Every year, millions of Americans set New Year's resolutions—and millions fall short of achieving them. Many give up after just a few weeks. This lack of follow-through makes us feel discouraged, and often, causes us to perform worse than we would if we neglected to set goals in the first place.
All this isn't to say that setting goals is a worthless endeavor. Rather, it underscores the importance of setting smart goals that we can realistically achieve. Success is most within reach when we develop tailored plans within a supportive community.
10 Ways to Make Your Goals More Attainable
Your struggles to stick to your New Year's resolution may not reflect any personal failings, but rather, an excess of ambition. There's nothing wrong with thinking big, but if your goals aren't measurable or realistic, you could be setting yourself up for failure. It's not too late to change course, however. These strategies and ideas should help:
1. Ditch All-Or-Nothing Thinking
Often, resolutions end because we throw in the towel at the first sign of failure. In reality, however, the occasional mistake should be expected. Instead of viewing setbacks as signs of weakness, think of them as learning opportunities.
Practice reframing the situation. Perhaps you set a goal of making the Dean's List but received a low score on your latest exam. This is your chance to reassess your study or test-taking habits and make changes to help you comprehend information or calm your nerves.
2. Ask for Insight
Goals that seem perfectly reasonable might look less desirable from a different perspective. Honest feedback can help you break free from any blinders that might impede your goal-setting vision.
When possible, seek feedback from somebody who understands your objectives. An advisor can help with academic goals, for example, while a personal trainer may be a better resource for fitness resolutions. Don't be afraid of switching goals if the original is not cutting it.
3. Center Your Goals Around Action
Consider the cliché about the journey mattering more than the destination. This should apply, to an extent, to any goal-setting exercise.
Goals that involve daily habits tend to be easier to maintain. For example, instead of desperately trying to lose ten pounds, you'll find greater success if you plan to exercise for half an hour every day.
4. Make Goals Measurable
How will you know when you've met your goal? Vague intentions won't keep you motivated, but metrics could. Feel free to tweak existing goals to include some sort of measurable objective.
5. Take Baby Steps
A large goal can be achieved if broken into smaller, digestible pieces. As a student, for example, you focus on one class at a time rather than immediately worrying about graduation. Build the same principle into your goal-setting approach.
6. Strick With Personally Compelling Goals
Deep down, how much do you actually care about meeting your stated goals? If they don't evoke passion, you could be wasting your effort on something that, even if achieved, will grant you little in the way of meaningful rewards.
7. Remind Yourself Why
Perhaps you initially drafted an exciting, yet realistic goal, along with a plan for attaining it. If you're currently lacking motivation, you might need to be reminded why your goal matters and what it will mean to accomplish it. When possible, build such reminders into the very language of the goal.
8. Plan for Additional Challenges
Don't make the mistake of assuming that you'll enjoy an easy journey as you get back on track. Additional roadblocks aren't just likely—they're guaranteed.
Do some brainstorming to determine where problems will arrive and how you'll handle them. Draw on insights gained from previous attempts to develop and reach goals.
9. Remind Yourself of Past Successes
When you're struggling with a specific goal, you may start to feel as if you're falling short in every aspect of your daily life. In reality, however, you probably enjoy many successes.
These could be as impressive as saving money for a big purchase or as simple as getting up and brushing your teeth every morning. Remind yourself of these accomplishments, which prove that you're capable of achieving quite a bit.
10. Celebrate Your Achievements
Even if you ultimately fall short of your goal, you likely have a lot to celebrate from your recent journey. Perhaps you broadened your horizons or discovered a new perspective. You may have even set yourself up to achieve your next mission. Take some time to celebrate before you embark on your next big mission.
Resources to Help You Achieve Your Goals
At the University of the Cumberlands, we're pleased to provide a variety of resources to keep you on track. These include:
- The Learning Commons. If you're having difficulty with a specific class, you may benefit from the free tutoring offered through this program. You'll find tailored assistance from a team of trained and courteous tutors.
- Career Services. As you set goals for your future profession, look to Career Services for guidance. This is your opportunity to get help with everything from writing a resume to acing an interview.
- Counseling Center. If stress stands in the way of your goal, counseling could prove transformative. It's even more important if you're dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
- IT Services. Technological roadblocks stand in the way of a surprising number of goals. Let the IT office help you with network or email problems that hold you back.
In addition to our many onsite resources, you can take advantage of the following:
- Goal-setting apps. From the GoalsonTrack app to the Coach.me habit tracker, a variety of digital resources can help you make progress.
- Virtual accountability partners. The right partner can provide powerful motivation. While many candidates are available right on campus, you can also find partners through social media or dedicated apps.
- Books on setting goals. Several excellent books are dedicated to setting and achieving goals. Start with Goal Setting for the Christian or The Book of Mistakes for in-depth insight into the habits that set you up for success.
- Goal-setting podcasts. Perhaps you're too busy to delve into a book. A podcast can provide shorter bursts of motivation while you walk on the treadmill or during your commute. Favorites include The One You Feed and The Tim Ferriss Show.