We’ve all been there – the new year hits and we dive in with excitement to finally get after it big goal we have dreamed of. Or to kick the bad ones habit as we know hold back. The first week of January we are carried through by adrenaline and it feels fantastic. But in week two? The novelty is starting to wear off and our willpower is already slipping. It’s this discouraging cycle that has given New Year’s resolutions a bad rap over the past few years. And this is why many people have given up trying to set them – they never seem to “stick”. However, regardless of whether you use the term “solution” or not, there is a science behind how to achieve goals that actually change your life.
This time, imagine setting a goal that continues to inspire you throughout the year—one that you make actual progress on over time, giving you a deep sense of satisfaction. Over the last decade, I’ve learned that there is a strategy and a method to how to achieve goals that does just that, and I really love this season as an opportunity to set my vision for the coming year and map out how I’m going to get there.
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Know your vision
To set goals properly, you must first know where you are going. Enter min 2023 Vision workbook, a tool I created for myself a few years ago to help me prioritize in my life, and then make real moves on my goals in an attainable way. (If you don’t have your copy yet, you can download it for free right here!) Last week I shared how I use the workbook to create a vision for my year by going through nine thought-provoking questions. If you missed that post, I highly recommend starting there, as it lays the groundwork for today’s topic: how to set goals that align with your personal vision.
Once you’ve visualized the results you want to create, you can road map the transformative steps that will make that dream a reality this year. But first let’s talk about what makes one well Goal.
Understand how to set goals you can stick to
Often we think about the goals we want to achieve, but we missing the strategy to make them stick. You’ve probably heard of “SMART goals” framework, which is an acronym that stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, realisticand timed. The idea is that using this checklist will turn your vague goals into something you can actually achieve. This has been a useful way for me to think about goal setting, but over the years I’ve adapted it to better fit my own life. Now when I set a goal, I have to make sure it ticks the following boxes:
I set ONE goal for each area of my life at a time. Each of these goals has ONE action step that I am most focused on.
I create a system for exactly how I get there in a way that fits my life, schedule and unique circumstances.
Since I want to continue to grow in all the different areas of my life, my goals should reflect that.
Focus on one goal at a time
Have you ever started the new year with a long list of goals, only to get so overwhelmed that you kicked them all to the curb in February? Same. Believe it or not, our minds can only effectively focus on one goal at a time, thanks to an idea called Goal Competition. James Clear describes the phenomenon of “target competition” as follows:
Goal competition says that one of the biggest barriers to achieving your goals is the other goals you have. In other words, your goals are competing with each other for your time and attention. Each time you pursue a new goal, you must draw focus and energy from your other pursuits.
Yes, we set goals for different areas of our lives, but for each of those areas, we force ourselves to cut our list of goals down to the ONE goal that is most important to us.
Create a system
When it comes to setting new goals, I like a plan of action that flows smoothly fit into my lifealso known as systematize that goal. Let me explain.
The difference between goals and systems
A goal is our desired end point. A system is the framework, or execution strategy, you put in place to help you make actual progress on your goals. For example, if your goal is to start journaling every morning, your system will determine when, where, and how you will be consistent with this practice over the long term. If your goal is to cook more dinners at home this year, your system will include when and how you plan your meals and shop for groceries.
Focus on the single most impactful action step
After I determine my one goal, I narrow in on the single most important action step that will move the needle most powerfully toward achieving that goal. It sounds like a small thing, but it has had such a big impact in my own life. For example, my career goal in 2020 was to increase our website traffic. There are so many different little things we could do to increase readership, but I knew that if I put all my energy into growing our email list, we would see a direct result. So that’s where I put my focus.
For any of your goals, just ask yourself: What would be the ONE most powerful action step I could take to achieve this goal? Write it down and know where to focus your energy.
Implement Habit Stacking
This is a specific type of system that helps you integrate new habits and practices into your daily schedule. I tend to stack my one action item often to make sure it becomes a regular part of my life.
Here’s what habit stacking is: First, you identify a current habit you already do every day. Then you stack your new behavior on top. I first learned this practice from James Clear, who explains it this way:
“The habit stacking formula is:
after before [CURRENT HABIT]I will [NEW HABIT].
- After pouring my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for a minute.
- After I take off my work shoes, I immediately change into my workout clothes.
- As I sit down to dinner, I want to say one thing that I am grateful happened today.
- When I get to bed at night, I want to give my partner a kiss.
By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you will stick with the new behavior.
Take a holistic approach
If you’re reading this site, chances are you share our desire to build a life based on a holistic approach to wellness—one that includes our emotional health as much as our physical well-being and our relationships as well as our careers or ambitions. So often goal setting is focused solely on achievement, but what about all the other important parts of you? Creating the life of your dreams isn’t just about achieving success—maybe even more the key to your long-term happiness is your relationships and well-being. My goal setting practice takes this approach, asking you to set your own most important goal in each of four areas:
Relationship goals could focus on romantic relationships, ways you want to show up for your children or extended family members, or maybe you want to make new friendships this year.
Your career goal can focus on your current job or something new you want to move into this year. It could be a creative pursuit or side hustle, or maybe it’s even a financial goal you want to bring to reality.
A health goal can be about physical health (nutrition, exercise, healthy habits) or it can focus on your emotional health.
Personal growth goals
How do you want grow as a person this year? Your personal growth goal might include something new you want to learn this year, a hobby you want to try, or simply a practice like journaling or meditation that will help you grow more into your best self.
We want to keep growing and developing in all these different parts of ourselves – but get very specific about how we want to do it!
As you review how to achieve goals in each area of your life this year, celebrate! You’ve taken a big step in designing your dream life this year, and you should be so proud of what you’ve created. If you haven’t yet gotten hold of your own copy of the workbook, access it right here. Next week I will share what my exact daily and monthly workouts look like as I integrate my goal systems into my life.