May 10, 2021

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7 ways to get back on track with your new year’s goals

4 min read

  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
  • If you’re struggling to keep up with your New Year’s goals, Morin suggests reassessing your choices and being more realistic with what you want to achieve.
  • Evaluate your commitment and readiness to change, and develop a clear strategy that allows for obstacles and potential setbacks.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s no secret that most resolutions don’t last. All those intentions to get healthier, wealthier, and happy tend to go out the window by the end of January.

But going off course a little doesn’t mean you have to abandon your resolutions altogether. Instead, when your motivation slips and you make a few mistakes, take steps to get back on track. No matter how much you’ve messed up so far, you can still crush your goals this year.

1. Reassess your goal

Some resolutions set people up for failure. Goals that aren’t measurable or actionable, for instance, will be impossible to reach.

Rather than declare you are going to “be healthier,” decide that you’ll go to the gym three nights a week. You can measure your progress by how often you actually work out.

Shift or adjust your resolution if you need to. Ultimately, you should end up with a clear goal that defines what you’ll be doing on a regular basis to create change. 

2. Be honest about your choices

It’s easy to blame the stress of the new year (especially this year) on your shortcomings. But, life is always going to be stressful and there will always be things that try to derail you.

Don’t make excuses. Instead, get honest about your choices. Admit to yourself that you are struggling with loneliness and that’s why you keep giving in to temptation.

Or acknowledge that you’ve been convincing yourself that binge watching your favorite shows is self-care, rather than self-sabotage.  

Read more: Coaches, founders, and executives share how they’re setting goals for 2021

3. Evaluate your commitment and readiness to change

Take a few minutes to really look at your desire to create change. Are you actually ready to give up that bad habit? You might discover you established a resolution because you felt pressured to do so and you are still a bit ambivalent about whether you actually want to take action.

Of course, you don’t need to wait until you’re 100% convinced you’re going to be successful. That might never happen.

But you do need to ensure that you’re open to seeing how the benefits outweigh the costs. For example, if you’re still convinced that working out doesn’t really help, you aren’t likely to commit to doing it on a regular basis.

A good way to address your readiness to change is to create two different pros and cons lists. Make the first one about the pros and cons of making the change you’re considering.

Create the other list about the pros and cons of not changing your behavior. Seeing these two lists on paper can help you decide how committed you really are to taking action. 

4. Consider what you’re giving up

No matter how motivated you feel, you won’t succeed unless you consider what you need to give up to reach your goal.  

Eating a healthy diet might mean you give up happy hour with your friends, and paying down your debt might mean you can’t shop online for new clothes whenever you’re bored. You have to be ready to give those things up if you really want to change your life. If you’re prepared for those challenges ahead of time, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to stick to your goals.

5. Develop a clear strategy

Working on a lofty resolution can feel overwhelming. When you have short-term objectives, however, you’ll be more likely to start taking action now.

Break down a big resolution into short-term objectives. If your goal is to pay off your car this year, establish a weekly savings goal. Then, focus on what steps you can take to reach that short-term savings goal.  

Read more: 5 mental tricks that will help you take action when you don’t feel motivated

6. Practice self-compassion

You might be tempted to resort to harsh self-criticism when you mess up. But talking to yourself like an angry drill sergeant won’t motivate you to do better next time.

Research clearly shows self-compassion is the key to increasing motivation and recovering from failure. So when you mess up — and you will mess up sometimes — be kind to yourself.

Rather than convince yourself you’re a bad person for making a mistake, tell yourself you made a bad choice. Talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a trusted friend.

7. Plan ahead for obstacles

No matter how much time you spend planning ahead, there will always be obstacles in your path. Whether your friends’ invitation to rent a vacation home threatens your resolve to stick to your budget or your family’s insistence on ordering pizza every Friday night makes it hard to stick to your meal plan, plan ahead for those moments where you might be tempted to ditch your goals.

Having a solid plan in place can help you overcome obstacles while also giving you the mental strength you need to face those challenges you might not anticipate.

Change rarely happens in a straight line. And while you might feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back, remember that one step back doesn’t mean you’re all the way back at the beginning. Each time you try to move forward you make a little more progress toward your resolutions.

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