Once again, and literally in the blink of an eye, a New Year is upon us! I love every time a new year rolls around – it fits so naturally into my Type A personality of starting fresh and setting new year intentions. While a new year doesn’t have to designate the start of a positive change, it just makes it easier to actually start.
According to Statistic Brain, 41% of Americans usually set New Year resolutions. That means almost half of the population is ready to make positive changes and actually set them. How inspiring!
On another note, of those 41% of Americans who usually set New Year resolutions, only about 9% of them felt like they were successful in achieving those resolutions. Not so inspiring. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. We have the best intentions of making those changes that are going to help us look better, feel better and do better, but as life goes on those intentions fade. Sure, no one is perfect, but there is a strategy that can be followed to ensure you are the most effective with the New Year intentions you set. What better time than a New Year to start?! I’m going to walk you through a few key tips to follow when setting New Year intentions. Success is not far away, my friend.
Setting S.M.A.R.T Intentions
You may remember my recap of the S.M.A.R.T criteria from the article The Best Way to Set Your Money Goals for the New Year, but that was more along the context of your money goals. Today, I want to put it into the context of your New Year intentions, whatever they may be. The S.M.A.R.T criteria is as follows:
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Achievable – specify how the goal will be achieved.
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
While each of the S.M.A.R.T criteria is necessary and effective for setting the best goals, intentions, or resolutions, I want to hone in on the most important ones to follow when setting New Year intentions.
Be Specific. The best thing you can do when setting your intentions for the New Year is to be as specific as possible. What do you want to achieve this year? More importantly, why do you want to achieve it? How will your life be better if you achieve this goal? Your intention may be to lose weight, but whose isn’t? Your intention needs to be specific and true to you, and only you.
That could mean saying: “I want to lose 5lbs off the number on the scale, but more importantly I want to feel more confident in my appearance. My life will be better if the number on the scale goes down because I will be more confident in myself. This will allow me to perform better, network better, and feel better all around.”
Do you see how saying what the specific intention is, then going further to specify why that intention would be so good to achieve makes you feel different? You get so much more out of your intentions when you make them specific and personal to you.
The next important piece to setting your intentions is to make it quantifiable or measurable. If your goal can not be measured, tracked, or quantified, how can you pulse check to make sure you are on track to achieving that goal? Referring back to the earlier example, “I want to lose weight” has no way to measure success. However, specifying that you want to lose 5lbs gives you a number to work toward. You want to track your progress towards achieving your intentions, but the only way to do that is by specifying a measure of success.
Lastly, you will want your intentions to be realistic. I’m guilty of setting goals that are impossible to reach, given my current situation. I fail to take into account that I am only one person, and therefore can only do so much. As I’ve gotten better with my intention-setting, I’ve realized that being honest about my situation when setting my goals is the key to ensuring they can be achieved. I will no longer set my self up for failure.
I encourage you to think about your goals in terms of your situation. If you only make $45,000 a year, it may not be realistic to expect to save $20,000 in a year. On the other hand, it could be realistic for you to save $8,500. You want your goal to be realistic, but not too easy. Dream big, but be S.M.A.R.T.
Breaking Down Big Goals
When you think about the intentions that you want to achieve this year, and if you follow the S.M.A.R.T criteria, you should have timeframes associated with those intentions. You know what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and when you want to achieve it by. Now, it’s time to break down those realistic goals, into realistic tasks to help you achieve them.
I’ve set goals for the year, given myself a year to achieve them, and found myself going hard in the beginning, then fading out in the end. I’ve also tried setting goals for the year, breaking those goals into quarterly, then monthly, then weekly tasks, and always having something to work on to reach those goals. Speaking from experience, the latter is the best route.
To ensure you are always working on your main intentions, you want to break them down into tasks that can be done weekly, monthly, and quarterly (depending on the due date and complexity) to help you achieve them. Here is an example of a 2018 goal that I have, broken down:
Goal: Lead a healthier lifestyle to lose 8lbs and maintain that weight, by the end of 6/2018.
- Monthly weigh-in on the 1st of each month.
- Every Sunday, prepare meals for the week.
- Go to the gym 2x per week.
- Allow 1 cheat meal each week.
As you can see, my goal is to lose 8lbs in 6 months. Since I want this weight loss to be a lifestyle change, I’m giving myself more than enough time. I’m being realistic with my weekly tasks that will help my monthly weigh-in be successful. The tasks aren’t crazy, strenuous, or stressful. When you are breaking down your goals, don’t feel like you have to make the tasks hard. Make the tasks realistic to your situation and what you can realistically do on a weekly and monthly basis.
This strategy also falls in line with the “Small Number Technique”, which is based on a 2012 study published in The Journal of Consumer Research that found that focusing on the smaller number in reaching a goal kept people more motivated.
Find a Support System
One of the best things you can do to help you stay consistent, motivated and on par with your goals is to find a support system. Is your best friend trying to lose weight also? Can you both go to the gym together, or do weekly check-ins to ensure you both are following your tasks? Is your co-worker also trying to budget better to save more? Maybe you both can eat lunch in the office together when everyone else is going out to eat. The point is having that support system in places gives you accountability, but also helps you hold others accountable.
If your goal is more personal based, for instance, you want to start a business, consider starting a blog to share your journey. A blog is incredibly easy to start, and helps hold you accountable to what you are blogging about. You now have readers (even if it’s not many) who are following your new business journey. You can’t go back on your word now! Not to mention, you never know who you could be inspiring along the way.
Another way to find support is by joining groups, clubs, or organizations near you. If one of your goals is to grow in your career by building your network, find your local National Association of Professional Women chapter. Start going to events they hold to network with professional women around you. If your goal is to be more active, look for a softball league. The point is to find a place to go where like-minded individuals will be. You are who you hang around, so why not hang around those who can help you reach your goals?
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Make 2018 your most effective year yet, in terms of reaching your goals and achieving the intentions you set for yourself. I hope the strategies above will help you as you are planning out the most important things you want to accomplish this year. I also created a Goal Setting Workbook that helps you think through your goals and why you want them, as well as helps you assign your tasks to reach them. The workbook is completely free and ready for you to download!
Now that you know the process of effectively setting new year intentions, what are some of the things you want to accomplish most this year, and why? Share some of your intentions with me and other CGS readers by leaving a comment below. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the Goal Setting Workbook! Here’s to an effective and productive year!
The CGS Team