A dream is something you don’t give up on.
Every new year is full of people who set goals for themselves and give up within the first month. From going to the gym to cutting out fast food, these goals start from a good place and a desire to better your health and state of mind, but life is tough, and shortcuts make things easier. On the other side of the fence are people who have set goals for themselves and stick to them for years — but how do they do it?
Sticking to your goals is no easy feat and requires patience and dedication. You can’t simply tell yourself you want to start going to the gym four times a week and hope you have enough self-control to stick with it. In this article, you will find out how to set smarter long-term goals for yourself and, more importantly, how to stop giving up on them time and time again.
Start Simple with Health and Wellness
The health of your mind and body is so important when it comes to staying focused and achieving your goals.
Though your work may require you to be sedentary and sit at a desk for hours at a time, keeping your body active and in shape will go a long way in helping your mind stay focused and on track. This doesn’t have to include lifting as much weight as you can in the gym or running a 5k every day. Something as simple as walking your dog around your neighborhood or taking the stairs instead of the elevator every day can improve your mental capacity to focus by a wide margin.
Visualize Your Goals Daily
If you aren’t big on sitting down and making lists, you are not alone. Many people have trouble with the tedious and self-reflecting task of planning out what they want in life. Planning may give you anxiety, or you may even be unsure of what goals to set for yourself. That’s okay! If this sounds like you, starting small and simple is the best thing to do.
Imagine yourself in five years’ time. What does your life look like? Can you think of some things that you really want to be a part of your life by that time? This could be a particular job, an ideal weight, or an amount you want to see in your savings account. Do you have an idea of what that is? Great, now write that down. If you hate writing lists, draw a picture of where you want to see yourself in five years. You can even record a memo on your phone reminding yourself of your goals and play that every morning when you wake up.
Having your goals constantly on your mind will prevent you from forgetting them or giving up on them easily. Don’t be too shy to throw in some affirmations as well! If you believe you are capable of achieving them, you are much more likely to!
Set Realistic Expectations for Your Goals
A mistake many people make when they set goals for themselves is to misjudge how long it will take to reach a specific goal. These things don’t come overnight; that’s why it’s called a “year plan” and not a “tomorrow plan.” You would not attempt to run a marathon without any training — you would slowly work up to that point, taking small leaps one at a time until you’re there.
No matter your goals, keep in mind life will continue to go on all around you, so allow yourself a realistic timeline when it comes to reaching those goals.
Be Prepared for Setbacks
Life is unpredictable, and unexpected things will happen — good and bad. You will probably get traffic tickets, have arguments with your partner, and experience many more inconveniences that could potentially cost time, energy, or money over the next 5 years.
While these things can’t always be avoided, they certainly don’t mean that you should give up on your goals. Maybe you skipped going to the gym for a month because of a family emergency and gained back a few pounds you had managed to lose. You may try to convince yourself there is no point in continuing to go to the gym because you have gone backwards on progress. Be kind to yourself and allow room for error. No one is perfect, and making excuses for yourself will never get you anywhere. Be prepared for the unpredictability of life, and pursue your dreams all the same!
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Measure and Celebrate Your Progress
Now that you have the right mindset, it’s time to get technical. How can you expect to stay on track to reach your goals if you aren’t tracking your progress? Make sure you measure your progress with small steps and don’t aim for the end goal daily. Instead, create goal milestones that you can track along the way!
There are an abundance of goal-setting apps available for download on your smartphone that will help you measure your progress along the way. One of the most popular is Clickup, which allows you to keep track of your goals by breaking them down into smaller targets.
Seek Accountability from Your Mentors
Even if you are the most diligent person you know, you will likely try to take a shortcut at some point along your journey. You may even fall into a period of self-doubt and get stuck thinking that your goals won’t ever come to fruition. This is why it’s important to find an accountability partner who will reaffirm your goals and help keep you on track during these times. Be sure it’s someone who won’t let you off the hook too easily. Your accountability partner must be firm with you when you stumble. Ideally, your accountability partner is a mentor who achieved the goal you’re working so hard toward!
Give Yourself Rewards
Measuring your progress or having an accountability partner may not always be enough to pull you out of a negative slump. It’s normal to have an emotional response to bumps in the road. In this case, take a break and reward yourself for your hard work! You deserve a pat on the back for your diligence, and who better to give it to you than yourself? You know yourself better than anyone, so take some time and congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made so far. After all, nothing kills your dreams quite like a negative mindset.
Share Your Goals with Others
You have amazing plans for your life — so why are you keeping them all to yourself? Make your goals a topic of conversation whenever you can, and ask to hear about your friends’ goals as well. This will amplify your motivation to keep going while also giving you some accountability. The people you tell are likely to bring it up later and ask how your progress is going. Imagine the satisfaction of showing them how much closer you are to your goals and celebrating their progress too.
You should also be manifesting these goals by saying them out loud, even if it’s only to yourself. If your goal is to be an author, own that. If you’re working on your book consistently, tell yourself that you are a writer, and when someone asks what you do, tell them as well — I am a writer! You’re not lying to yourself — you’re reaffirming what you already know is true. Your brain will begin to accept these manifestations as you slip into the shoes of the person you want to become.
Develop Healthy Habits
Why are healthy habits so much harder to develop than unhealthy ones? Why is it easier to eat a sugary treat every day instead of maintaining a plant-based diet? Habits that are immediately gratifying are much more likely to be repeated than ones that are not immediately gratifying. Usually, instantly satisfying habits have negative long-term effects. Sure, skipping the gym today sounds great right now, but it’s going to be harder to get yourself back to the gym tomorrow; because taking a day off was immediately gratifying, you are likely to repeat this habit.
The secret to overcoming this is to think like the person you want to become. Someone who never misses a workout is someone who thinks to themselves, “I am someone who never misses a workout. I am committed to my fitness regime because I know that it is making me healthy.” These are called “identity-based habits.”
Every time you indulge in that immediate gratification, you reinforce the identity of someone who does not stick to their goals — someone who chooses immediate gratification instead of long-term progress. Ultimately, the greatest identity-based habit you can have is to reinforce your desired identity. Tell yourself you are the person you want to become. When you do, you strengthen the idea that you are the type of person who sticks to their goals.
Surround Yourself with Positive Influences
You aren’t likely to make it very far toward your goals if you are constantly surrounded by people who don’t believe in you or make your dreams feel small. These people are not worth keeping in your life and will only lead you to doubt yourself. Instead, fill your life with people who lift you up and believe in your dreams — the people who love and care about you will always treat you with respect and positivity! This will create a healthy environment for you to discuss your goals with friends and family and ultimately lead to positive self-talk, which science shows has a profound impact on reaching your goals.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t always mean friends and family. You may find yourself at a point in your life where you can’t see or speak to close friends or family for any number of reasons. Don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment with a counselor if this is the case! Counselors aren’t solely available to help you navigate your mental health —they can also be an excellent tool for discussing your goals and dreams while remaining unbiased in their guidance.
You’re Not Going to Give Up, Are You?
You have already come so far in your journey, and you have made great progress just by equipping yourself with the tools mentioned in this article. Sticking to your goals becomes much less intimidating when you know exactly how to do it!
In case you need a reminder, you ARE capable and worthy of achieving your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!