2021 – A very different animal
Nonetheless, other resolutions remain popular – exercise more, lose weight and be more organised. Plus, learn a new skill or hobby, save money and give up smoking to name a few.
Whatever your chosen goal, it’s worth acknowledging the difficult year we’ve just had and the fact that there will still be some level of restrictions in the months to come including leisure and hospitality remaining closed. Which may impact your ability to stick to resolutions.
So be kind to yourself and read on for some tips on recommitting to those aims!
Setting the right goals
There has been extensive psychological research into motivation and effective goal setting. Work by Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham was actually focused on the workplace and increasing employee engagement. But these five principles can apply to goal setting in general:
Clarity – It’s important to define exactly what you’re trying to achieve. Or how will you know when you’ve succeeded? Setting SMART goals is by far the best way to achieve this
Challenge – Is this goal challenging enough? Are you being realistic about something that will push you but is actually attainable? If a goal is too easy you will likely lose interest quickly. But committing to run a marathon before you’ve tried a 5K may scare you off 20 minutes after lacing up your trainers!
Commitment – Are you bought into this goal? Does it resonate with you and why is it important? What are the benefits of achieving this goal? How will you reward yourself?
Feedback – motivating whether it’s from other people or reflecting on your own performance. Check in with yourself and others regularly to evaluate your progress. It will help you to stay on track.
Task complexity – potentially break your goal down into smaller sub-goals so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Time to change
So, we’ve established our goals and set ourselves up for success by considering the above. But how can we actually change our behaviour?
- Mental preparation – Using goal visualisation to think about the outcome is important and keeps us committed. But we should also prepare ourselves for the obstacles that may get in the way. This is a process called Mental Contrasting (a visualisation technique that involves first thinking of the positive outcome followed by thinking of the potential obstacles).
- Implementation intention plan – implement an ‘if-then’ plan. For example, take the goal of saving money; if I get an email about a sale at my favourite online retailer, then I will delete the email without opening it. The human brain responds well to this level of specificity. This tool has been found to be effective for maintaining New Year’s resolutions in particular (3x more likely to succeed in achieving new year’s goals).
- Consider environmental cues – remove cues in your environment that may lead you astray (put a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter instead of biscuits if you’re trying to eat healthier) or set your work–out clothes out before you go to bed if you’re planning to get out for an early morning run.
- Finally, though it may be challenging with social distancing and being apart, find a way to share your goals and commit to your resolutions with your friends and family. The accountability element can often be very motivating and it also means you have others to celebrate with you when you achieve your goals!
We hope this provides some additional motivation to help you regroup and refocus or just a boost to push you towards the finish line!