Tired of setting goals only to never hit them? Maybe your goal setting system needs a face lift. If you get amped up every year with a list of new goals to accomplish for the next twelve months, only to forget about them by March– it’s time for a new goal setting system. Let’s talk about how to set better goals.
Goal Setting in the New Year
I’ll admit– I am a total nerd when it comes to goal setting. I love any opportunity to get out a fresh planner, crack it open, and start filling it with multi-colored pens.
There’s something that feels so hopeful about this ritual, like the potential of my future is wide open and in order to make it happen I just have to write it down! And list out all the action steps I want to take to get to it! YES!!
And so I scribble it out, and get amped up for approximately twelve hours, only to never look at the planner again until November.
Well… at least that’s how my old goal setting system set me up.
But we do not do it that way anymore… because goal setting once a year… does not work.
At least not as well as it could.
Why Your Goal Setting System May Need a Facelift
Here’s why setting goals at the beginning of the month doesn’t work for most folks:
- We don’t know how to track progress.
- By not tracking our progress we don’t stay excited about our new goals.
- And so we give up and when nothing changes, we get fed up around November, and VOW to ourselves that THIS TIME… it’ll be different… starting January 1st.
Sounds familiar, right?
But in order for it to be different, we need to do a few things first.
How to Set Better Goals
1. Make it Specific
When my boyfriend and I sat down yesterday to make a few goals for 2023, we noticed there was something missing as we reviewed them.
We had really vague goals, like:
- Eat fewer sweets
- Fewer impulse buys
The issue with that type of goal setting is that it’s easy to find loopholes, and hard to determine what success looks like.
Were you successful if you invested $1?
What is fewer sweets exactly? Having 5 sweets a day instead of 10?
Same with impulse buys– what does success look like?
How to Fix This: Get Specific and Measurable
Recognizing we needed to change our goal setting, we changed our goals to be measurable.
So “Invest” became:
- Increase 401(k) contribution to 10%
- Invest $100k in a year
“Eat fewer sweets” became:
- NO SWEETS (except for holidays and birthdays)
And for impulse buys, we needed more data.
Goal Setting Around Impulse Spending
For something like impulse buying, we needed a baseline in order to make a new, measurable goal.
So what did we do?
We challenged ourselves to review our biggest “impulse purchase” category from last year.
For my bf, it was clothes, so he challenged himself to calculate just how much he spent on impulse clothing purchases to give him a baseline.
Getting a baseline is important for a few reasons:
- You’ll likely have a “come to Jesus” moment, meaning you might be shocked by just how much you spent on that item. But better than that? You’ll realize you DO have money, and $x is going towards this one thing. That’s a huge wake up call that will allow you to DECIDE if you want to keep using your money for this thing. Read about one of my wake up calls here: I am $70k in debt.
- It may actually gross you out. Like, I don’t want you to feel shame, but I want you to feel something strong enough that will make you actually want to change. That’s the thing about our feelings— the good, the bad, the ugly– they tell us something about ourselves, and feelings like disgust, or shock might be a good indicator that we’re ready for change.
- It allows you to create a baseline, and a new realistic goal from that baseline.
Then, after you get that baseline?
Make a new goal on what you want to spend.
If you spent $2k last year on impulse buying clothes for you cat? Then maybe try $1,500 next year. Something realistic… which brings me to my next point.
2. Your Goal needs to be Realistic
Notice in our previous example, I didn’t say go from spending $2k a year to $200 a year.
Cause that’s not even remotely realistic. This is where baby steps are so important!
Think about the last time you tried to do anything in an extreme sense– we will take dieting because it seems to be one of the most common areas where we try to be extreme.
It may work for a short period of time, maybe even a few months.
But eventually, when you’ve been restricting to the extreme for a while?
You are going to binge. You’ll throw caution to the wind, have a cheat day, and for most of us? That cheat day turns into a cheat week, and then a cheat month, and then over and over again, until we’ve gained more weight than what we originally lost.
Because extreme measures don’t work.
We have to be realistic.
It’s so easy to go balls to the walls when we’re setting out with new habits and goals because we want a change. But we have to give ourselves grace and take it one step at a time if we want to set ourselves up for success.
Being too extreme puts a lot of pressure on ourselves, and then if we make one mistake?
It’s easy to enter into “fuck-it” mentality, and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
3. Track Our Progress
Tracking our goals is ESSENTIAL if we ever want to stick with them.
But, I’ll be honest, this is where I’ve failed in the past. I’ll write up a whole plan… and then have no idea how to track as I go, or set up any milestones to make things exciting for me.
That’s the key– we have to keep it exciting!
That’s why SO many of us get wrapped up in the excitement of the New Year, set exciting goals… only to let our energy and excitement peter out by March.
So here’s what I plan to do about it.
- I got the Adulting Kit from Saya Hillman and she has an amazing goal tracker inside that I’m using now!
- I’m using a fun planner that I plan to look at DAILY that contains all my goals inside it. My boyfriend got it too!
- My boyfriend and I are going to check in on our goals weekly to help hold each other accountable and stay excited.
- I also got a fun tracker that I can use to keep track of my daily wins.
I know that seems like a lot… but I’m seriously dedicated to my goals this year.
Now– tracking is just HALF the battle.
We also need to:
- Break our big goals into smaller goals.
- Celebrate our wins.
4. Create Milestones
Creating milestones is where lots of folks fall flat on their goal setting plans.
Those big huge goals can be way too overwhelming sometimes– like let’s say you had a goal to invest $12k this year and you have never before done this.
$12k is going to seem pretty overwhelming, right?!
But $1,000 per month seems more attainable, right?
And $250 a week seems even more attainable, doesn’t it?
I suggest breaking down your goals into yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. You could even add in daily actions you need to do in order to succeed.
- Yearly Goal: Make $100k.
- Quarterly Goal: Make $25k
- Monthly Goal: Make $8.3k
- Weekly Goal: Make $1.92k
It’s easy with numbers, but take a little more thinking with more abstract things. This is why it’s important to get specific in the first step and try to add numbers where you can.
5. Celebrate Your Wins!
Now, here’s the fun part– I want you to celebrate your wins!
For every goal, create a few milestones and rewards for each milestone you achieve in the process.
For me, one of my goals is to go to the gym 5 times a week, or 260 times this year.
My first goal is to go to the gym 20 times in January, and once I achieve that?
I’ll be treating myself!
Even if it’s something small, like taking myself out to dinner or getting coffee at Starbucks for a few days.
We have to reward ourselves in order to remind ourselves that our goals are worth pursuing.