At this point in the year, many people are deciding to finally make new year’s resolutions, reconsidering goals they already made, or are just dropping off the bandwagon all together.  Unfortunately, the idea of new year’s resolutions has become a running joke.  But perhaps it’s the way we approach goal-making, rather than the goals themselves, that is the problem.  This week will be discussing several unhelpful thinking patterns that make goals more daunting and unachievable than they likely should be, and how we can combat them.

Decisions with No Planning

One of the most common problems in the way we approach goals is often people will think up an idea and decide to commit to it, but they do nothing to actually plan out necessary steps.  For example, if your goal is to read one book a month, how are you going to go about it?  Clearly reading a book a month is not a natural part of your schedule, otherwise it wouldn’t be a goal.  So how are you going to accomplish it?  Are you going to listen to an audiobook while driving?  Are you going to plan it out, so you read a certain number of pages per day?  Per week?  What steps will make this goal an approachable challenge for you and your lifestyle?

Without a plan, chances are high you will get to the last week of the month, realize you haven’t even started, and either rush-read (which may take the enjoyment away) or just give up on the goal all together.  Planning matters!

Going Too Big

Many people when setting goals either set too many or expect themselves to change their whole lifestyle to reach a specific big goal.  No one can change their entire lifestyle overnight.  Expecting such an impossible outcome can be extremely discouraging when one finds that they are unable to reach their goals.  For example, some people may set a goal to begin going to the gym for an hour every day.  Those who have already been regularly attending the gym may find this goal very doable, as it is simply a step up from their current habits.  But going from hardly working out at all to attending for an hour every day is unlikely to work out.  Take small steps and recognize that all positive progression is an achievement, regardless of how small.

Focusing Solely on Perceived Failure

It is okay to fail!  And not meeting a goal does not make the whole experience a waste of time.  Instead of focusing on not reaching a goal, consider things you learned from the experience.  Perhaps you were successful for a while but fell out of the habit.  Pat yourself on the back for what you did do.  Then consider possible adjustments you could make to your goal in the future.  Was there a specific reason you stopped?  Perhaps it was a circumstance that was out of your control.  Or perhaps the plan you created didn’t quite work for you.  Consider readjusting your plan that may fit your needs and personality better.  Just because it didn’t work out now does not mean you will never achieve that goal.

Making Inflexible Goals

Life is unpredictable.  As mentioned above, sometimes goals need to be readjusted to better fit with changing life circumstances.  Don’t be afraid to change things as you go.  If something is not working, relook at it.  Being inflexible with goals has the potential to guarantee you will fail.  Goal making should be an ongoing learning process.  It is not a start, middle, and end sequence.  There are new beginnings and readjustments that consistently need to be made to accomplish an ultimate dream.

Additionally, it’s ok to drop goals that no longer hold much meaning for you.  There may be times that you set a goal you are really excited about, only to change your mind overtime.  This is okay!  Goals are for you to make your life more fulfilling and engaging.  If a goal isn’t working for you, and you don’t care to make it work, move on!  There’s no need to feel guilty about it.

Not Making Goals Out of Fear of Failure

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people mention that they aren’t setting new year’s resolutions because they just feel bad when they fail.  This is no reason to avoid seeking to become a new and better individual.  As mentioned above, failure does not make a goal worthless, or a waste of time.  Every goal that is made and pursued is a learning opportunity that can make a positive impact on personal growth, whether or not the ultimate goal was reached.  Goals are a key part of making life worth living.  Success is a separate entity which is not the only benefit of setting a goal.

So just do it!  Set your goals, make plans to accomplish them, and see it as an opportunity for growth, not necessarily ultimate success.