Should you set a New Year’s Resolution?
The way we create goals can make an impact on whether or not we achieve them. Here's how to set a goal you can actually achieve.
Should you be setting a New Year’s resolution? Or do you want to set a New Year’s resolution? The way we talk to ourselves can influence the way we feel about our resolutions in the new year, and our behaviors or performances as we work towards them. The beginning of a new year can make us feel excited and motivated to set new goals for ourselves, change a behavior, or try something new. During this time, it is common to set a few goals at once, yet setting too many goals can sometimes become a barrier to reaching them.(1) You may find that focusing on one or two goals begins to affect your behaviors, and naturally affects other areas of your life. These can either become productive changes or negative ones, and not everyone keeps the resolutions they make at the beginning of the year. Below are some ways that our mental performance can help us reach our goals, and how we can hold ourselves accountable throughout the new year.
1. Track your baseline. We will not know whether we are improving, being consistent, remaining stagnant, or decreasing our performance unless we know what our baseline is. After identifying a behavior or goal, track your current level of performance. It may take several days or weeks to track your baseline, which you might perceive as taking time away from your goal, but it is a part of the process as you track where you are starting, so that you know where you are heading.
2. Be objective. Maybe you want to get stronger, be healthier, or perform better. How much stronger do you want to get? Or, where in your body do you want to get stronger? What does it mean to be healthier? What will performing better look like? Many of us may want to get stronger, be healthier, or improve our performance, yet it will look different for everyone. Being more objective and specific can allow us to measure our progress and track our goals.(2)
3. Measure your goals. How do you know if you are getting stronger? How will you know if you are healthier or feeling better? How do you know if your performance improved? Measuring our goals and adding timeframes allows us to evaluate our performance and make adjustments. This also allows us an opportunity to set short-term goals for ourselves along the way. Setting short-term goals can help sustain or increase our motivation and effort as we continue working on our long-term goal(s).(1)
4. Reality check time! Is your goal attainable, or is it too unrealistic? Recognizing the difference between a goal that is an ideal challenge versus one that is too far out of reach can make the difference in our adherence and motivation. In line with this, be willing to adjust. Adjusting our goals does not mean that we are unable to achieve them. This also goes for goals that are too easy to achieve. Setting goals that are too easy may not contribute to us feeling as competent had we achieved a more difficult goal.(3) Our confidence, anxiety, and expectations can contribute to the performances we have and behaviors we engage in as we work toward our goals.
5. Write your goal(s) down. This is a simple, yet imperative, step. In addition to helping us remain on track and evaluate our progress, writing our goals down can serve as a reminder, direct our attention, and influence our focus.(1) In addition, if you are more of a visual learner, then creating a chart can be useful in tracking your goals. One of my favorite visuals is the use of a staircase, with each step including a short-term goal, and enough room to write down whether or not it was achieved.
Setting goals that are for ourselves, rather than for others or for external factors, can contribute to feeling more self-motivated and more in control.(3) Whether you are trying something new, changing a behavior, or maintaining a current one, it can be helpful to recognize why you are doing it; what we tell ourselves can influence our performances and behaviors.
As a mental performance consultant, I work with athletes and individuals on the mental side of their performances to help them reach their goals. For example, some of this can include self-confidence, performance anxiety, arousal regulation, visualization, or self-talk. Working together can involve fine-tuning or identifying the mental skills that you already utilize, or learning and implementing new techniques.
(1) Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2019). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (7th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
(2) Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6(1), 89-100. doi:10.1080/1612197x.2009.9671894
(3) Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York, NY: Guilford Publications.
Arianna Martignetti, Ed.D., is a mental performance consultant who works with individual athletes, weekend warriors and teams at all levels. She works with her clients to fine-tune their mental skills or increase their self-awareness to create the change that they want and achieve their goals — and more.
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