It’s February. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Have you slipped up on your goals?
Part of the reason we advocate setting a yearly theme over just setting resolutions is because, well, resolutions are hard to keep up. Most people fail at them. By February, almost everyone who sets a New Year’s resolution will have already slipped up or forgotten about their goals, as day-to-day life sweeps in and brings back all the distractions that made us feel like we needed to set our resolution in the first place.
But instead of shrugging and deciding it’s just not realistic to keep up with your resolution, there are things you can do to still make it happen.
You set your resolution for a reason, and just because you’ve slipped up doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Everyone slips up, and the best people are the ones who just get back on track and keep going.
Below are our best tips for getting back on the bandwagon after you’ve slipped up on your New Year’s resolutions.
Revisit your goal and your reasons for setting it
When we miss a target, it’s easy to want to avoid it so you’re not reminded of your failure. It can be embarrassing to go back to that hopeful mindset you had, now that you’ve failed, but you have to push through that feeling if you want to get back on track. Go find the place where you wrote down your original goal, and read it.
Revisit the headspace you were in when you wrote it. Remember why you set this goal. What were you hoping it would help you do? What was at the core of your belief that you’d be able to accomplish it? Who did you hope it would help you become?
Getting in touch with the reasons why you thought this resolution was important can re-invigorate your energy for achieving it. When you remember the target you want to hit, and why you want to hit it, it can help you see why it’s worth the hard work of starting over again.
Forgive yourself so you can start over
Slipping up on our goals sucks. It can make you feel hopeless, or like a failure.
But feeling bad about yourself is no way to achieve great things. At a certain point, beating yourself up over failing isn’t productive; it just becomes an excuse for not taking action.
So pick yourself up. Acknowledge that you slipped up and didn’t make your goal, and then decide to do something about it. The only people who fail in the end are those who let that be the last thing they do. If you fail, but then get back to work, your failure won’t be the end of your story.
To get back on track, commit yourself to your goal again for 24 hours. Just 24 hours. You can do anything for 24 hours. And after all, every big goal is just a series of many, many days of making the right choice to pursue your goal. If you can do your goal for one day today, you can do it for one day tomorrow, and soon enough, it will be habit.
Look at what went wrong
Where did you fall off? What days did you decide not to work on your goal? What happened on those days? What were you doing (or not doing) that stopped your progress?
We all have triggers. These are the things that influence us in a negative way, and cause us to throw up our hands and give up on our goals, even if we feel strongly about them.
Maybe yours is feeling tired, or too stressed, or like the odds aren’t in your favor. When you know what makes you feel like quitting, though, you can build up defenses to help you get through those hard times.
And don’t try to pretend like those hard times won’t happen. They always will, and so you need to be prepared.
If you tend to skip your goal on days you feel tired, create small tasks you can do to still make progress even when you really don’t want to. If your goal is to read 10 pages of a book every day, then you should create a backup plan to just read 1 page on the days you feel tired. That way, you still make progress, rather than just skipping the task and possibly losing momentum, and you’ll be more likely to still be on track tomorrow.
Incorporate a tool that reminds you of your goal
In a world full of smartphones and Fitbits, there are lots of ways to get support and reminders on your biggest goals so that you don’t forget or abandon them. If you have a fitness goal, incorporate a workout app or Fitbit that lets you compete with your friends — it’s a different kind of engagement than just trying to remember or keep it up on your own, which can give you a better chance of sticking with it since you have an additional motivation to keep it up.
And if you have a new habit you’re trying to develop, use a reminder app that asks you to write down your progress, like iDoneThis, so that you are reminded to think about your process and to keep up your habits on a regular basis.
Rewrite your goal to be more achievable
When you first set your resolution, you might not have been thinking completely realistically about how much you could do or how much time you’d have.
It’s no coincidence that goals we set while off on holiday vacation don’t always mesh with our normal day-to-day lives. Sometimes your perspective can be a bit skewed when you set goals, and you choose things that aren’t really realistic to achieve or that require things you can’t give.
So take a moment now to revisit your goals, considering what your average day looks like.
Maybe you want to run a marathon, but if you hate running or don’t have hours to train, that might not be a goal you’ll ever realistically achieve. So think back to why you wanted to run a marathon. Was it to lose weight? To feel a sense of accomplishment? To do a fitness activity with friends or a larger community?
Instead of sticking with a specific goal, see if you can achieve the same end results (weight loss, accomplishment, etc) through something different that might work better for you. Goals are all about the ends, not just the means.
You can also try re-writing your goal in a more action-focused way. Using the SMART goals model, you can turn a vague idea into a real action plan.
SMART goals must be:
Thinking through the elements of your resolution in this way — picking concrete ideas, methods, and milestones — may help you achieve more in the long run, since you’ll have something solid to stick by. To read more about how to set SMART goals, check out this post: http://www.dumblittleman.com/2009/08/setting-and-achieving-goals-smart-way.html
Set milestones that you can look forward to and celebrate
A lot of our goals, especially the ones that are just good habits we think will improve our life (like “being more present” or “getting in shape”), can be hard to celebrate because we never measure them. Ideally, if you get in shape, for example, you’ll stay in shape forever. You’ll never be done.
It’s not like writing a book where someday you’ll be totally done and you’ll know that you achieved your goal because you’ll be holding a copy of your book in your hand.
With habits, then, you have to create your own milestones where you can track progress and celebrate achievements. If weight loss if your goal, set milestones that you are working towards and can celebrate. If you want to be more productive, set smaller goals that you can check in with, like clearing your inbox every Friday afternoon.
Celebrating your achievements is an important way to motivate yourself to keep going. You set this goal because you thought it would make your life better, so take time to celebrate when it’s done just that. You made it happen.
Have you lost track of your New Year’s resolutions? Slipped up on your big 2015 goals already? Let us know how you’re getting back on track in the comments. And keep it up!