How many times have you set goals for the New Year only to give up a few weeks later? The good news there is a better way; a way that will help you stick to your goals and make long lasting change.
How to Stick to Your Goals
The New Year often feels like a blank slate. And it seems to be human nature to want to fill that blank space with as much doing as possible. As it relates to goals, we try to change our behavior in every area of our life all at once which sets up to fail.
Instead, we have to start small.
January, for me, is not the month for jumping in head first. I don’t know about you, but I need January to be still. To catch my breath. To think and ponder and envision.
Before I can even write a New Year’s goal, I have to think about this new me, first getting rid of the “new” part of that notion and accepting that it’s just me, continuing the growth that is already in progress. And acknowledging, despite what the calendar says, I’m not starting over.
It’s so easy to struggle with FOMO, (fear of missing out) as everyone speeds past us with their shiny New Year’s goals, doing brand new things and making their mark on the new year. But here’s what you need to know.
The start of the New Year isn’t the starting line of a self-improvement race. There is no race, only a lifelong, always-in-progress journey where your only competition is your old beliefs and behaviors.
Changing Old Behaviors
So many of us make our resolutions, declare our word of the year and write goals without ever taking the time to discern how we got in the ruts we’re trying to get out of. But, you can’t out run them. They are always there with you until you take the time to reckon, wrestle and overcome. Then, and only then, will lasting change happen.
So, how do we do that? How do we escape the chains that hold us back?
Identify Old Behavior Patterns
To help you identify those old habits and beliefs that are hindering you, use this clever hanger trick borrowed from closet organizing.
When working with a client, once we’ve sorted and purged, it’s time to hang up all the clothes we decided to keep. But, we do that by hanging all of the clothes hangers backwards. Then, after a few months, or some other predetermined time, I encourage the client to take a look at the clothes that are still hanging backward. There are always a lot.
That’s when I ask the client to accept that not only are the clothes they’re holding onto no longer serving them, they’re taking up valuable closet space.
The same is true for the figurative backward hangers in your life.
These hangers, or limiting behaviors, could be:
- Staying in toxic relationships
- Poor spending habits
- Old eating habits
- Limiting beliefs
- Holding onto belongings that no longer serve you
- Time Wasters
Spend some quiet time, maybe even with a journal or pen and paper, and think about your day. As as you mentally walk through a typical day, make note of anything that seems to be a hindrance rather than a help. Or, do this in real-time and take note of your day as you go along.
Also, pay attention to your thoughts. For example, one morning when I got up, my thoughts drifted to my oldest child tendencies toward perfectionism, and I wondered why my mind had traveled there.
Then, as I sat down to pray, my earlier thoughts became clear as I connected the dots between my perfectionist tendencies and my current struggle to move forward and take action on an idea.
Once you identify those old behaviors, you can start to build new habits to promote change.
Learn From Mistakes
Ten days into the new year, and the “new me” hadn’t gotten the memo on my New Year’s goals yet.
She was still chasing dark chocolate Reese’s cups with Mexican Coke for breakfast, and piling a mountain of mini marshmallows on her hot chocolate as a “winter treat” nearly every night.
While I struggled with guilt, I knew enough about goal setting to know getting off to a slow start or messing up is actually a good thing. It allows you to become more self aware, and then set yourself up for success.
Practice Habit Stacking
Let’s use my unhealthy breakfast choices as an example. As I mentioned, I was starting my day with Reese’s cups and Mexican Coke. Part of the reason was because I needed to stock my fridge and pantry with other choices.
The most effective way to make lasting change is habit stacking, or building one new habit at a time. I know. No one likes slow. But trying to overhaul your entire life at once is what makes it so hard to stick to your goals.
Here’s how that would look in my example.
Brainstorm Meal Ideas – I brainstormed a list of breakfast ideas and bought the necessary groceries. Brainstorm ideas for whatever meal you need help with.
Menu Plan – Menu planning means assigning a certain meal for each day. Doing this will take the guesswork out of wondering what to eat as well as keep you from reaching for what’s familiar.
Build on your good habit – Once I developed a habit of eating a healthy breakfast, I moved on to planning healthy lunches, then dinners. Before I knew it, I’d developed a healthy eating lifestyle. It won’t be without trial and error, and it will take a while, but eventually you’ll develop good eating habits.
You can apply these habit building steps to any area of life.
Create a Support System
Having a support system helps you build better habits that lead to making lasting change. Here are some invaluable resources I believe will have as big impact of an impact in helping you develop good habits and stick to your goals as they have for me.
I know the challenges of not having enough energy to get out of bed or do every day tasks, much less tackle goals. It wasn’t until I discovered the role food played in my personal well being did I start to feel good again. My energy levels now match the level accomplishing my goals would require.
The Real Food Reset – The Real Food Reset will help you eat real, whole foods and kick the sugar habit. It actually changed my palette!
Peace With Food – The Peace With Food Workshop explores emotional eating and truly helps you enter into a healthy relationship with food. This workshop was a game-changer for me.
Mental & Emotional Wellness
Besides journaling which includes prayer and meditation for me, and let’s be honest, medication, taking the time to get dressed everyday has changed my world. Because as a friend used to say, “when you look good you feel good, and when you feel good you do good.”
I’ve discovered just how true her words are through the style challenges by Get Your Pretty On.
Outfit Formulas Seasonal Style Challenges – Break out of the yoga pants rut with Outfit Formulas. Shop your own closet (or buy new clothes if you want) to fill in the pieces of the formula. Participating in these formulas has truly transformed me.
Decluttering & Organizing
Creating a supportive environment is key to accomplishing your goals. The right environment supports new habits which leads to new routines and ultimately the lifestyle you’re trying to achieve. That’s where I come in.
I combined my early childhood and teaching background with my professional organizing experience to write Home on Purpose: Mindful Living in a Hectic World. Ultimately, having the energy, time and focus to enjoy the moments and people that matter the most is the why behind all our goals isn’t it?
This book review says it best.
By far, richly detailed based on personal experience as if sharing from one friend to another. I passed this on to a friend as a gift when she told me of her struggles in recreating her space. She tells me she loves the self-validation it offers for our unique individuality and yet how to use this strength to make positive changes to our home environment. As she is implementing the suggestion this author makes, she’s feeling great, not only in her at-home physical space but also in her emotional well-being as a direct result. Yes, I recommend this.
Chaos to Calm: A DIY Organizing Guide to Organize Common Clutter Zones for Good – This self-paced guide walks you through the decluttering process for common problem areas like the family command center and paper piles. You’ll also get space planning tips and resources for creating spaces that function for your household. Learn more or get started HERE.
I believe you’ll find these resources invaluable in sticking to your goals and making lasting change.
Dreams and Goals Can Change
There’s one more topic I want to touch on before we go. With time, you may realize a goal you set isn’t as important as you thought. With that in mind, it’s okay to scratch a goal off the list.
In my life, I’ve often discovered there was a deeper need just beneath the original goal. Here’s what I mean.
For months, all I could think about was moving.
I wanted more elbow room.
I desired something new.
I craved an accepting community.
So my husband and I would spend weekends walking through model homes. Then one Sunday we walked through a house I couldn’t stop thinking about. Something about it felt like home. I could see myself living there, working in the kitchen looking out over the living room filled with contentment. The image brought tears to my eyes.
That’s when I realized a new house wasn’t the goal. What I really wanted was to feel content. That’s not something a new house can fix.
The same can be said of being a smaller size, making more money, driving a nicer car and the list goes on. Realizing that is the real value in setting goals. When you reach that place, dig a little deeper to reveal your true desires. The easiest way to dig is by asking why. Then ask why again and again until you get to the underlying need.
For more help sticking to your goals, read:
Wishing you long lasting change!