Updated: Jan 13
With 2021 upon us, I'm using the new year as an opportunity for a fresh start, a sort of clean slate if you will. I think it's safe to say we are all ready to put 2020 behind us and start filling up 2021 with positive goals and intentions. But....if this makes you groan, you are not alone. In fact, research shows that only 20% of our population sets active goals for themselves. And of this 20%, 70% percent fail at meeting their goals. Why is this?
How many times have you set a new years resolution for yourself only to get to February and ask yourself, "what was that resolution again?" Even using the word goal can be scary to some people especially if you've failed in the past. I try to instead use the word intention when working with my clients during our initial goal setting session. Intention is defined as, "a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or a plan." With intention comes the motivation needed in order to create behavior change which leads to meeting a goal.
So whether your 2021 intentions are career, health, or overall life focused there are numerous benefits to setting goals and intentions for yourself. According to Positivepsychology.com, "setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guide your focus and helps you sustain that momentum in life. Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery."
Health and wellness coaches are trained to help clients:
set attainable goals including short/long term ones.
stay focused on the goal(s) over a period of time and maintain accountability.
reframe mindset to help create behavior change.
create lasting change so the goal becomes 2nd nature and part of your everyday lifestyle.
So with that here are my 5 simple tips to meeting your 2021 intentions.
1. Do a look back on 2020 and write down all your accomplishments (large and small).
Looking back on the year allows you to take stock of what happened and gives you momentum going into the new year. Even in a tumultuous year like 2020 where people have experienced job loss and even grief around death, there are still small wins you can identify and should celebrate. Write them down in a journal, the notes app on your phone, or somewhere else that is easy for you to reference. Lifewire also ranks the 7 best goal tracker apps of 2021 if you are looking for some additional accountability.
My look back would look something like:
-Decided to leave my corporate job -Successfully homeschooled my kids while working a full time job during the spring lock down...and survived!
-Found a few silver linings to pandemic life...more family time and connection with neighbors. -Launched a wellness coaching business including a website.
2. Create goals that are short and long term in nature....and specific.
Creating 1, 3, 6, and 12 month goals will keep you from procrastinating and set you up for better success. If you can break down your longer term more abstract goal into smaller more specific pieces this will allow you to stay focused and hopefully motivate you throughout the year.
So if your abstract goal is to exercise more or to get stronger, start off more specifically with trying 2 push-ups a day for the first week, and at 1 month your goal could be to build up to doing 5 push-ups per day. From there, your 3 month goal could be 20 a day and at 6 months your goal could be to add in additional strength exercises. BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford University talks more about this strategy in his book Tiny Habits and also on this Doctors Farmacy Podcast with Dr. Mark Hyman who is one of my favorite functional medical doctors.
3. Start small, and make them fun and easy!
Let's be honest with ourselves...if the goal feels like a chore or is just something you really don't want to ever do, you probably won't reach it. Christine Carter, Ph.D, author, coach and speaker writes in How to Use Immediate Gratification to Reach Long-Term Goals,"if we want our habits to stick, we need to start really, really small. It is hard for us humans to make lots of behavior changes all at once. Creating a new habit or routine can take a great deal of energy and focus, and we have only so much self-control in a given day to work with."
Examples would be calling a best friend (vs texting) if your goal is to feel more connected with friends, adding in a new vegetable once a week for a month if your goal is health related, or making a conscious effort to network more by reaching out a to a new contact 1 x per week if the goal is career focused.
4. Congratulate yourself
Celebrating your wins no matter how small (high five yourself after you complete 2 push ups), allows you to feel the emotion of success and feeling successful will keep you motivated to keep going which will create the behavior change. Call a friend to tell them about your success and allow them to congratulate you. Having an accountability partner or cheerleader can also give you the positive reinforcement you need to create the lasting change.
5. Don't let negative self talk and loathing derail you.
Negative self talk is the #1 reason why we fail at meeting our goals. This negative feedback loop can get in the way of the emotions we feel around success and will eventually push us to give up if we let it. Avoid this trap by first creating awareness around your negative thoughts. If you find they are constant, start writing them down. Every time you feel yourself being self critical, note the situation and the negative thought. Pyschology Today writes, that the inner critic you are hearing isn't your authentic self, but rather "a voice you have internalized based on outside influences and learning such as other people's criticisms, expectations and standards." Separate your identity from this voice and stand up to it, letting it know it CAN'T and WON'T derail you. For a more detailed step-by-step guide on how to pull yourself out of this negative feedback loop check out, Negative Self Talk And How To Change It, by Shad Helmstetter.