A Better Way to Achieve Your Goals This Year

kvit cigaretterne - Quit smokingWe’re a few weeks into the new year.  If you’re like many people, you made New Year’s resolutions.  Perhaps you vowed to give up smoking or go to the gym every day, or lose 50 pounds.

How are you doing with your goals?  Are you still motivated, or have you given up already?

Chances are, you’ve already given up and are back to your old behavior.  If so, you’re in good company.

“Self-improvement, or at least the desire for it, is a shared American hobby.  It’s why so many of us—some estimates say more than 40% of Americans—make New Year’s resolutions.  But for all good intentions, only a tiny fraction of us keep our resolutions; University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals” (Forbes).

Let’s face it.  When most of us make New Year’s goals, we set ourselves up for failure.  Sure, you could try to make SMART goals, and you may be more likely to succeed.  But there is an even better way to change your life.

Focus Instead on Changing Habits

I have a good friend who is overweight.  Her gym offers a weight loss challenge every year.  Whoever loses the biggest percentage of body weight over six weeks wins.  (The winner gets a free membership to the gym for a year.)

For the last two years, I’ve seen my friend exercise diligently during those six weeks and monitor her food intake carefully.  Thanks to her diligence, she’s won for the past two years.

But inevitably, as soon as the contest is over, she slacks on exercising and gives in to eating all of those fattening, unhealthy foods she avoided eating during the contest.

Her goal was to win, and she reached her goal for the last two years.

But as soon as the contest is over, she gains at least half of the weight back.

She’s met her goal, but she hasn’t changed her habits.

“When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?” (Entrepreneur).

How to Set Up Systems to Change Your Habits AND Reach Your Goals

The secret?  Focus on systems to reach your goal, instead of the goal itself.

“When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time” (Entrepreneur).

Let’s say my friend decides today that she will lose the weight for good and drop 50 pounds this year.  This is her goal.  If, on December 31st, 2015, she’s only lost 30 pounds, has she failed to reach her goal?

Yes, but she’s still likely healthier than she was in January, 2015.

What if, instead of focusing on her goal, she focuses on living a healthy lifestyle, not just during the duration of the contest, but every day.

Perhaps she decides she’ll spend at least 120 minutes a week at the gym, and she’ll eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods.  Rather than eating sugary sweets, she’ll eat naturally sweet foods like grapes, oranges, etc.

If she focuses on the system, she will likely reach her goal or come very close to it by the end of the year.

More importantly, she’ll be on the path to living healthily for the rest of her life because she’s changed her behavior.

“None of this is to say that goals are useless.  However, I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress, and systems are good for actually making progress.  Everyone. . .”should “slow down and make consistent, methodical progress rather than chasing sexy goals for a few weeks and then flaming out.

“Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually, a well-designed system will always win.  Having a system is what matters.  Committing to the process is what makes the difference” (Entrepreneur).

What habits (or systems) would you like to establish this year that will help you reach your long-term goals?

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About Melissa Batai (Staff Writer)

Melissa is a freelance writer and virtual assistant who is simplifying her life by living a frugal, eco-friendly lifestyle. She also homeschools her 3 kids, ages 9, 5, and 3. You can read about her life plans at Mom's Plans.

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