We all set goals to better ourselves and the new year is a popular time to set goals and make changes to our lives. Despite setting New Year’s Resolutions with the best intentions of following through, research shows that 40% of New Year’s goals fail in January. So what goes wrong? We all want to improve and have more fulfilling lives but many people don’t seem to be able to achieve their goals. There are many reasons why we don’t stick with the goals we set ourselves and this post shows you how to set goals to give you the best chance of achieving them.
It’s not because you don’t want to achieve your goals.
Ask yourself: Why?
Before you begin setting any goals, ask yourself why you are setting them. Think about the overall picture, how will this improve your life in the long term? If you keep the end goal in mind and understand exactly why you want to make a change you are more likely to stick to it.
Your goal may be to become debt free. Why are you doing this? It could be to reduce stress, have a healthy relationship with money, once you’re free of debt you can start saving to maybe buy a house. Once you know why you want to become free of debt and see how reaching this goal will improve your life you will be more motivated to achieving your goal.
Think about your long term goals. There is no use to set a set a goal to save more money when you don’t know what you are saving for. If you are not saving for anything in particular you are less likely to continue to save. Having a purpose for these savings provides you with motivation to achieve your goal.
For example, one of my New Years’ Resolutions is to make £500 per month online in 2018. If I don’t know what I want to do with the extra money and not understand the full benefits of it then I am going to be less motivated to achieve it. The reason I made this goal is by thinking of the overall picture, ultimately I want to retire early so I can spend more time doing what I love. In order to retire early I need to increase my investments. In order to increase my investments I need to increase my income or reduce my expenditure, or both. From my experience £500 is an achievable target income that I can make from matched betting. So whenever I feel lazy or de-motivated I think of my end goal of early retirement, this is enough to keep me going.
By keeping the bigger picture in mind you are more likely to stick to your goals in the long term.
Have a plan
Once you have a goal in mind and know why you want to achieve it, the next step is to create a plan. Let’s say you want to save £1,200 to go on an exotic holiday in 2019.
Break your goal down into smaller targets, so if you wanted to save £1,200 next year this can be broken down to £100 per month. A large goal of £1,200 may seem daunting or out of reach, but a small goal of £100 seems more achievable and gives you belief. It also keeps you on track throughout the year. If you just had the goal of saving £1,200 over the year, you may keep putting it off to next month and then the next month. Setting yourself a smaller target of £100 each month forces you to begin straight away and make small progress throughout the year, seeing the progress over time is encouraging.
Think about how you will achieve your goal. So if you intend to save £100 per month in 2018, where will this money come from? Will you reduce your outgoings or will you increase your income? If you choose to reduce your outgoings, you may want to create a budget and think about where you will reduce your expenditure? Maybe you will reduce the amount you eat out and make more home cooked food, but is this enough to save you £100 per month? If not, then you need to think about what other areas you can cut down.
Make it SMART
SMART is a mnemonic acronym that provide you with a guide to help you set goals you can achieve:
- Specific: target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable: quantify your goal and find a way to measure your progress.
- Achievable: the goal needs to be realistic and attainable.
- Relevant: the goal needs to fit the bigger picture and matter to you.
- Time-bound: set a target date to focus on.
Let’s take one of my own New Years’ Resolutions as see how it fits the SMART criteria:
I will make £500 per month online in 2018.
It is specific as it targets increasing my income. I have quantified it with an amount of £500 so that I can measure my progress. I know it is an achievable monthly target as I have previously made approximately this much money in recent months. It is relevant as my overall goal is to retire early and in order to do so I will need more money. It is time-bound as it is a goal for only 2018.
Write it down
Research has shown that those who regularly write down their goals are significantly more likely to achieve their goals compare to those that don’t. In fact, you are 42% more likely to achieve them, which is a huge amount for simply writing down your goals regularly.
If you only think about your goals you are only using the imaginative side of your brain with is the right hemisphere. But when you write down you goals, not only are you thinking about them with the right hemisphere of your brain but also using the logical left hemisphere of your brain. This forces you to think logically, clarify what you want to achieve and consider how you are going to achieve it.
When you write down what you have been thinking about, it frees up your mind to think of ways to accomplish your goals. This is similar to the reason journaling being considered therapeutic for many, writing your thoughts down frees up your mind for other things.
Share your goal
Share your goal by telling your friends and family, share it on social media, share it with whoever is willing to listen.
When you share your goals with others it makes you more accountable as it is likely they will follow you up on it and ask you how it is going. You don’t want to be in a position where you have to admit you’ve given up in the first month.
It leads to a discussion. Others may have similar goals and you can share ideas with each other on how you can better achieve your goals. By sharing and talking to other like-minded people throughout the year you are more likely to receive positive feedback and encouragement.
Review your goals regularly
Set time aside at regular intervals during the year to review how your resolutions are dong, this could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or whatever intervals you choose. Review if you are on target with your goal, if not then think about what did not go to plan and how you can change it. It is important to not get discouraged at this point, it is possible the goal is just too ambitious and you need to lower your target, or maybe something unexpected happened that you cannot control. Don’t forget to think about what has gone well and not just focus on the negatives, if something is working for you then maybe you should be doing more of it.
Even if you don’t reach your goal, you will have made some progress towards it, in a year’s time it is likely you will be better off for at least trying. For example, let’s say I only made £300 per month rather than the £500 I had intended, I would still be £3,600 better off by the end of the year compared to if I hadn’t set the goal in the first place, which I would still be pleased with.