Tips for Creating Habits & A Mindset of Progress | New Year's Resolutions
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
New Year's Day is my favorite holiday. I'm not really one for holidays, but I love the fresh start feeling that comes with busting out a new calendar -- or a new bullet journal for me.
While everyone else is setting up Christmas decorations or relaxing during the holidays, I'm busy planning my goals and setting up my new journal. I might be jumping the gun on getting the new year started, but I can't help the excitement of that clean slate.
I recognize that this goal-setting can happen at any day throughout the year, but Near Year gives that extra oomph :)
Today I want to share some tips for setting yourself goals. I'll also share some personal examples to give you ideas.
Of course, there's no right or wrong way to do this. As long as you're happy, that's a success in my book.
These are the tips I keep in mind when I'm building out my goals for the year, quarter, or month.
Progress is Success
Rather than choosing a lofty goal and defining success as reaching that achievement, I define success as making progress toward my goal.
Everyday that I'm getting up and putting time and energy into reaching my goals, I can go to bed satisfied.
It's cliché, but remember that it's about the journey and not the end result.
Habits & Consistency
To give myself the best chance of reaching whatever achievements I have in mind, I build habits around them that bring me incrementally closer each day.
You'll be discouraged if you see yourself as miles away from your goal, but if you keep chipping away at it you'll look back one day and be amazed at the progress you've made.
Measureable or Defineable
Choose goals that have an obvious definition of whether or not you've achieved them.
"Connect with people more" is an example of a goal that does not have a clear definition.
"Call at least 2 friends per week to catch up" is an example of a better goal that you can measure and easily say "yes" or "no" to whether you've accomplished it.
If you're worried about feeling discouraged in working toward a lofty overarching goal, set milestones to hit along the way.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath explain this concept well in their book "The Power of Moments," which I highly recommend.
Here's an example:
If your goal is to learn how to play the guitar, some milestones can be:
Purchase a guitar
Perfect a smooth strum
Learn 5 strumming patterns
Learn how to sight read music
Learn a song with 8 different chords
Play a song for a friend
Reaching each of these milestones brings motivation and encourages you when the overall goal still seems far away.
You're In Control
Choose goals of which you are in full control. There are many things in life that you can affect indirectly, but your personal goals should only reflect areas you can directly achieve.
This is a difficult guideline that I'm definitely guilty of breaking. Here's an example:
"Get promoted to a manager position at work" is an example that isn't fully in your control. Your company may not have manager positions open at that time. Someone else may get the promotion over you. This is 100% something you can work toward, but it's not necessarily something you can achieve just through dedication and hard work.
"Bring 2 new ideas for improving the workplace to my boss each week" is a goal that will put you in a great position to be promoted and this action is fully in your control.
This goes without saying, but don't set goals that are so extreme there's no way you can achieve them. It's wonderful to have extravagant aspirations, but don't let yourself get bogged down by goals that you fail to achieve year after year.
There's only so much time in a day and we can't do it all. Decide what's most important to you and focus on that.
You can have a few main goals, but don't go overboard or you'll feel overwhelmed. It's more effective to place all your energy on one goal at a time. Once you achieve one, you can always start on a new one.
Don't Count Yourself Out
This is one that I have to remind myself of each year.
When the new year starts, you begin checking off each day you exercised/ate healthy/meditated/read before bed/worked on your novel/practiced piano -- then you miss a day.
That ruined streak can mess with your head and make you want to give up on the whole plan.
Don't let that one mess-up throw you completely off the rails. Make it a habit to never miss two in a row. The first miss is a wakeup call for you to get back up and charge forward.
James Clear speaks about this in his book "Atomic Habits" and you can read about it on his blog here.
I've come to find any checked box after a blank one extra special because I know I built some resilience by getting back on my grind that day.
I touched on my mindset in the points above, but I want to specifically call out what helps me stick to my goals all year.
I cherish and enjoy the journey rather than focusing on the end goal. Constantly thinking about the goal you haven't yet achieved fills you a feeling of lacking and not being enough. I find I'm much more likely to succeed if I keep the bulk of my focus on the present and what I'm currently doing to get a little closer than I was yesterday.
That incremental improvement is really what I'm trying to achieve.
One question that I find extremely motivating is "what do you wish you started a year ago?"
I use that to propel my actions today into something I know I'll be happy I did a year from now. I may not have reached a crazy achievement at that time, but I'll be a year closer than if I hadn't started.
I'm working on focusing my efforts this year to maximize my progress. My most important goal right now is to get my platforms (YouTube, Instagram, and this blog) to a point that I can make an impact on my subscribers - inspiring them to get out and explore the world and to live sustainably.
To reach that goal, I've set out several smaller achievements I'll be chipping away at throughout the year.
Post on Instagram 150 times (I post 3x/week and this gives me just a tiny room for missed posts)
Post on YouTube 50 times (I want to post 1x/week and this gives me 2 weeks as a break)
Post on this blog 48 times (I want to post 4x/month or almost weekly)
I did throw in a couple other goals related to other areas of my life, such as:
Watercolor paint 24 times (at least 2x/month)
Clicker train my dog 48 times (4x/month or ~weekly)
Regardless of what you're trying to achieve -- or if you even set goals in the new year -- I hope you find tons of inspiration in the new year.
Happy Holidays and stay adventurous,