The new year inevitably brings with it the idea of a fresh start and a chance to create new goals to work toward. While goals are helpful any time, it’s typically around this time of year that many decide to take on new tasks to accomplish something they would like to change or improve. As you may very well know, these goals and aspirations often fall away before they are achieved. The good news is there are many ways to successfully navigate the challenges that come with trying to reach a new goal. Here are a few tips adapted from University of New Hampshire Extension and Harvard Health:
Focus on small changes or steps to take when trying to reach a larger goal. One of the biggest barriers to reaching a new goal is that the goal we set is too big. It’s great to have big goals, but if I don’t break that big goal into smaller steps, I may end up overwhelmed and too frustrated to keep working at it. It’s also important to consider the obstacles you might face, be aware of what may become a barrier, and think about ways to manage or overcome these challenges before they happen.
Use SMART goals. Another major barrier to reaching a new goal is that it’s not specific enough. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. Start with clearly defining your goal, then figure out how you will measure your progress. Ensure the goal isn’t too easy or too difficult to accomplish and figure out what knowledge and resources are needed to reach the goal. Decide when you plan to start making progress toward the goal and identify how you will know you have reached the goal. Then, set a specific deadline for the goal.
Keep yourself accountable. I’m more likely to work toward and succeed in reaching my goals if I commit myself to the goal. What does this look like? Try writing down your goal and keep it where you can see it every day or tell people about your goal. Verbal and written commitments may provide support and encouragement when progress towards a goal becomes difficult.
Do what works for you and don’t get caught up in the idea of perfection as you work toward a goal. Everyone will reach their goals differently, even if they have the exact same goal. When considering a change, take time to think it through. Take a look at why you’re sticking to old routines you’d like to change. The chance of lasting success is higher when taking on the new goal or behavior becomes more appealing than staying with the old routine. It’s also helpful to ignore what others are doing! Comparing ourselves to others often has negative effects which may make it more difficult to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.
Finally, don’t be hard on yourself and acknowledge the small successes. You don’t have to achieve your big goal before celebrating the smaller successes that get you there. Acknowledging your successes and the success of others is encouraging and will likely help you keep working toward your bigger goals. This also includes not becoming discouraged by failed attempts. Instead, learn from the times you tried to make a change and didn’t get there. It’s still a step toward your goal because of the lessons you can take from the unsuccessful attempt. Consider what did and didn’t work as you move forward.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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