How to Set and Reach Your Goals in 2015

How to set and reach your goals in 2015 is ‘top of mind’ for many of us as we begin a new year. It’s a time for resets, fresh starts, and imagining new ways of being. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, only to have them fall to the wayside by February or March. If you notice in the infographic – 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy — one of them is to ‘have goals!’

So how can we do a better job of ensuring that we reach our goals?

Choose a goal that matters

Notice that reads ‘a goal?’ Not 10, or even 2 or 3. Pick something that’s important to you, and that’s going to truly make a difference. It might be ‘one big thing’ that’s going to get the majority of your attention in 2015.

Science shows us that it takes a tremendous amount of brain power to change a behavior. So as you choose a goal, make sure it’s important for you to accomplish it. Consider the ‘cost’ of not achieving the goal. What will it mean if you don’t do this? Is there an emotional or physical toll it will take? We are more motivated to achieve our goals when there’s an emotional tie, or connection between the head and heart.

‘Transformational goals’ versus ‘goals you check off’

If your goal is something that you can check off a list and accomplish, that may feel good in the short term, and that can certainly be worthwhile. For example, your goal might be to ‘save more money in 2015.’ You can come up with an amount that you will set aside each month, and put it into your savings account.  At the end of year, you may have a nice bank account built up. Done. If only it were that easy, right?

If you dig a little deeper, maybe you’ve had a hard time finding that extra money to sock away. So your goal could be to ‘set priorities about where you choose to put your money.’ That may involve taking a hard look at where you are saving, spending, wasting or frittering away your money. Reflect on your priorities. What do you want to do with your finances? Being intentional about where your money goes could help you create new behaviors around saving versus spending.

Frame your goal in the positive

Your chances of success go up considerably if you do this. How you frame your goal is important. It’s not what you want to avoid, but what you want to have happen. Here’s another example that’s nearly universal. Your goal may be to lose 10 pounds. You can go on a diet and lose the 10 pounds, but chances are — you will gain back those 10 pounds and maybe even more. A ‘transformational, positive goal’ might be ‘to eat healthy and get fit.’ It might be changing what you eat and beginning to exercise. If you consider the cost of ‘not’ achieving the goal, you could be looking at poor health, sluggish energy, low self-esteem and more. That’s a high price to pay for not achieving this goal.

Notice the current situation

As you choose and frame your goal, notice what’s currently going on. Where is your money being spent? Are you stopping and buying a latte, or eating out every day? Do you stick to your budget? Do you even have a budget? Or, what and when are you eating? Do you eat when you’re bored? You might want to track the current situation for a couple of weeks so you’re more aware of your habits, and what you’re really doing — where is the money going? What prompts you to eat those extra chocolate chip cookies?

What will make it challenging to reach this goal?

Consider what obstacle(s) stand in the way of reaching your goal. What’s going to make this difficult? In this case of ‘eating healthy,’ one friend I know comes from a big Italian family. Food with a lot of creams, sauces and pasta, and heavy desserts are often served at family gatherings. To turn down a helping of one of these dishes is in effect turning down the family! Their love is expressed through the meals they serve. Realizing this gave my friend a better understanding of knowing she needed a strategy that helped her reach her ‘eating healthy’ goal, while at the same time, making it seem like she wasn’t rejecting her family.

Focus on the process, not the outcome

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Maybe you’ve heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” Small changes mean progress. You can create a plan once you’re aware of the current situation. Baby steps are okay. If your goal is to ‘eat healthy,’ maybe you start with breakfast, and eat a healthy breakfast every morning. You won’t worry yet about lunch or dinner, but concentrate on breakfast for the first few weeks until you create a new habit.  Continue to practice eating a healthy breakfast and track what’s happening, or keep a journal. The next step in your plan may be to start eating a ‘healthy lunch.’

Find an accountability partner

If you share your goal  — the change in behavior you want to make — with a friend or trusted colleague, you’ve just increased your chances of success. Make sure this person is a peer — not your boss, or someone who reports to you, or even your spouse.  Telling someone about your goal, and having someone help hold you accountable will keep you on track. Have them point out when they see you making the change you want. Positive reinforcement works! Conversely, have them notice and hold you accountable when you might be reverting back to your usual behaviors. It might help you notice when a particular situation triggers a habit you’re trying to change. And maybe you can do the same for them.

Setting the right goals, knowing the current situation, and coming up with a step-by-step plan to accomplish your goal – works. Before you know it, you are on your way of reaching your goal, and increasing your chances of success.

Do you have some tips that work for you to reach your goal? I’d love if you share. Here’s to a successful 2015!





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