Now that the year has started, a lot of us have probably already written down a bunch of new year resolutions that we joke about never intending to actually keep. Some of us might even roll our eyes at ourselves, because we feel like our new year resolutions never seem to change — it feels like we make the same ones every year. And every year, sure enough, we somehow lose motivation and don't quite stick with them. Typical goals of losing weight, being more fit, saving more money etc. At some point it gets frustrating. How about trying something different this year? How about actually meeting the goals you set, and how about setting for yourself goals you're actually invested in?
How to Find Motivation
When thinking about what goals you'd like to set for yourself, it's important that these goals motivate you. Think about your reasons for having these goals, and why they are valuable to you. They need to go beyond stuff like "wanting to be more attractive" or "wanting to be richer". Performance or appearance-based motivations can only take you so far. You'll find yourself struggling with staying motivated after a short while. In order to commit to your goals, they need to appeal to your identity and beliefs.
Having identity-Based Goals
Your current behaviours at present are ultimately a reflection of your current identity, and your own beliefs about the type of person you are. This can be conscious or subconscious, depending on the person. Hence, in order to actually feel motivated, we need to shift our focus. Rather than motivate ourselves with the outcome we could achieve, we need to be motivated towards being the type of person we wish to become. Hence, you need to set identity-based goals. You need to believe in becoming the type of person that achieves what you want to achieve! You can prove to yourself that you are indeed this type of person by allowing yourself small wins. Do you believe that you're somebody that has the discipline to eat healthily? Cook a wholesome and nutritional meal for yourself once a week. Do you believe that you're somebody that cares about your own mental wellness? Meditate once every day for 5 minutes before you sleep.
Having SMART Goals
SMART goals have been talked about extensively. SMART is an acronym referring to the five factors you need to consider when setting your goal and planning how to achieve them.
Firstly, your goal has to be specific. It has to show you the direction you need to be taking, and define precisely where you want to end up. It cannot be vague or generic.
Secondly, you have to find ways to measure your goals. Include specific numbers, timings and dates in your planning so that you can measure the degree of your success. For instance, if you plan on saving more money, don't simply decide, "I want to save more money." Find ways to measure your progress, by having goals such as "I will save X amount of money by the end of this month." or "I will increase my savings by 10% this month".
Thirdly, how attainable is your goal? The goals you have can neither be too hard nor too easy. If they seem impossible to attain, you will end up getting easily demoralised. If they seem too easy, you're not going to challenge yourself. You might end up focusing on how easy it is to achieve them instead, rather than the purpose of the goal itself. You need goals that challenge you just enough. Goals that are neither too simple nor difficult to attain. These types of goals are the ones that reap the highest proven satisfaction.
Fourthly, your goals need to appeal to your identity and beliefs. Only then will you have the drive to genuinely commit to achieving them. They have to be aligned with the kind of life you want, and the type of person you desire to be. Ideas are said to be like a rose bush, you can have a multitude of them at once but you have to constantly prune them and keep them in check. Prioritise and filter out what you ought to focus on first.
Lastly, your goals need to be time-bound. This means that you have to set a deadline for them. When you have deadlines, your sense of urgency increases and you're more likely to become disciplined when trying to meet them. It also lets you know when you can celebrate your successes!
Simple Ways to Make It Easier to Adhere to Your Goals
Don't just think about them in your head. Write them down. Seeing your goals in writing makes it more tangible, and forces you to confront them and take them seriously. Instead of saying "I want to", or "I wuld like to", phrase your goals starting with "I will". This adds more weight and mentally conditions you into being less likely to find excuses. Try to frame your goals in a positive rather than negative light. Positive statements sound more motivational. Rather than "I will not be a bad friend and try to be more understanding", say "I will practice having more empathy and gratitude for my friends". Align your environment with your goals.
Choice architecture refers to the different ways we can present our choices. Make what you want to do the default and easy decision. It's a lot easier for you to meet smaller goals and change your habits if you make it the easier decision. For instance, if you're trying to cut down on your caffeine intake, buy less coffee. This way, when you run out, having more than the amount that you've allowed yourself entails driving out and making an actual trip to the grocery store, or having to go to a cafe. If you want to cut down phone usage, place your phone somewhere far away from you so that reaching for your phone takes more effort.
Use Visual Cues
Visual cues are a great way of displaying your progress and increasing your motivation. They also serve as reminders for you to start on a particular behaviour.
Paper Clip Method
The Paper Clip Method was made famous by a stockbroker named Trent Dyrsmid. It entails transferring a certain amount of paper clips from one jar to another. For every specific task you complete, you transfer one paper clip over. For instance, if your goal is to do 100 push-ups, you can transfer one paperclip over for every 10 push-ups that you do.
The Seinfeld Strategy
A strategy adopted by the famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld, it involves beating procrastination and boosting productivity by creating a continuous "chain". For every successful day he spends on his tasks, he'd take a big red marker and mark an "X" on the calendar. Seeing the chain get longer and longer keeps him motivated and he sees his job as simply "not breaking that chain". You can vary either of these strategies to fit you. There are many variations of this in the form of hairpins, marbles etc., but the core concept remains the same. You get instant gratification through these visual cues, and they help you further reinforce positive habits.
Opting-Out Vs Opting-In
Structure your habits such that you have to justify to yourself your reasons for opting-out of a habit you wanted to make, rather than try to psyche yourself up for opting in. Let's say that you wanted to get fit. Sign yourself up for fitness classes a few days from now and clear your schedule for it. When the time comes and you're not feeling motivated, it's harder for you to worm your way out of it and make an excuse for not going.
We hope these tips have helped. All the best with you goal-setting!