The art of a healthy, happy life

Achieve Your Goals in 2014

Calendar 3It’s January 1st, 2014!  A brand new year lies ahead filled with hope and opportunity, ripe for the picking.  It’s no wonder so many of us are inspired to set New Year’s resolutions.  By now, millions of optimists have snuffed out their last cigarette (this time, it’s for good…right?) while others have traded in their donuts for dumbbells.

Unfortunately, by January 30th, the vast majority of us will have given up on all our lofty goals and reverted to old, familiar habits. All those dreams and good intentions filed in folders titled “Just Too Hard” or “Maybe Next Year”.

Depressing, isn’t it? So how do you stick to your goals and live up to the version of yourself that you aspire to be?

Here are some strategies that can help you:

  • You absolutely, positively need a clear, COMPELLING reason to change.  For example, simply wanting to be thinner is usually not enough motivation to loose weight. On the other hand, loosing weight to save your life, look good for your high-school reunion or keep up with your children, is. Bottom line: fail to have a good reason to work towards your goal and you’ll loose motivation to achieve it!
  • Predict that your goal will be MUCH, MUCH harder to attain than you initially expect.  Most of the time this will be true, and by expecting to work hard at it, you won’t be so easily discouraged or tempted to give up.
  • Start with realistic, attainable steps.  As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” If you’re out of shape, don’t try to do an hour-long cardio workout from the get-go. Start with 10 or 20 minutes and build from there.  Writing a book for the first time?  Aim for a page per day.  This way you set yourself up to over-achieve (and feel great about your progress) rather than feel that you’re not accomplishing enough.
  • Find others to hold you accountable.  The truth is, we are much better at keeping the promises we make to other people than to ourselves. If competition motivates you, strike a bet (it doesn’t have to be for money) or tell the world what you’re going to achieve if you’re someone who doesn’t like to loose face.  The more people you find to hold you accountable, the more likely you are to stay on track to achieve your goals.
  • Use the “no matter what” clause.  I find this tactic very effective because it stops me from rationalizing myself out of a commitment.  For example: “Yes, that desert looks sumptuous and my mother made it especially for me, but I told myself I was going to cut out sugar, no matter what.”  Or, “Yes, a roll of toilet paper has a better chance of getting published, but I promised myself I’d finish this book, no matter what.”
  • You never fail until you stop trying.  This is one of my father-in-law’s favorite motivational phrases and it’s true!  “Failure” is part of everyone’s journey, even those who succeed. In fact, some of the most revered people in history (like Thomas Edison, for example) have failed dozens of times. But when they succeeded…oh, what glory! Next time you trip over a stumbling block, pick yourself up and remind yourself that the next attempt might be the one that brings home the gold.
  • Don’t fear success.  In the Disney movie Tangled (a great movie, BTW), Rapunzel’s big fear was that she would attain her lifelong dream and have nothing left to look forward to. The simple solution suggested by another character:  “just get a new dream!” There is SO much in life to learn and enjoy. Set fear aside and keep moving, growing and living with as much gusto as you can muster!
  • Create a plan of action.  If you’re going to dinner in an unfamiliar part of town, do you just hop in the car – with no map and no GPS – and hope for the best? Probably not.  So why do the equivalent with your goals?  If you really want to succeed, you have to define what constitutes success (give it an address so-to-speak) and figure out which roads you’re going to take and which landmarks you need to pass to get there. (Of course, you may end up taking a detour or land up at an even better destination, but at least you’ll have a general sense of direction!)
  • Track your success.  This is a very important step, which is easy to neglect when you’re just starting out – but please don’t!  Tracking each success along the way, whether it’s through photos, video, journaling or any other means, is vital. This way, you have hard proof of your progress – which will encourage you when you hit a rough patch and remind you of how hard you worked and how proud you should be when you cross the finish line.

Here’s to our New Year’s resolutions in 2014! May we set them carefully and with conviction and then have the tenacity to see them though.

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