How to Stick to Your Goals & Avoid Feeling Frustrated And Giving Up
How are you doing with your new year's resolutions?
Maybe you set goals around eating healthier, exercising more, going to bed earlier, or you want to quit an unhealthy habit like smoking, emotional eating, procrastinating...
We're mid January now, and I feel now’s a good time to check in with yourself. How are you doing with your new year’s intentions? Has anything shifted yet? Or are you feeling frustrated because things aren't working out as you hoped they would?
Here’s my best tips to help you turn your new year's resolutions into successful + sustainable habits so you don't have to use up all your willpower every time you're trying to make a change in your life.
We’re in this together,
Simple Steps To Turn Your New Year's Resolutions Into Successful + Sustainable Habits (For Real This Time)
For starters, I believe a strong, sustainable resolution/ goal/ intention is 4 things:
It’s clear: you know what you want to achieve, and you’re very clear about why you want to achieve it. If you’re not very clear about your why yet, ask yourself these 2 questions:
How would your life be different when you reach this goal/ make this change?
How would your life turn out when you don’t reach this goal/ make this change?
It’s attainable: deep down you know you can do this. If your goal is too big, break it down into smaller, achievable steps.
It’s positive: focus on the value your resolution will add to your life (instead of what it will deprive you of)
It’s rewarding: make the process of working towards your goal rewarding and celebrate your wins!
If you haven't made resolutions yet but you still want to, it's not too late. In fact, I really believe in setting intentions/ goals for yourself not only on a yearly, but also on a monthly, weekly, yes even daily basis.
Setting goals and intentions on a regular basis will increase your ability to self-reflect, and will help you move forward faster.
So the more regular you do this, the more progress you will make and the better you'll get at recognizing where you're stuck or need to make a change so you can move forward with more ease + efficacy.
1. GET CLEAR
To make your resolutions clear, ask yourself: what are the 3-5 things you want to achieve this year? What are your top priorities?
Resolutions can be positive (eg. start eating healthier) or negative (eg. stop eating junk food), but generally it's easier to stick to a positive resolution. So if you have a resolution that says something like 'Quit eating sugar', try reframing it like 'Take better care of myself with more fresh fruits and less cookies & cake' or ‘Eat a wholefoods diet free from refined sugars’ or something along those lines — whatever speaks to you.
There’s another powerful technique called 'crowding out', which basically means that when you start adding in more of the 'good' stuff, it will naturally crowd out the 'bad' stuff. For example if you want to quit drinking coffee, start ‘crowding out’ the coffee by always focusing on nutrition + hydration first, before deciding whether or not to drink the coffee. You can do this for example by making it a habit to always drink a tall glass of lemon water whenever you feel like coffee, and over time, this new, positive, feel-good habit may naturally 'crowd out' the coffee as you realize how good the lemon water makes you feel and how crappy you feel after the coffee.
Of course the success of this technique depends on how much your bad habit is rooted in your daily routine, how much you rely on it, etc. I wrote a very helpful article on how to quit sugar, but you can also apply the techniques described to quitting other bad habits.
2. WHAT, WHY, HOW?
Once you're clear on your goals, write down on a piece of paper the numbers 1 to 3 (or 5, depending on how many goals you want to set) with enough space between them.
Next to each number, write the 3 words 'what', 'why', and 'how' under each other.
Now think of 3 (to 5) things that you want to achieve between today and the next 3 months. Write these goals down next to 'what'.
Why do you want to achieve this, what drives you, what motivates you? Write your answers next to 'why'.
How will you make this happen, what steps will you take to achieve your goals? Write your answers next to 'how'.
3. CREATE A TIMELINE
Now it’s time to make your goals come alive by integrating them into your daily life:
Create a timeline and write down 'deadlines' for each goal. You can use different colours for each goal if you want — then continue using the same colour for every goal.
Now for each goal, work out which steps you need to take in order to reach that goal. Remember, make the steps clear, attainable, positive, and rewarding!
Write down your steps like mini-deadlines leading up to the 3-5 major deadlines you set.
4. TURNING GOALS ON PAPER INTO REAL-LIFE ACTIONS
Now you have created a clear plan around the things you want to achieve. But how to make sure you actually stick to it? How can you ensure you'll stick to your goal when things get challenging, or when you feel unmotivated?
From my experience there's 5 essentials that make you stick to new habits:
Be consistent. Even when you don't feel like doing something, do it anyway, especially during the first month of the new habit.
Small steps + one at a time. For example if your goal is to go to bed earlier, say by 10pm, but right now you're in this habit of staying up until past midnight, don't try to go to bed at 10pm straight away if you're not feeling tired yet, as you may find yourself frustrated lying awake for hours. Start with going to bed 10 minutes earlier and work your way back like that.
Set up reminders. Put up ‘notes to self’ in relevant places, set up reminders on your phone, and hang up your timeline in a place where you see it daily (like above your desk).
Get accountability. Find someone who’s interested to start this new habit together with you, or at least, find a friend who’s willing to hold you accountable for your goals by checking in with you regularly. If you have a history of slipping up when it comes to changing habits, you can even give them a sum of money that you wouldn't want to lose, and only let them pay you back when you have successfully implemented your new habit. Other accountability tips: join a Facebook community of like-minded people, or ask professional guidance from a coach or expert.
Make it rewarding. Quitting a bad habit isn't fun. There's a reason why you're doing it, and it's probably a coping mechanism for something else. So make quitting the habit at least equally fun, and make it rewarding. For example, when you're trying to quit the habit of bingeing on sugar, try experimenting making new sugar-free desserts, buy an inspiring healthy desserts cookbook, visit restaurants that offer sugar-free options, or go on a sugar-free treat hunt in your local health food store. For every time you didn't give in to a craving, celebrate it!