The start of a New Year is a chance to put the past behind us and focus on what’s to come – but often it’s harder than it sounds.
We’ve all been there – the clock is counting down the last few hours of the year and you start to reflect on what you’ve achieved over the past twelve months. Often fuelled by drinks, food and a party atmosphere, friends excitedly ask what your resolutions are for the year to come. How will you become a ‘better person’ overnight?
For many, turning over a new leaf at the beginning of the year provides some much-needed motivation, but for others, the thought of a new year’s resolution is daunting. The truth is that many New Year’s resolutions end in failure – most people have forgotten all about them by the time February comes around.
So how can we set sustainable goals any time of the year?
You're already a goal setter
Humans are constantly setting themselves goals. When you get up in the morning and go to work, that's a goal achieved. When you remember to put the washing on the line, that's another one ticked off the list. You don't need to be a superhuman to achieve your goals – you're already set up to succeed. However, you need to make sure you are setting useful goals in the right way for you.
What's a useful goal?
For Dr Bob Montgomery, Clinical Health and Forensic Psychologist and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, there are a few key criteria to ensuring your goals are useful. "A useful goal is challenging but realistic. You might find it difficult to achieve, but it shouldn't rely on anyone else or things outside of your control. In order to be truly effective, the goal should come from you - you should define what it is and make sure it fits within your interests and values."
There's also an important distinction to make between goals and outcomes. "If you want to lose five kilos, that's an outcome. Your goals should be based on the actions you're going to take to help you get there - like eating healthily or increasing exercise," says Dr Montgomery. To create long-term change, behavioural, action-oriented goals are much more helpful.
Where to start?
Setting goals may feel overwhelming, especially if there are several areas of your life you are looking to improve. A good start is to map out all the important parts of your life – like work, health, relationships, finances etc. "Look at each of these areas," suggests Dr. Montgomery, "and decide which ones are more important to you. Then assess how much time and effort you're spending on keeping things in this area on track. It's very common for people to get so wrapped up in achieving one goal that they neglect the other areas of their lives." Taking the time to develop a sustainable system of goals will make you more likely to achieve them.
"Try to take a three step approach to goal setting," suggests Dr. Montgomery, “start with what you want to achieve, like 'I want to lose weight. Then decide on what you're going to do to get there, for example 'I will eat more healthily and limit my alcohol consumption' and then consider how you're going to prove it."
Write a contract to yourself
If you have trouble sticking to even the most well thought through goals, writing a contract to yourself can be a great motivational tool. Write down the promise you're making and how you'll reward yourself for your progress. Sign and date it to remind you of your commitment.
At TAL, we care about helping you reach your goals and supporting you and your family. Income protection insurance can keep your family finances on track if you’re not able to work due to illness or injury, so that future goals aren’t railroaded. And if your goal is to take up a new activity whether it be rugby or scuba diving, consider adding sports cover to your policy.
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