It’s that time of year again – when the talk around the dinner table turns to New Year’s resolutions. It’s a tradition we’ve certainly been following for a long time. The practice of making resolutions at the New Year goes as far back as the ancient Babylonians – 4,000 years ago (read more on that here).
The new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and imagine what changes we want to bring forward. It’s a fresh calendar and a fresh start that can give us the push we need to work on the goals we care about.
But reaching your goals isn’t easy.
Many of us set New Year’s resolutions but most of us don’t follow through. A U.S. News & World Report suggests that 80% of people give up their resolutions by February. Yikes.
Sticking to a new goal is tricky – but it’s nowhere near impossible. Listen, I don’t care what your goal is. Whether it’s to become a figure skating pro at the age of 65 or write a best-selling novel, you CAN do it. And all you need is YOU to make it happen.
I’ve made a list of my best mindset tricks for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions and reaching your goals. These are the exact principles that helped me achieve goals that I never EVER thought I could achieve (like running my first marathon).
These 4 mindset tips apply to goal setting at any time of year and for any goal. Ready to ace those resolutions? Read on!
1. CHANNEL THAT CONFIDENCE
This crazy thing we call life can be a complicated mess. Do you ever wish you were a tiny ant scurrying around in the grass free from feelings of guilt, heartbreak or existential dread? Or a cozy cat lounging by the fireplace without a moment’s thought on its purpose in life?
In our daily lives, humans are masters at getting through tough times. Everyday we put on our shoes and go to work when we don’t want to or cook meals and do dishes when we don’t feel like moving.
On top of it, we’re constantly being thrown curve balls. Whether that curve ball be as trivial as a flat tire or as devastating as an illness, life sure can throw us for a loop. When this happens, what do we all do?
Well, we get through it. We all do. Humans are total champions at marching along through the hardships and throwing those lemons right back at life.
I want you to think about your life today and everything you’ve been through to get to where you are right now.
You don’t need to be the CEO of Microsoft to know what hard work is. If you’re on this Earth, you’ve been through your fair share of challenges and you’ve made it through.
You’ve got up and out the door for a job you’ve hated. You’ve faced someone you were afraid of. You’ve attended the funeral of someone you loved. You’ve been hurt. You’ve fallen down numerous times – and you’ve gotten back up every time.
This fighter mentality is the exact mindset you need when working on reaching your goals. You. Can. Do. This!
Here’s my favourite quote to think about when I’m working on a new goal:
After a web search, I wasn’t able to find the original speaker, but it’s so simple and 100% true. Know that whatever goals you’re working on, you have already proven that you have the strength to continue.
2. BREAK YOUR GOAL UP INTO SMALLER GOALS
Challenges in life are not overcome in one giant leap – but instead consist of a series of small steps in the right direction. Goal setting works the same way.
If you look too long at an obstacle ahead of you, it can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. But when you break it up into smaller obstacles, you’ll realize that you’re getting closer to reaching your goals without even knowing it.
For each goal, create a list of smaller objectives that lead up to the ultimate goal.
Write them down in a planner, type them into your phone, or stick them on your mirror with Post-its. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but recording these objectives somewhere will help you jumpstart your progress and stop you from forgetting about your goals.
Here’s an example: I love to run, but when I first started running, I could barely run for 15 minutes without stopping. I had never been good at running (or any sports!) in high school so I thought I just wasn’t athletic. Running was hard for me.
If you would have spoken to me when I first started running, I would have told you there was no way in hell I could ever run 42k.
But I started setting very small distance goals and every time I jogged, I pushed myself to run farther. If I was strong enough to run 1k, I could run 2k the next time. If I could run 2k today, I bet I could run 3k next week.
The farther I got in my training, the more my long-distance running goals seemed possible.
I remember writing down a bigger goal in my notebook, which was to run 6k by the end of the summer. These little steps added up until I signed up and completed numerous half marathons and eventually a full marathon (42k).
I share these experiences not to boast – but to inspire you. I truly did not start with any running talent whatsoever. And training for a marathon was not easy – it took me 5 years to build up the endurance (and the courage) to sign up.
But step by step, I made it happen. Planning out these smaller and more specific objectives was much more effective than trying to follow an abstract goal like “exercise more”.
The same principle can work for you. But you have to take that first step!
3. FORCE YOURSELF TO TAKE THAT FIRST STEP…EVERYDAY
Taking that first step towards reaching your goals may sound simple. But starting is truly the hardest part! Have you ever noticed that the most difficult aspect of exercising is the preparation? Getting yourself up and dressed to work out can seem like an impossible task. But once your workout clothes are on and you’re on the treadmill or yoga mat, working out doesn’t seem so bad any more.
Once you take that initiative to start a task ahead of you, the rest is in the bag.
For example, imagine your New Year’s resolution is to floss everyday. A lot of people have trouble with this ridiculously simple task. It takes only about a minute and yet most of us avoid it like the plague.
But here’s all you need to do. Have your floss ready right next to your toothbrush so you see it everyday when you grab your brush. Then don’t think about it and just force yourself to start flossing no matter how sleepy you are. Do this every night until it becomes a habit. Don’t allow yourself any excuses, just do it!
Or imagine that your goal is to work on writing, say, 500 words. The key is to get over to your computer and turn it on. That’s honestly the hardest part. It’s so easy to avoid a task like this by ignoring the computer screen, maybe doing some dishes or tidying rather than sitting down in front of the computer. But once your fingers hit those keys, the hardest part is already over.
Procrastination is your enemy.
When I was training for a marathon, the toughest part was always putting on my running shoes.
Even if I was set to run 30k that morning, the worst part of training was getting out of bed and putting on those shoes.
I would waste so much time in the morning looking out the window examining the weather – is that rain coming? Or laying in bed debating whether or not to get up – do I need to run today? When I was still feeling groggy and unmotivated, putting on my workout clothes and tying my shoes was the hardest thing ever.
I’ve been there. I know the evil pull of procrastination.
But once my shoes were on, it was like a magic switch would go off. Getting out the door for a jog was truly no big deal. I learned that what I needed to do, was FORCE myself to get up and put on my shoes. That was the key. I needed to be tough on myself and say to myself that I have no choice and that I’m doing this.
So take a look at that list of smaller goals that you created. Choose the first one on that list and get up and Just. Do. It.
4. DON’T GIVE UP
As cliche as it sounds, never giving up will be the difference between reaching your goals and floundering.
Once you take that first step, there’s nothing stopping you but time. If you put one foot ahead of the other and keep going, you literally cannot fail. That’s the BIG SECRET: just keep going! Anything is possible if you stick at it.
Did you know that Steve Jobs was fired from Apple before returning as CEO?
Or that Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times before starting his career as a director and earning 3 Oscars, 11 Emmys and 7 Golden Globes?
Those who are the most successful have two things in common:
- They failed.
- They never gave up.
Life is like marathon training, you don’t wake up and suddenly find success.
You get there slowly. You don’t decide to run 21 or 42 kilometres overnight (it won’t work, I promise!). Running a race like that requires repeated training sessions, while you build up your mind and muscles to be stronger than they’ve had to be so far.
My path to completing my first marathon did not go smoothly by any means. One year I even signed up for a marathon and ended up backing out because I wasn’t ready. Another year, I trained for an entire summer only to find out the marathon was canceled (due to extreme heat) just days before. But still, I didn’t give up.
You can’t write a novel overnight, either. Did you know it took J.K. Rowling 6 years to write the first Harry Potter novel? What’s more, her pitch for the book was rejected 12 times before Bloomsbury agreed to publish it. Be patient, be positive and don’t let your spark wither out.
Did you know every time you practice an action, something called myelin wraps itself around the neurons in your brain?
In university, I took a psychology course where we learned about “deep practice” and the theory that you can become an expert at just about anything if you put in the hours.
Myelin is the secret ingredient that makes practice so effective. Myelin adds a layer of insulation that helps the neurons in your brain fire faster and more accurately. The more times you practice this action, the more myelin wraps around these neurons – making the task easier every time you practice it.
Our brains are literally wired to help us succeed with practice.
Whenever you doubt your efforts, imagine this myelin wrapping itself around the neurons in your brain and strengthening the signals. (If you’re interested, the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle explores this concept really well).
So you see, you got it in you! You’ve just got to get up every day and keep working towards reaching your goals.
If you don’t think you can reach your goals – I’m telling you, you can. And one thing is for sure, if you don’t try you won’t get there.
So if there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to do, whether it be start your own blog, film a movie, write a novel or climb Mount Everest – set your sights on that dream and don’t give up.
Because like I said, you can’t train for a marathon overnight. But, put in the work and put your whole heart into it and you’ll get there.
I hope my enthusiasm is contagious. Start small, but take that first step towards reaching your goals – right NOW!
What will your first step be? Good luck!