New year, new goals? You’re not alone. Yet too often they linger too long as a vague idea of something we want to do or aspire to be and never fully form into a crystal-clear vision. Psychologists have several reasons for this with fear of the unknown and failure topping a lot of lists. But it’s possible to move past these fears with the right mindset and expectations.
Step One: Remember Rome …
… and that whole built-in-a-day thing. People who’ve reached goals know: It’s almost never smooth sailing. History is filled with stories of geniuses who spent years, even decades, as failures.
Before embarking on your mission, realize you will have setbacks. Research finds people who are discouraged easily have to embrace persistence from day one and commit. Once you’ve overcome the first few setbacks and start to see significant progress, future problems will be less discouraging.
Step Two: Specificity drives momentum
We tend to give up on goals, because they’re not exact. “I want to lose weight” needs to become “I want to lose 15 pounds.” Instead of “I want a promotion,” try “I want to become (exact title here).”
Without an exact idea of where we want to go, it’s difficult to gauge if we’re getting there. With a specific goal, momentum is easier to build and maintain.
For example, one can wish for a more challenging job. But without a clear idea of what that job looks like, it’s unlikely the wish will go anywhere. It’s better to identify a specific position or department that interests you. Find out the qualifications required and start working on them. Momentum will build as you knock out each of the job requirements.
Step Three: Have a plan
Even with a specific goal, it’s vital to have a plan regarding how to get there. The plan should include a deadline, or that all-important momentum is again at risk. Plans without a deadline tend to start and stop ad infinitum until after a while, the goal is sidetracked for good.
Plans have a better chance of keeping us on track and on schedule if they include milestones that break down the final goal into smaller ones. Several project managers motivate teams with celebrations of small wins. This way, staff members have something to work for that week or that month while getting closer to the big day.
Planning also involves research. Why go it alone when you can see what’s worked for others? A word of caution, though: Spending too much time in study mode can lead to paralysis. Once you’ve researched enough to feel confident to start on your plan, go for it.
The best advice around about goals is to set one you feel is attainable and focus on one at a time. Depending on a person’s makeup, a support group may help keep them accountable. People who are more private may prefer to utilize apps or other online resources to help track their progress.
So, let’s get it done – whether “it” is a fitness goal, number on the scale, career ideal or another game plan related to improving your life.