The start of a new year is a time when many people are thinking about setting New Year’s resolutions, prioritizing new goals, and establishing new habits. Whether you want to exercise more, drink less alcohol, spend more time reading, or establish other healthy habits, now is a great time to plan your self-improvement goals.
Goal setting has many benefits: it can help you prioritize tasks and focus on the most important things first. Goals can also be a source of motivation, as they provide a sense of purpose and direction. Being intentional in setting your goals can help you focus your energy and move steadily towards creating the kind of life you want to live. Goals can also help you measure your progress and stay motivated to keep going.
Goals vs. Resolutions
What’s the difference between a goal and a New Year’s resolution? While they all share some similarities around the topic of self-improvement, there are some important differences. A goal is an objective that you work towards over a period of time, whether short-term or long-term. Some examples might include eating more meals at home and ordering less takeout, having regular date nights with your partner, or starting a new business.
A resolution, on the other hand, is a commitment to make a change or accomplish something specific within a year. Many people set New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year, only to give up on their resolutions after a few weeks or months. This is because many people set resolutions that are too ambitious or unrealistic. Resolutions can also be overly focused on the external things that we don’t have complete control over, such as falling in love or getting a better job. As a result, this can set us up for disappointment if things don't work out how we had hoped.
An emphasis on goals and habits (rather than New Year’s resolutions) can be beneficial in this case. Goals are helpful when they focus on what you can control and what you want to cultivate in your life. Another benefit of intentional goal setting instead of New Year’s resolutions is that you can set new goals at any time of the year! You don’t have to wait until January to plan, set, or adjust your goals.
How to Set Goals and Establishing New Habits
Once you’re ready to engage in some goal setting, consider following the steps below.
Identify new goals
Consider what you want more or less of in your life. What do you want to cultivate? What do you want to move away from? What do you want to spend more or less time on? Brainstorm what some different goals could look like based on your reflections.
One of the best ways to ensure success is to set specific goals. In your brainstorm above, you may have identified some broad goals, but now is the time to get more specific. For example, the goal of “Be healthier” is much too vague. What does it mean to you to be healthier? What healthy habits do you want to establish? Maybe for you, being healthier means exercising three times each week, drinking eight glasses of water a day, or eating vegetables with every meal. This can look different for everyone, so be sure to consider what these goals mean to you and how you want to feel as you work toward them.
Make a plan
Another important way to set yourself up for success is to make a clear plan for how you will achieve your goals. A simple way to do this is to break your goals down into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, plan out the steps involved in that process - like joining a gym, scheduling your workouts each week, assessing the quality and fit of your gym clothes, or meeting with a personal trainer.
As you get specific with your goals, consider the regular habits that will help support your goals. Habits are also most successful when tied to another activity you already do each day. For example, if your goal is to get a new job, maybe you establish a new habit of checking the job boards each morning while you drink your coffee. For a goal of exercising more, you might pick out your gym clothes when you brush your teeth each night.
Track your progress
Be sure to track your daily habits and the steps you take toward your goals. Tracking your progress toward your goals can help you stay on track, maintain motivation, and see how far you’ve come. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as tracking your goals and habits on a calendar, using an app, on a spreadsheet, or simply using pen and paper. Be flexible and use whatever tracking method works best for you.
Reflect, review, and celebrate
As you make progress toward your goals, don’t forget to reflect on your progress and review how things went. Taking the time to review your progress can help you to stay motivated and on track. This can help you gain insight into what you have achieved and identify areas where you can improve. Also be sure to celebrate your successes, no matter how small! This is an important part of goal setting that can often be neglected. It can help to keep you motivated and remind you of the progress you have made.
How Therapy Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
Therapy isn’t just about dealing with trauma and other life challenges - therapy can also be an excellent tool for self-improvement.
If you’re looking to make positive changes in your life in 2023, therapy can be a great place to start. Our therapists can help you identify areas of your life that you’d like to change, learn new skills to help you make those changes, and provide a safe and supportive environment to process and work through any challenges you may face.
We’re here to support you in setting goals and achieving your dreams - reach out to us today to partner together on your journey to self-improvement.