Don’t be too hard on yourself – some fail because they’re not right. And a resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons, explains Dr Rebecca Ray, clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of Small Habits For A Big Life. That is; is it specific? Is it meaningful? And is it even possible?
But even before that, Dr Ray suggests that what you need to do is ask yourself one simple question: would your 80-year-old self like you to achieve this goal? Hmm… that’s got you thinking, right? This is to ensure you’re not just setting goals because you feel like you need to get someone else’s approval, or you need to validate your worthiness.
Ask yourself one simple question: would your 80-year-old self like you to achieve this goal?
“We are not operating from that foundation,” Dr Ray says. “Instead, make sure that your choices about how you live ‘your one wild and precious life’ – thank you, Mary Oliver – are yours and yours alone. You are making them because they feel right for you, not anyone else.”
Now, if we can all agree that our 80-year-old selves think this is a goal worth setting – whether it’s writing a book, going for that promotion, or ticking something off the bucket list – then the first step is to make sure that the goal is specific. It needs to be measurable, and be articulated in a way that you can take action on it.
Second step is to ensure it’s meaningful. “Now, this means it’s meaningful to you,” says Dr Ray. “If the goal is based on something that someone else wants you to carry out, it’s not going to rate in terms of meaning. But if it’s something that’s very much connected to your values, then we can tick meaning off. People are far less likely to meet long-term goals if there’s no meaning in the first place.”
And third, we need to make sure that the goal is possible. If you decide that you want to run for the next president of the United States, you’re going to have a problem if you’re not American. You need to make sure that the goal is something you can actually fulfil. Of course, you can’t have all the information about how the goal is going to work out until you try it, but you need to make sure that, initially, it’s at least adaptive.
Finally, give yourself a timeframe. Research shows we’re much less likely to focus on the goal if we’ve got the rest of our life to get it done. If you set a time limit, you’re more likely to take action. Ready, set, goal.
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