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Don’t end the year feeling defeated because you haven’t lost weight, you’re only partway through your Goodreads reading challenge, and you’re still not fluent in French. Instead, get ready to feel supercharged to tackle your goals next year. We’ve asked two seasoned life coaches what it takes to set and reach your biggest goals. And no, it doesn’t take blood, sweat or espresso-fueled all-nighters. We’re helping you break the New Year’s resolution curse with simple advice about setting better goals and tricks for sticking with them.
1. Set Goals You Really Want
Let’s face it—there’s a long list of things we should strive for as grown-ups: save more money, exercise consistently, floss daily, eat salads, spend time with friends, and make family dinners a priority. Rely on a small bullet list of goals that truly energize you instead of committing to what’s expected. Call it New Year’s resolutions with a side of euphoria. Focus on the stuff you’ve been thinking about since you were a teenager: snorkeling the world’s second-largest barrier reef (Belize, here we come!), starting a grilled-cheese blog, or pursuing that nursing degree you didn’t finish the first time around.
“Typically if you have a desire to make a change or commit to a goal, you’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” says Susie Moore, the author of What If It Does Work Out?: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life and creator of the Side Hustle Academy. “Your desire is often reflected in your past, reflected in your memory, reflected in what’s been filling your mind and heart up until this point.” Avoid attempting to give up coffee or working on your inner judgment if you don’t really want to, she says. Reflect on your ultimate vision for your life.
2. Understand Your Reasons
Another part of achieving your goals is knowing your why. It helps to write down your reasons. Maybe you want to start a gig on the side. “You can say, ‘Because I want to feel creatively fulfilled. Because I have a lot to offer the world and my job doesn’t allow me to do that. Because I want to create financial security for me and my family. Because I’ve had this idea for a long time,’ ” Moore explains. Your why can reflect your deepest life desire, a need to be more creative, or the hope for more security. “When you understand your why, the answer will be along the lines of: It will bring you more joy. And when you acknowledge that and you’re constantly reminded of your why, keeping your why in the forefront of your mind, then you’re much more likely to keep going for your goal because you have a reason. The why is like the battery to keep you going.”
3. Start with a Positive Mindset
We may have trouble sticking to New Year’s resolutions because we lack confidence in ourselves. “We rarely follow through on anything coming from a negative kind of platform,” says Hailey Jordan Yatros, millennial life coach and author of The Millennial Makeover: Who Are We and Who Do We Want to Become? “It’s really important not to start a goal when you have in your head that you need to fix something about yourself,” she says. “That’s never sustainable.” So, exercise for the mood-boosting potential and not because you think you have to lose 10 pounds. (You can do these things to feel happier, too.)
4. Give Yourself a Flexible Deadline
Work with a timeline in mind—but if you have to rethink your end date, it’s totally OK to do that. Moore keeps a list of three to five written goals for herself at once. “If ever my goals change, if I hit a goal sooner than I hoped, or I might have a new goal, I will revisit my goals whenever I want,” she says. Set goals that you can accomplish within a few months. “I don’t think about any goals that are longer than six months. A six-month goal is very relative and fresh. If you have a deadline for something, to quit your job or to go traveling, a six-month deadline will get you rolling.”
5. Think Big, Start Small
Pursue lofty goals—like quitting your corporate job to become a travel blogger, for example—by starting small. Don’t quit your job immediately. Slowly start dedicating more time to your passion. It may help to spend less time at work. Yatros suggests finding ways to reduce your responsibilities. “Come up with an agreement with your boss,” she says. “Change your availability a little bit. Go from full time to part time and fill that other time with the business goals that you have.
“Instead of going from zero to 100, try to focus 80 percent on your work and 20 percent on your dreams. Slowly but surely, you’ll start to see that number change and it’ll be 50/50,” Yatros says. This way, you’re committing to realistic steps instead of taking on a huge long-term goal. It provides you a safety net, a chance to back out, in case you find out it’s not what you want.
6. Trust the Process
Once you’ve made the decision to pursue a goal and put all your effort toward making it happen, the next step is trusting the process. “When people set goals, they usually work around the clock and keep going; persist until they have it,” Yatros says. “But the other part is also letting go. Reap the seeds you’ve planted.”
Pursue the things that make you feel most alive. And if you don’t know exactly what that is yet, think about what will be most fun. “Is it traveling to a new country? Is it trying online dating? Is it getting into tennis?” Moore says. “It doesn’t have to be something so textbook, like ‘This will improve my health. This will improve my income.’ It can be ‘I want to do this for the heck of it. I’m curious about painting. I’m really curious about learning Spanish.’ ”
In the end, what will bring you joy? Happiness is a great motivator. And you don’t have to wait until the new year either. Today’s the day you can get a head start on your dreams.