Tips for setting resolutions that stick

For many of us, hitting a snag in even the best-laid plans can cause us to question our ability.

We start asking ourselves, “why can’t I do this?” As a substance abuse counselor and assistant professor of psychology, I assure you that the trouble often lies not with our abilities, but with our goals and motivations.

Keeping that in mind, let’s go over some important tips for fixing those two issues.

First, it’s important to pick a goal that means something to you. Many make the mistake of choosing goals that society tells us are important, like losing weight or getting a promotion.

Those can be valuable pursuits, but if your goal comes from someone else’s expectation, you are less likely to genuinely care about your success and, therefore, have less internal motivation. It’s internal motivation that helps keep you on track even when those snags set you back.

Secondly, make sure the goal is specific. We often are guilty of setting goals that are too vague.

For example, when people talk about the goal of being healthier, they rarely say exactly what that means to them. Therefore, their internal motivation is not clear.

Try stating specifics, such as being healthier means that you will exercise three times per week for at least 30 minutes, eat fewer carbs and do a mental health activity daily. By better defining your goal, you increase your commitment and internal motivation.

Additionally, adding mini goals or stages can help keep your internal motivation high. When we set those big New Year’s goals — even when we are specific with it — there is the tendency to get disheartened when we do not reach a goal fast enough or if we feel we have gotten off track. Having mini goals helps us feel accomplishment along the way, not just at the end.

For example, if your goal this year is to get that promotion at work, it is going to take some time. To measure your progress, steps like trying new methods for an old task or making new connections in the workplace are stages that contribute to the overall goal.

This way, when you are six months into the year and have not gotten that promotion yet, you will not feel disheartened because you can point to accomplishments that demonstrate your progress. Building in small rewards for reaching a stage also is a great way to reinforce the positive habits you are building.

Finally, always remember that life has its plan. Setbacks can and do happen, but they do not have to mean the end of all your progress. Practicing self-forgiveness for any errors alongside your self-motivation is a critical part to reaching your goals.

So, the next time you find yourself saying, “I can’t do this,” remember these tips and review your goals and motivations. Do not let a setback completely stop your progress, instead let it be a springboard to your success.