Why I prefer goals to resolutions and 6 tips to keeping them

So, it’s the start of another year and a time when traditionally many people set themselves well-intentioned resolutions which they aim to stick to over the course of the next 12 months.



Is making resolutions worth it?

I know I’m not alone as I’ve set out at the beginning of January feeling full of positivity about the list of resolutions that I’ve set myself. I’ve convinced myself that this year will be different, this year I will stick to them. Only then, a few weeks go by and gradually that enthusiasm starts to wain and whatever it is I had set myself quickly becomes forgotten.

When this happens once, twice, maybe more, it can be easy to think that it’s pointless to try and set resolutions again, can’t it? I mean, it can feel like you’re just setting yourself up for failure. And that doesn’t feel good for anyone.

But looking back at the years where I set myself these types of resolutions I can see now why they were so difficult to maintain and why instead, setting goals can actually be a much more effective way of making and following through with a change in behaviour.

New Years resolutions

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal?

Resolutions are generally intentions around something you want to start or stop doing, for example ‘to start journalling’ or ‘be more organised’. Goals are much more specific and action orientated such as ‘journal three times each’ or ‘make a meal plan each Sunday for the week ahead’.

What makes a good goal?

Here are my 6 top tips to help you set goals that you will actually stick to:


1. Set goals that matter to you

To start with I think the most important thing to consider when setting goals is, is it actually something you want to do, rather than something you think you should be doing? Setting yourself a goal that you don’t really care about but you think ought to do is going to be trickier to maintain. You are always more likely to continue working towards a goal if you are genuinely motivated by it!


2. Make them SMART

Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) goals to ensure they are clear and focused. This article provides more details and tips on how to go about setting SMART goals if it’s something you are unfamiliar with or want to remind yourself.


3. Imagine it

Once you’ve come up with a goal that you really want to achieve and you’ve set it out in a SMART way, try to imagine yourself reaching it. Depending on what your goal is ask yourself questions such as:

  • What does reaching my goal look like?

  • What does achieving my goal feel like?

  • What is the impact of reaching my goal?

  • What is the importance of this?

Immersing yourself in the feeling of reaching your goal and the impact it has on your life provides you with a vision which you can use as you work towards the goal. It can act as a helpful reminder of why you are doing what you are, particularly in the more difficult moments.


4. Small steps

When you’re working towards a goal, one of the biggest challenges can sometimes be knowing where or how to get started. Big goals can feel overwhelming and impossible so we can end up procrastinating and not getting anywhere.

But breaking goals down into small steps can be a really effective approach for several reasons:

  1. Plotting out small steps helps lay out the path ahead which makes it all feel so much more achievable.

  2. A small step is often easier to take than a big overarching goal, which means you are more likely to actually start.

  3. Once you start taking small steps you will see that you are making progress which keeps you motivated to keep moving forward and taking more action.

  4. Every small step gets you closer to your big goal!

5. Expect setbacks

It would be lovely if every time we set out to do something it followed a smooth upward trajectory to success. But in reality unfortunately it rarely turns out like this. Despite all our best intentions, sometimes we will experience setbacks – something might come up out of our control, we might have to change focus temporarily, you might need additional support…

If appropriate, take time to reflect on what has happened and decide what action you might need to take to move forward again. Whatever it is, remember to be kind to yourself.


6. Get support

Coaching can help you set the goals that really matter to you and give you a framework and accountability to help you achieve them. Here’s why…

  • Coaching focuses on your present and future – where are you now and where is it that you want to get to.

  • If you have a sense that you need a change but you’re not sure what that change is, coaching can help you get clarity around your priorities, your purpose and your passions so you can make decisions going forward more easily and confidently because you know they are the right ones for you.

  • Coaching is also centered around taking action. So at the end of each coaching session you will have a number of action points that you have devised which are in alignment with your vision. At your following coaching session you can look at your action points and reflect on:

  • whether you achieved them or not?

  • if you didn’t achieve them but still want to then what needs to happen so that you achieve them next time?

  • what impact achieving them had?

  • are they still relevant?


Is January the best time to set new goals?

I think there are two occasions in the year when I hear people talk about setting resolutions or goals – firstly New Year and secondly in September as the new school year starts. I suppose both these points in the calendar feel like a fresh start and therefore a good time to make some positive changes too.

But honestly, I don’t think there is ever a right, wrong, good or bad moment to step back and take some time to assess where we are in our life, assess our priorities, to figure out what it is we want and to then make the changes we need in order to get there. There will never be the perfect time, so why wait until January or September?

If you know in your heart that something needs to change or you have something in mind that you want to aim for, then listen to that. It doesn’t always have to be big, overnight, life-changing changes. Overtime those small steps, in the right direction, can all add up and make a big difference.

If you are struggling to make the changes you want in your life and think some support through coaching could help you then book a free discovery call with me.



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