Make Your New Year’s Goals Stick

At the dawn of every new year, we vow to become better people in the year ahead of us. We set goals to work out more, to eat better, and to be more productive. But after a few weeks of hitting the gym, eating broccoli, and getting up early, we slowly fade back to our old habits.

Let’s face it, new habits are extremely hard to develop. However, there are a few strategies to help you get in the right frame of mind and achieve better focus to make your goals stick.

1. Set leading goals not lagging goals.

When setting your goals, it’s key to differentiate between leading goals and lagging goals. For example, many people make it a goal to lose a certain amount of weight, whereas losing weight is the lagging goal. The problem with a lagging goal is that it doesn’t offer a plan of continued action. When you lose 20 pounds, then what? It's better to set leading goals such as doing interval training three times a week—doing so will give you a direct action plan to achieve your lagging goal of weight loss.

A goal is a dream with a deadline.
— Napoleon Hill

2. Fuel your desire for success.

One way to fuel your desire is to surround yourself with the benefits of success. Write down inspirational messages and cut out pictures from magazines that embody your desire. Put these in a place where you can be reminded daily.

3. Create an activity schedule.

Long term goals can only be achieved when they are accompanied by doing the right activity. Create a realistic schedule with the right activity. This might mean swapping out an old activity to make time for your new one. It might mean getting up earlier or staying up later.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

4. Visualize and practice your goals.

To overcome the challenges and fear often standing in the way of your goals, it's key to consistently envision yourself reaping the benefits of your achieved goal. This will make the goal more real in your mind and is a great way to sustain your motivation. As you visualize the future, try rehearsing the actions to slowly introduce them in your life. If your goal is to go to the gym more often, for example, you might want to picture yourself running on the treadmill.

5. Prepare for your new routine.

It’s difficult to keep up your goals when they don’t fit into your everyday life. For example, how are you going to eat healthier foods when you continue to eat at the same unhealthy restaurants or make the same unhealthy meals? You might prepare for your new routine by buying healthy ingredients and making a week’s worth of lunches to bring to work. You might set your workout clothes out the night before. Eliminating small barriers like this can have a big impact on whether or not your goal is achieved.

6. Find joy in the challenge.

If you want to stick to your goals, you must find happiness in the hard work ahead of you. Since your New Year’s goal is one you set yourself, there must be some inner desire to engage in that challenge. If you want to keep in touch with old friends more, consider how rewarding it will be to maintain those relationships. If you’re training for a marathon, think about how great your mind and body will feel after every run. Each positive new behavior you add to your life will be accompanied by a great benefit, and it’s up to you to identify that benefit.

Set a goal that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

7. Reclaim the persistence of a child.

The wonder and determination we had as children tends to fade with age. We gain more responsibility, life gets more challenging, and we forget about the little things in life we once loved. Perhaps one of the greatest traits of children is their persistence. Children do not give up trying until they get what they want. Whenever you feel doubt and you want to give up, think: what would the kid in me do?

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
— Nelson Mandela

8. Savor all achievements.

Some people think of their New Year’s goals as single entities that can only be achieved once. This of course is not true. Every single step you take towards achieving your goal is an important achievement that you should be proud of. Take time to congratulate yourself and feel proud of eating that healthy meal or going to the gym three times a week. This will help you view your goal more positively.

Take time to congratulate yourself often.

What is your strategy to achieve your New Year's goals? Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.