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setting new year goals

Setting New Year Goals

If you are someone who enjoys a fresh start and the challenge of self-improvement, then the New Year, and the New Year goals and resolutions that come with it, are likely something that you embrace.

Whether it be increasing your daily steps, reading more books, or making a bigger effort to save money, New Year’s resolutions are, most of the time, made with good intentions.

But there can be a toxic side to New Year resolutions, in which we feel a pressure to completely upheave our current lifestyle and become the best, healthiest, most productive version of ourselves as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. But this approach is not sustainable or realistic, and it is also not healthy.

Of course it can be a positive thing to want to grow as a person and become a better version of yourself. But there is no need to feel as though you have to change, or that you have to throw your current lifestyle out the window just because it is a new year. You are enough just as you are, and you don’t have to make a New Year’s resolution if you don’t feel like it. At the end of the day, the New Year is essentially the same as any other day, week or month.

But, just like any other day, week or month, it is still a great time to set a goal or to work on personal growth, if it is something that you want to do, are in the correct headspace to do, and are doing for yourself, and not for validation from others.

This blog outlines our advice for setting and achieving New Year goals in a healthy and sustainable way, for people who are in position to do so and feel as though they would like a personal challenge. But, remember, you should feel no pressure to set New Year goals or resolutions if you don’t want to, and it also doesn’t have to be a new year in order to make a change in your life!

  1. Find your why

Oftentimes, you might find yourself wanting to set a common New Year goal like ‘eat healthier’, ‘exercise more’ or ‘work harder’, but it might not actually be in line with your own personal values or wants. Setting goals that we think we should achieve instead of what we actually want to achieve deep down makes the whole process unenjoyable, unsustainable, and, frankly, pointless!

In order to set fulfilling goals that are in line with what you truly want, and that will improve your life in the long run, you need to get in tune with your why. Ask yourself, what do I really want from my life, and why? Journalling about your feelings and going to therapy are some ways in which you can become more self-aware, and learn about what your wants and values are, which will make it easier to set positive and meaningful goals.

  1. Set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals and focusing on making small, sustainable changes is the key to seeing lasting change. It is easy to say “I want to start going to the gym every single day”, doing so for one week, and then never going again. But it would be more beneficial to say “I want to start going to the gym twice a week”, because this is more doable in the long run. If you stick to this for a couple of weeks, the sense of achievement and satisfaction might spur you on to start going three times a week, or else you might realise that twice a week is the perfect balance for you. Setting realistic goals is so important for long-term success and fulfilment, and it looks different for everyone!

  1. Focus on mental health and how you feel

Again, it can sometimes be easy to decide to set a common, surface-level resolution such as ‘lose weight’ or ‘earn more money’, but focusing on mental health goals can, more often than not, be much more impactful. By setting a mental health related goal such as to start therapy, to journal twice a week, or to stay off social media until the afternoon, you are working on prioritising and improving your mental health. With better mental health, you will find that other areas of your life improve too, such as motivation, mental clarity, work-life balance, energy, social skills, confidence, and so on, and it will be easier to achieve other goals, such as those related to physical health or career. Prioritising your mental health gives you a solid foundation for achieving goals in other areas in your life, and can help you to feel ready to take on whatever life may throw at you.

  1. Use the SMART technique

The SMART technique – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound – is a goal-setting method commonly used by successful businesspeople to keep their careers and businesses on track. But for personal goals, this technique can also really help with motivation and accountability. By setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, you have a clear overview of what we need to do in order to achieve our goals, but can also feel self-assured in the fact that they are achievable within your means, and are relevant to your own life, wants and values. For example, a SMART goal might be to read one novel by the end of January, or to go for a walk in nature once a week.

  1. Don’t take the all or nothing approach

Try to avoid taking the all or nothing approach, in which you immediately give up on your goal as soon as you miss one day or do something that doesn’t align with it. If this happens, remember that it is totally normal – progress isn’t linear, and there are going to be ups and downs along the way. Focus on consistency over perfection, and even if you miss an entire week of going for your daily walk, or miss an entire book off your monthly reading goal, this does not mean that tomorrow you can’t begin to work towards your goal again. If you’re goal is still something that you want to keep up and achieve after having a wobble, just pick up where you left off and go at it again.

  1. Reward yourself

Setting and achieving New Year’s resolutions should be a fun and fulfilling experience, and not a punishment, so be sure to reward yourself along the way. You have managed to hit your water goal every day for a week, so why not celebrate by buying a new, trendy water bottle? Or perhaps you have kept up your new hobby of knitting for a whole month, so why not reward yourself with some new yarn in your favourite colour? Giving yourself small rewards like this along the way will keep up your motivation to achieve your goal long after the New Year’s buzz has died down.

  1. Go easy on yourself

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to your New Year goals. It is so much easier to set a goal than to actually follow through and keep it up, so don’t be disheartened if you are finding it difficult to maintain after the first few weeks. If it comes to a stage where you need to reassess and alter your goal so that it is more sustainable, or you realise that you want to move on from the goal altogether, that is totally fine. Be proud of yourself that you gave it a try, and realise that sometimes a goal seemed like a better idea in your head than it does as part of your daily life.

Happy New Year, and happy goal-setting!

Written by: Louise Byrne, MIAHIP

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