut it. You need your goals to be specific to ever have a chance of getting off the ground.

If you want to learn Spanish, how are you going to get there? Make a plan, even if it's simple. Buy a tape to listen to in the car, join a pen pal scheme, sign up to evening classes? Crystallise what really needs to happen to get the ball rolling and schedule to do it.

Think about timeframes. What steps need to happen? How long will they take? Plan those things in and the goal is much more likely to take shape.

Create accountability

All the research I could find about achievement suggests that if you arent accountable, you are going to be way more likely to fail. 

So find a way to build accountability into whatever your goal is. If its financial download a money management app or create a spreadsheet. If it's a wellness goal, sign up for a sponsored event or create a food diary. 

Telling people is also key. If people know what you're trying to do, you're less likely to back out. Hey, you could even write a series of blog posts about it…

Take baby steps

When I was much younger, I remember having a complete epiphany where a realisation dawned on me about choice. 

If you want to achieve anything - lose weight, save money, work out more - whatever it is, we sort of fool ourselves into thinking it's one choice. 

We've made a decision that we’re not eating chocolate/biting our nails/wasting money on shoes and that's it. In creeps a weird kind of laissez faire. The choice is made. We can relax. Only the thing about it is- it's not one choice. It's a series of small choices, all the time every day.

One bad decision will not derail you. Thinking ‘Oh stuff it, I've messed up so I might as well forget it and start again on Monday/ next month/ never’ will. So each small decision is the choice, not the grand headline resolution you made.

Second, big goals are often overwhelming. You don't want to lose 6st, you want to lose a pound a week until you do make the total. Small steps make things more achieveable and also keep us accountable.

Set a deadline

You have to include a time measurement for your goal. If you don't, there's nothing to aim for and it's easier to let it all slide. 

Make it concrete. What's the occaision? Pick something concrete and all the smaller steps in the plan will become firmer and clearer around it.

Plan to Fail

Here's the thing; you will have bad days. Things will go wrong. Things will come up. This is not an omen that you were doomed to fail. It's just called life- real, inconvenient, random life. 

So plan what happens when obstacles come up. What is your plan b? How will you deal with likely roadblocks? What will you say to yourself to keep going if you feel like giving up? 

Dream of success

Equally, what does success look like? Use the power of visualisation to help you. Imagination is a powerful tool. It may sound a bit fluffy, but even Olympic athletes are coached to tap into the power of it. Make it real in your head. Savour the victory, picture it happening and make it real. 

So, for Project 2016, I will be using these to to stack the decks and maximise my chances of success. Do you know any more tricks to make goals stick? 

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