We’re almost halfway through the year, so it’s a great time to check in with your goals or resolutions for the year. How have you been doing? Have you been doing them?
Even if you’ve forgotten about your goals entirely, the year is not over yet. Not even close! It’s not too late to re-evaluate, re-configure & re-commit to your goals. Here are my top tips for sticking to your goals right up until December 31st (and beyond!).
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good
On my list of 26 things I’d like to do before my next birthday, I included the item “collect quotes”. Not only was this very vague (more on this in a bit), it also conjured up fantasies for me of how best to go about completing this goal. Maybe I could make a beautiful collage on my wall! Maybe I could sit down and hand-letter all of the quotes and later bind them into a book! Maybe I could write each of them on a slip of paper and put them into a lovely jar!
But then I realized that it was a month after I created the list and I hadn’t written down a single quote. All of the above would be amazing options, but waiting until I could implement one of those plans would slow me down or even completely prevent me from following through on this goal. So, I opened up a Google Doc, titled it “Jar of Quotes”, stuck it in my Bookmarks Bar and went on with my day. Maybe later I’ll make it into a beautiful book, but for now I’m just happy I’m doing it at all.
Use the Strategy of monitoring
It’s easy to set a goal, it’s not so easy to follow through on a goal. One thing that helps tremendously is keeping track of a goal as much as possible. Writing down milestones you aim to reach at different points during the year, having a reminder on your phone, making an X on the calendar, taking 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each week to set mini-goals and check in about how you did: these are all strategies of monitoring, strategies to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind as you go about your daily life.
I personally love these daily goal trackers for checking things off daily, and seeing how you’re doing in the big picture.
Keep a BEGINNER’S MIND
Keeping a beginner’s mind when you try new things goes hand in hand with practicing self-compassion. Getting discouraged by your progress (or lack thereof) is one of the major reasons people quit working at their goals, whether it’s a goal of weight loss or of writing 3 pages a day.
Beginner’s mind really means having an open mind, and being open to many possibilities without expectations. It means not expecting instant gratification, or rapid progress, or to be an expert at something in 30 days or less.
Obviously, setting goals comes with a certain level of expectations, but the key is having a loose hold on the final outcome and a commitment to the process, to the learning, and to the growth.
Make it easy and/or automatic
You probably already know how to use this technique when it comes to saving money, right?: set up an automatic transfer to a savings account every month (preferably an account that charges you every time you withdraw money from it!), and you’ll barely notice that you’re saving. The same goes for other goals: automation = success. Some examples:
- If you’re trying to keep in touch with friends more, mutually decide on a time every week to FaceTime. Even if you have to miss one or two of these “meetings”, you’ll be communicating with each other a lot more than you would otherwise.
- If you want to eat healthier, do meal prep every Sunday so that you don’t have to make a decision about what to eat for lunch every day, or whether to go out to eat.
- If you want to spend less time on Facebook or Instagram, set up an app to do it for you (or at least remind you when you’ve been on for too long).
- If you want to work out more in the mornings, try sleeping in your (clean) exercise clothes.
- If you want to dress better, take the time to create a capsule wardrobe, and as a bonus spend less time choosing what to wear each morning.
It’s entirely possible that you haven’t looked at your list of resolutions since the end of January, or that you fell of the wagon somewhere along the way. In those cases, it’s so easy to give up entirely, to wonder what the point is since you weren’t really getting anywhere anyways.
Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take. The time will pass anyway. -Earl Nightingale
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This is where the epic self-compassion comes in, as Elizabeth Gilbert says. It’s the only way to keep going, day after day, when we will inevitably fail to reach our goals and be unable to meet our best intentions. We have to tell ourselves that it’s okay, that we don’t have to take everything so seriously, that we are allowed (and encouraged!) to try again.
Stay inspired every day
This is an incredibly easy, incredibly clever tip from Yes and Yes. Make sure you get daily inspiration to pursue your goals! You can follow Instagram accounts with healthy, easy recipes or book recommendations, or join a Facebook group about how to grow your business, or subscribe to an email newsletter that sends you productivity tips + tools.
As Sarah says, this won’t actually make you achieve your goals, but at least they’ll be at the forefront of your mind when you’re making decisions.
Get some accountability
I’m not a huge fan of accountability partners (probably because I’m a Questioner, not an Obliger: see the full framework here), but I still think accountability can be great for all personality types if done the right way.
For example, I’m probably not going to be motivated by a running buddy, but I might be more motivated to run if I’ve announced on my blog that I’ll be writing a monthly update about my running progress. Or, I have an Obliger friend who set up an agreement with her boyfriend that they couldn’t watch TV together unless she’d meditated that day.
Your kind of accountability might be a site like StickK, which donates to a cause you fundamentally disagree with if you don’t meet your goals, or something as simple as having to text a friend of yours every single morning after you’ve completed your goal. Find what works and set it up.
Get more specific
Now would be a great time to take out your list of goals for the year and look it over for any glaring vagueness. It’s almost impossible to accomplish a goal if you don’t have a clear idea of what exactly you’re working towards, so breaking things down a little can help a ton when it comes to moving forwards.
For example, one of my goals on the 26 list is “celebrate small holidays”. It was helpful for me to take five minutes and draft a list of exactly which holidays I’m hoping to celebrate, a couple ideas for how I’d like to make each one more festive, and then schedule reminders in my calendar about a week before each to make sure I make plans or buy what I need for the day. If I want to “take dance classes”, I can take some time to think about what kind of classes I want to take. If I want to “make photobooks”, I can decide how many I’d like, and what I’d like them to be about.
PAIR UP YOUR GOALS with current habits
An easy way to incorporate new habits into your day is to link them to routines you already do daily without much thought. Taking a few minutes to think of ways to pair up habits can save you so much time – it’s another form of automation. For example:
- If you want to stretch every night before bed, commit to doing it while watching the TV show you watch every evening.
- If you want to read more real books, decide that you’ll do so while drinking your morning coffee instead of scrolling Instagram.
- If you want to remember to take your vitamins, keep them in the bathroom and take them right after you brush your teeth.
Start with the smallest step
The smallest step is usually *very small*, so small that we often don’t think that it “should count” towards working on our goals. But of course it should. Working towards goals is just a series of tiny steps, and you need to start somewhere. Some common smallest steps:
- Get more specific on your goals (as seen above)
- Send out an email to get more information
- Do a Google search
- Make yourself a goal tracker, or print one out
- Set reminders on your phone
- Ask a friend to be your accountability buddy
- Set up some of those automation practices (mentioned above)
- Put it on your calendar
Take things off the list
Here’s an easy way to complete a goal: scratch it off the list. Arianna Huffington talks about this in her wonderful book Thrive, saying that sometimes we hold onto fantasy goals or ideas about ourselves and it can be such a relief to drop them entirely. She personally had ideas about learning German and becoming a great cook, and she realized those goals were draining her energy every time she remembered them, and subsequently felt guilty for not making any progress on them.
Take a good, hard look at your list of goals. Be honest with yourself: which of these goals do you actually want to work towards, and which of the goals do you wish you wanted to work towards? After locating them, cross them off and be done with it.
How have your yearly goals been going so far? Which of these tips is your favourite to use to stick to your resolutions?