Christmas is over and everyone is looking to the New Year and vowing to make themselves better in some way. Here’s how to make a goal you can accomplish without going insane.
1. Be realistic. Instead of vowing to quit soda cold turkey, try cutting back until you can quit completely. Instead of writing a trilogy of novels, try to focus on one. Ask yourself what you can really do, and stick with that before you go overboard. Also, instead of making a huge list of everything you need to change to make your life perfect, pick two things to work on this year.
2. Be flexible. Life never goes smoothly no matter how carefully we plan, so prepare for a few bumps. Carry a water bottle in case you get thirsty so you don’t stop for a soda. Plan to delegate tasks if your plate gets overfull. Put some money into savings every month for emergencies.
3. Post it where you’ll see it. Write down your goal or better yet, find some pictures to represent it and post them around you home, in the car and in your office so you’ll be reminded and less likely to slip up.
4. Have a plan. Never go into a goal for flying blind. Instead of merely stating “I will keep the house spotless this year,” plan some strategies. Make sure the dishes are washed and all clothes hanged up before bed. Clear the table right after the meal and set days for specific chores and delegate assignments if necessary.
5. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip. No one is perfect, and you can bet you’ll goof up at least a few times. Remember that you’re human, forgive yourself, and start over that minute, instead of waiting for the next day or the following week to get back on track.
6. Track progress. Keep record of your progress so you can compare your current state with where you were when you began. If you resolve to learn to draw, keep all your drawings to compare to your current pieces so you have a visual track of your growing skill.
7. Be open-ended. Sometimes, you may not end up where you planned, but you might go somewhere else that’s just as nice. If your resolution to learn to sew beautiful clothes without a pattern didn’t work out, maybe you learned some skills that could help you mend or alter clothes you already have. If you didn’t lose all thirty pounds, maybe you lost twenty and improved your endurance.
8. Reward yourself. Get yourself little presents for reaching milestones, like some new songs for your iPod for every mile you add to your run, or a free night to relax and watch a movie for every new project you tackle. This will keep you motivated and give you a sense of accomplishment.
9. Enlist help. You’re goal will be much easier to reach if you have someone to share the journey with. Find a buddy to train for that marathon, or sit down with your spouse to make a budget.
10. If you can’t do it, adjust and try again. Sometimes, we just don’t make it, but that’s no reason to give up. Revamp your strategy and try again. If you didn’t learn to paint lifelike portraits, switch to still life or try sculpting or colored pencils instead. If you didn’t save for that trip to Spain, rework your budget and keep going. Eventually, you’ll reach your goal. It may just happen a little differently than you planned.