Updated: Jul 11
Have you ever wondered why so many of New Year resolutions rarely become a success? Why people say they set themselves New Year goals but fail to accomplish them? Every Year many of us decide to introduce changes to our lives by setting goals for the New Year. That particular time of the year seems to be a good cut off point to start new chapter of life and forget about old (year) habits. That is why a lot of people like to set new year resolutions in order to improve their lives. However; as little as 8% of those resolutions are achieved and kept and people fail at succeeding by mid January or beginning of February. This, of course causes anxieties and stress and contributes to further anxiety before we sit down to set next years' resolution.
So how can we set our New Year resolutions and goals without anxiety and fear of failure? How can we set goals so that we succeed without feeling guilt, if we fail?
It is, in fact, quite simple, and we can set two types of goals: range goals and specific goals. This will help to avoid feeling guilty or anxious if we are not close to achieving them. There are 4 steps to avoid this feeling, which are explained further below:
- step 1 set yourself a range goal,
- step 2 - set yourself specific goal,
- follow any of the 3 steps to avoid anxiety trap,
First of all, let me define range goals. This will be goals where we set ourself a range, e.g. reading 2-3 books a month, saving £10-£20 a week, going to a gym 3-5 times a week. Range goal gives us the minimum we want to achieve and ideal numer we want to achieve - anything in between we should be happy with. When we set ourselves a range goal, we have a minimum to meet so that if at certain times we were not able to meet those goals at the upper range mark, we avoid feeling guilty as we have achieved lower range target. Looking at the example again; if we have a busy week and are able to go to the gym only 3 times a week and not 5 as planned, we are meeting our minimum target and therefore meeting our goal. And even if it was not 5 times as we planned, we still achieved the minimum which is a great success!
Such approach will help avoid anxieties and disappointments connected to not meeting our goals as in a range goal we have flexibility for when life gets in the way. At the same time, we feel a sense of achievement as we manage to complete the minimum we wanted. Such a situation can also be motivational for the following week's goal when we want to hit the minimum target but move up (e.g. making sure we go 4 times).
Secondly, we have specific goals which are goals, as the name suggests, specific. With this type of goal setting, most times we are very clear on what our goal is, when we want to achieve it by, how we are going to measure our success, and perhaps how reasonable it is for us to achieve. An example here would be completing a certain degree by a certain time, going on holidays to a paradise island by the end of the year etc. With such specific goals it is easy to fall into anxiety trap if we do not achieve it, we may feel as if we failed completely. Nonetheless, this is far from truth, because if we took an effort to set that goal, plan around it, think about ways to achieve it, that is already a lot of work done. Of course, execution is important and this is when most times we fail at - we may not follow through, or not be consistent with actions, or lack accountability to ourselves. If we fail, we feel anxious, stressed and feeling of failure prevents us from seeing progress we already had made.
Here are my 3 steps to avoid feeling stressed and anxious about succeeding at our goals:
tell someone about your goal - this way you will feel accountable to achieve it so that you will be able to share great news of your achievement.
you may hire a coach to help you with accountability or consistency - these seem like simple tasks but with ambitious goals coach can be a great support.
create a sheet of mini goals - this way you will find it easier to execute those small milestones in order to achieve your big goal.
What I always say to my coaching clients, when they happen to fail at achieving their goals is a quote I heard many times while studying coaching:
"What matters is the journey, not a destination."
As I mentioned before, the mere fact that you already took steps towards your goal, made plans, even started executing those actions is already a great achievement. You should not punish yourself for failing at achieving a goal, as you have already learnt a lot of new things in the process.
As you can see from examples above, it may be easy to feel anxious and stressed about not achieving your goals. Equally, you can take a different approach and not fall into anxiety trap and smartly plan your goals. I hope my steps and approach to goal setting will help you get rid of any anxiety with goal setting.
Here is to the New Year Resolutions that work and don't fill you with anxiety or stress.