Source: James Clear (https://jamesclear.com/goal-setting)

Meet Jane. Jane is an ambitious and determined girl who wants to improve her life for the better. It was the beginning of 2021, so she thought it was time for a “new year, new me” ritual. She then jumped on the new-year-resolution train, hopeful about her journey of becoming successful.

After a while, Jane suddenly realized that she lost count of time. She couldn’t tell where the train was heading. All she knew was that along the way, she visited so many random stops, from the “Influencer” shop to the “Yoga master” speakeasy, while spending too much energy awing at people’s success on social media. The burst of excitement faded, and the vague sense of direction finally left Jane. She dropped off mid-way, thinking “Let’s perhaps do this for real next year”. It’s now 2022, and Jane is about to go on the same train.

Does Jane’s story sound a bit too familiar? Have you ever decided to make new year resolutions just to find yourself repeating the same process with the same content annually? If yes, it’s because you have been making directionless wishes, which makes it hard to stay the course. Let’s find out how to stop falling down the rabbit hole and instead, set practical goals that you can actually achieve.

Difference between resolutions and goals

At a glance, these two words are almost interchangeable. According to the Oxford dictionary, a resolution means a definite decision to do or not to do something, and a goal means something that you hope to achieve. However, in reality, a resolution tends to be general and sounds like a wish, whereas a goal is more specific and shows a concrete end where your effort is directed towards.

Let’s take a look at a few examples below:

  • “I will lose weight” vs. “I will lose 10kg this year”.
  • “I will read books” vs. “I will read a book per month”.
  • “I will spend quality time with my family” vs. “I will stay home with my family on weekends biweekly”.

In all three examples, the former sentences show a will to do something, yet there’s no specific quantity or method of doing it. That’s what our new year resolutions usually look like. The lack of measurability allows us to easily slack off from bringing those aims to life and eventually quit. On the other hand, the latter sentences provide a clear metric or a vivid finishing line, with which we’ll know when and how to get there.

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland

Hence, when creating new year resolutions, let’s make a mental note that they should be more goal-oriented.

Set SMART goals

Knowing that you should set goals is good, but knowing how to set goals that you’d eventually achieve is even more important. Unfortunately, writing longer actions with some metrics won’t do the trick. Without a strategic method, your goal creation process is going to be hit-or-miss. In other words, you’ll need to set SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym used as a guide in setting goals. Its definition has several variants, but the most commonly known full terms are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Now back to Jane. We know that she wants to be successful, but in what aspect? Is it her goal to be successful at work, with her hobbies, or in family life?

Jane thinks for a bit and finally chooses to be successful with her hobbies. To be even more specific, she needs to choose between writing and singing. Realistically speaking, Jane is more amazing as a writer than a singer, confirmed by all her friends, family, and even her shower (ouch!). So, in the near future, Jane should prioritize improving her writing so that she can be a successful writer. 

But how can she measure her writing career’s success? How does she know when she has reached there? Publishing a book at the end of 2023 sounds like a plan. Can she attain it? Of course! By writing for 15 minutes every day, she’ll have plenty of ideas and time to refine her stories.

So there it is. “I will publish a book at the end of 2023 by writing for 15 minutes every day.” is a solid goal. Way to go, Jane!

Tips to achieve goals

The final step is working towards the goals. Here are a few suggestions that you and Jane can apply to make sure your goals are accomplished.

  1. Eliminate low-priority goals

If you’re as ambitious as Jane is, it’s highly likely that you’ll have more than just one goal. Having many goals isn’t a bad thing, but if you can’t prioritize them, you’re going to end up not achieving anything whatsoever. Therefore, it’s recommended that you focus on one goal at a time, especially those that require a long period to complete. Jane can have a second smaller goal simultaneously, which is working out daily, but it might be too ambitious to switch that second goal into becoming an Instagram influencer.

  1. Stack up habits

In order to become a successful writer, Jane puts in her goal statement an action, which is “writing for 15 minutes every day”. She can do a lot more to help achieve her goal quicker and more effectively. For instance, she can spend 10 minutes per day reading other novels to find inspiration. In addition, she can even schedule a monthly meetup with other writers to exchange feedback. The more you turn your goal into a routine, the more willingly your mind and your body will work their way towards it.

  1. Align your environment

Truth be told, we’re subconsciously affected by our surroundings. The reason some of us often eat junk food while we should be eating clean and staying healthy is that our fridge is full of junkies. The reason some of us can’t go to bed early to have a full 8-hour sleep is that we bring our phones to bed, and TikTok is so addictive. The reason we can’t stick to our goals is that our environment isn’t set out to support it. Therefore, don’t forget to align your environment with your goals. As for Jane, she is going to replace her phone with a journal on her bed shelf so that she can actually stay the course.

  1. Write it down

Finally, a goal is only set in stone when you write it down. Don’t let it be just an empty promise. Make it black and white on paper, so you can’t forget or make excuses to not follow it through.

So, get your pen and paper ready, we shall make this year (and many more to come) amazing with our smart goals!