We've all heard the typical advice about how to set goals for the new year - write them down, track your progress, don't give up! While I encourage you to do those things too, in this article I am going to provide you with the next level of ways to make achieving goals really happen. If you're serious about making a change, achieving a goal, and optimizing your life this year, then these tips are for you!
#1 Reward yourself. Think of something you'd like to do with $120. Write it down. Then save that money by achieving your goals. For example, if your goal is to read a book a month, then when you complete the book, put a $10 bill in a jar. At the end of the year you'll have $120. Think of something in that price range and buy it at the end of the year. Take an even more aggressive approach- print a picture of that $120 thing and put it on the jar so you see it everyday as a reminder of what you're working towards. You can use the same method to achieve all types of goals. Put a $1 or $5 in a a jar for every pound you lose, every time you go to the gym, every day you don't smoke, etc. and reward yourself at the end of the year. Don't have that much money to put aside? You can make yourself a visual reward system to help motivate you towards your goals. Buy a wall calendar and give yourself a star everyday you do something towards your goal (e.g. a star for going to the gym, not smoking, reading, taking a walk, eating healthy, working on a project, or whatever the goal may be). You may notice that you're more likely to make efforts towards your goals so you can get a star. It's a system we tend to associate with kids (sticker charts!) but it works for adults too.
#2 Get an "accountability partner." Find a friend or family member who can check-in with you on your goals, and offer to do the same for them. Come up with a regular check-in day and time, like once a week. At that time, you'll ask each other about progress towards goals. Their job is not to "make" you do anything, rather the act of having someone else to be accountable to actually increases your chances of success.
Speaking of accountability, if you have a therapist, they can help you be accountable too. Tell your therapist your goals and ask them to check-in with you. They can also help you come up with incremental steps to get you to your big goal.
#3 Find a support group. You've probably heard about support groups for things like quitting smoking, overeating, drinking too much, etc., but there are also groups for tons of other things too. Check out this list of support groups and other helpful resources (there are a lot more than you probably realize!): http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/find-support-groups
If there is an in-person or on-line support group for what you're trying to achieve, join it! Even better, volunteer to do something at the group to force yourself to go. If you volunteer to make the coffee or check people in at the beginning of every meeting, you're much more likely to show up... Because people are depending on you!
There are groups for all kinds of other things too- want to write a book or learn rock climbing? There are groups for those things too! Do a little research and see what you find.
#4 Join with someone with the same goal. Meet a friend at the gym every Monday morning; take a walk with your spouse twice a week; find a friend who is also trying to quit smoking/drinking, etc. and agree to do it together. Come up with a plan to check-in regularly (e.g. once a week), discussing your progress, and setting goals for the next week.
Keep this image as a reminder:
Wishing you a wonderful new year, full of success and happiness. Hopefully this article can get you on your way!
Catherine Cirulli, Psy.D.
PsychSavvy Founder/Clinical Psychologist
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