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How to Make Goals and Change Habits in 2021

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

Welcoming in a new year is traditionally a time for saying goodbye to bad habits and starting some new healthy ones. Despite all the challenges that came with it, 2020 was a year that gave us plenty of opportunity to reflect upon what is really important to each of us. Now, as we step forward into 2021, it’s the perfect opportunity to put this into practice and set ourselves some goals for the new year. A good new years resolution is hard to set though, and even harder to keep, so I’ve put together some tips that will help set you up for success.

1. Set positive goals, not negative resolutions

A lot of resolutions tend to be framed in the negative, like “I will give up coffee”. Now I want you to try not to think about a cup of coffee. Don’t imagine the smell, or the feel of the mug in your hands or the taste of the first sip. Hard right? Our brains aren’t made to deal in negatives, in fact we are really bad at them. So instead, when writing your resolution, try and frame it in the positive. Instead of “I will not eat junk food” try “I will eat healthier foods”, or swap “I won’t skip the gym” for “I will go to the gym each week”.

2. Break it down

A year is a long time, which can make it hard to conceptualise and stay focused on a big goal. Instead, try breaking your goals down and reviewing them each month. Maybe in January you aim to sign up for a gym membership and do your orientation. Then in February you aim to go at least once every week. In March, you can go twice a week or try a new class. This not only makes our big goals feel easier to reach, but allows us to check in and reevaluate our goals every month. When making changes in your life, think of the race between the hare and the tortoise – slow and steady, step by step, is the way to win.

3. Balance the specific and the general

A good goal or resolution is both specific (you know what you have to do), and general/flexible (adaptable to life’s constant changes). If you set the goal “I will eat a salad every day”, then what happens when you miss a day, or don’t feel like salad, or there’s no lettuce in the fridge? Instead, by widening the goal to something such as “I will pack my lunch for work each day” you will give yourself some freedom and flexibility, while still working towards the same outcome of eating healthier. This will make it less likely that you will get stuck with that feeling of ‘failure’ or ‘why bother’.

4. Prepare for hurdles, setbacks and changes

We are all human, changing habits is hard and life has a way of throwing unexpected obstacles at us. Set yourself up for success by acknowledging it will be hard and you won’t be perfect, but that’s ok. Write down your goals and resolutions and put them somewhere you will be reminded of them every day. While you’re at it, write down why these goals are important to you. The why behind a goal is as important, if not more, than the goal itself. It will be easier to stay on track and focused when you can remember the why behind it.

5. Give yourself a pat on the back

Remember that change is hard, and make sure you take the time to celebrate the improvements you make, no matter how small. Simply saying out loud “I’m doing a great job” can be awkward and tricky, but is so important. If you have trouble with this, take a step back and think about what you would say to a friend who had achieved as little/much as you have.

Hopefully now you have some useful ideas on how to write or re-write your goals for this year. Remember, if you are struggling with your goals, it can always help to talk it through with someone.

Best of luck!

Stacey Dowling

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