The new year is on the horizon, and most of us are more than ready to bid farewell to 2020. As we close out this tumultuous chapter in our lives, it’s time to prepare for a new, more successful, more positive year to start. But how can we even begin to think about those dreaded New Year’s resolutions when there is still so much uncertainty in our lives? How do you put a plan in place when the big picture is still out of focus?
There’s nothing magical about goals set on New Year’s Day, and the key to setting yourself up for success is to start planning now. Give yourself ample time to visualize resolutions. With well thought out and intentional goals, you’re much more likely to stick with them. During your brainstorming session, keep in mind what your current lifestyle and time constraints look like. “Goals today go back to redefining what success looks like,” said business coach and entrepreneur Jessica Smith of Olive & Co. “Take a step back and look at your personal life. What are things within your control that you can make better?”
Bearing in mind the things you can control in an unpredictable environment is important, however, it’s equally important to allow for fluidity within your goals and to avoid rigid objectives. Instead of setting a goal to be the top salesperson on your team, which is subject to a slew of outside influences, focus instead on becoming a better salesperson or more efficient at work. Goals like these are harder to track, but they still require dedication and a plan of action. Having a plan in place — whether it consists of committing to continued education, finding a mentor or asking for and implementing feedback — sets the framework for success and is less likely to be derailed by outside influences.
The same theory rings true when your focus is on fitness. “People make a commitment that’s not realistic,” said Dianne Anderson, fitness instructor and owner of Jag Athleisure. “After two weeks, the negative self-talk begins when they’re not making progress.” The first step in setting realistic fitness goals is finding a way to incorporate activities into your existing lifestyle. It’s impractical to think that you can go from being a couch potato to hitting the gym six days a week. Waking up 30 minutes earlier each day to go for a walk, taking a bike ride after work or participating in a virtual exercise class a few times a week is much more attainable.
Anderson recommends setting incremental micro-goals that you can realize within a few weeks to keep your morale up, such as holding a plank for one minute. This is where you can benefit from having a fitness coach, since they can evaluate your current fitness level and tailor benchmarks to help you reach your potential. Once you reach the initial goal, adjust it, make it a bit harder, and give yourself credit for that small success. By setting goals around physical ability instead of shedding pounds, you’re shifting your focus toward a more positive aspect of fitness.
The benefits of daily activity go beyond how you look, and Anderson noted that as her clients embark on their fitness journeys “they notice a change in their choices, their energy and their mobility. When you make a commitment to working out or doing something for your body, that takes you away from all the stress for a little bit.”
Reducing stress goes hand-in-hand with another goal that many of us have but don’t often verbalize. How many times have you listed, “I want to be happy this year” as one of your resolutions? There’s no time like the present to make happiness your priority, and while the state of the world is uncertain, your own state of mind is one thing you can always control. Start by making a commitment to do something that brings you joy for one hour each week. Whether you enjoy reading, baking, playing video games or gardening, put it on your calendar and treat it like it’s a doctor’s appointment you can’t miss. Work toward finding time for yourself every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes. A happy you is going to have a much better chance at reaching other goals and embracing flexibility to navigate obstacles.
Once you’ve figured out goals, it’s important to write them down. Smith suggests putting up a dry erase board where you can list your long-term goals, then drilling them down to the things you need to do this month, this week and today. Another tactic is to enlist an accountability partner. Find a friend or colleague to share your detailed goals with, then make a point of checking in weekly to mark your progress. It can be easy to make excuses for missing benchmarks when you’re the only one who knows about them, but telling someone else why you skipped a workout or didn’t finish your book is a big motivator.
Finding the time to work toward your goals can be the biggest obstacle of all. Most of us already feel like every waking moment is accounted for, and sleeping less is not a healthy or sustainable option. Thus, thinking outside the box is crucial. Outsourcing may be something you associate with business, but it’s also the key to finding extra time in your daily life. Ask for support from your inner circle, whether that means sending the kids to spend time with their grandparents more often or organizing playdates to trade off time blocks with other parents. Make a list of repetitive tasks you don’t enjoy and could pay someone else to accomplish for you, like cleaning the house or shopping for groceries. Take it a step further and look into bringing on a virtual assistant, who can do anything from managing your inbox to meal-planning. Then commit to being fully present for your goals during your spare time.
Most importantly, “throw perfection out the window, because less than perfect isn’t failure,” emphasized Smith. On your journey to a better you, remember to give yourself grace, be ready to pivot as changes come your way and know that you are ready to take on 2021, no matter what lies ahead.