How to Set Goals You Can Actually Keep

setting goals

The New Year has come and gone. That means many of you reading this might have already gone back on your resolutions.

But you don’t need to watch a ball come down on Times Square to set a goal that can improve your life. You can start any day you choose.

According to the Marist poll, about 40% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but 60% of those fail to keep them. Researchers at the University of Scranton did a study to see how long New Year’s resolutions are kept, and found that 75% make it a full week. 55% make it a whole month. And 40% make it 6 months.

So what is the problem? Are we just bad at keeping goals? Or do we need to set goals we can actually keep? A lot of studies have been conducted about how to set goals that both challenge you and are attainable, and there seem to be some common themes for how to set goals you can keep.

1. Set actionable steps not just end results.

Change doesn’t happen by wishing for it. You have to have a plan and steps to get from where you are to where you want to be. If you want to actually stick to your goals, don’t just think about where you want to be, but how you can get to that point. For example, if you set a goal to save $5,000 this year, how much does that mean you need to save each month? How much each paycheck? Will there be any extra ways you can save? What will you cut from your current spending to make that goal attainable?

2. Make goals attainable.

The more manageable the more likely you are to stick with it. One of the biggest problems with goals is they are often too lofty. Sure it sounds great to say you want to lose 50 lbs in a year, but for many 5 is a much more realistic number. When a goal is too hard to reach, it is quickly abandoned. People need to see progress, and feel like they will find success in order to stick with a goal.

3. Make goals you can control.

This can be a little tricky, but the idea is that often people set goals over things they have a hard time controlling. For example, you don’t know how your body might react to a diet, or how quickly it will lose weight. You may not be able to control how many pounds you lose in a week, but you can control what you put into your body, how much you exercise, etc. So instead of setting goals like “Lose 10 pounds” set a goal like “Drink 60 ounces of water a day” or “Go to the gym at least 3 times a week” goals you have complete control over! Because then you can take complete responsibility for the results and feel success.

4. Plan to fail a little.

If you realize you won’t be perfect, you will actually be able to stick to your resolutions. Plan to fail. At least a little. This will help you to not give up and throw goals out the window when you screw them up. You have to make allowances for some actual human moments. You know, when you eat that slice of pizza despite your plan to eat healthy. Or when you bust your budget because you desperately needed to get out. Planning to have some human moments will help you stick to your goals regardless of set backs.

5. Consider and plan for challenges.

Think about what your goals will mean, what will be different, and how you can manage those changes. For example, if you are trying to lose weight this might mean not getting popcorn at a movie, or not going out to eat with friends. What can you do to manage the social and emotional sides that come with those changes? Planning for those challenges will help you face them more readily without giving up on your goals.

If you consider these five things when setting your goals, chances are you will be among the 40% that actually make it a full 6 months before abandoning your goals.

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