For most of the month of January, people are busy making new plans and setting exciting goals. The New Year seems like the perfect opportunity to try things, explore different pathways, and ultimately make positive changes in our lives. This might be as simple as starting a compost bin or taking dance classes. It might be as ambitious and signing up for further study or taking a new job. We’ve spoken before about goal setting, but how do we keep motivated a few months later?
If you can look at the list of ambitions you wrote or imagined for yourself at the beginning of this year and say, in all honesty, that you have achieved them all I applaud you. For everybody else who’s still working towards their goals, and finding the going tough, I’d like to say you are not alone. Real change takes a lot of time. Whatever you set out to achieve at the beginning of this year, and regardless of how well your plans have gone, now is the time to check back in with yourself and your progress. Changing behaviours and learning new habits takes a long time. Use this moment to assess how much progress you have made and re-energise yourself to do an even better job in the second half of the year.
1. Make a Start
When you’re riding a bike the first few pedals are the most effort. After that, it’s easier to spin the wheels because they’re already in motion. Our minds work in the same way. The more we sit and think about doing something, the harder it becomes to begin. So, get into the swing of it! Look at your plans for the next couple of days and figure out how to fit a few steps towards your goals in. Little things like ’20 Minutes of Research’ or ‘Jog around the block’ are important first steps towards achievements.
2. Make Room For the Good, Cut Out the Bad
Of the 24 hours available to us every day of the year, we have to spend around 8 of them asleep. Then we have to account hours for work, and commuting, cooking and shopping, walking the dog and cleaning the kitchen and the list goes on. It means that the remaining hours left in our day are increasingly precious. It’s important we look at the way we spend our time and make a decision about whether we are using our time the way we want to. That doesn’t necessarily mean being the busiest we can be. What it means is getting rid of mindless scrolling of the internet, or flicking between TV shows. Do everything with intention. If there is a TV show you love, sit down for one hour and watch it. Then when it’s over, stand up and do something else on your list, like an hour of reading, going for a run or studying.
3. Double Check Your Priorities
When setting goals, it is common for people to overestimate their capacity, or write a list too long to achieve within the time frame of one year. At this point in the year, it’s a good idea to look at your goal-setting list with a fresh perspective. Try highlighting the things you care most about, or that you believe you should devote the most attention to. In the coming months, take it easy on the rest of that list. Give yourself the best chance of achieving the things most important to you. It’s also OK to come to the realisation you don’t want the same things that you did at the start of the year! Maybe you’ve realised something you wanted to achieve is actually not for you. That would explain why you’re making slow progress doing it. Strike it off your list and focus on what really matters to you.
4. Acknowledge Your Setbacks and Successes
Sure, you might not have come as far as you thought you would have by this point in the year, but it’s important to remind yourself of what you have achieved. Look at all the things that have worked well so far this year and figure out why they were possible. Look at all the times you had a productive study session, or made it to the gym before work, and the reasons why you could do it. This helps us figure out how to make the good stuff happen again and again.
Just as much as things happen for a reason, things also don’t happen for a reason. Try to figure out what has been holding you back. Sometimes the answer is simple: your workload might not be manageable, or family matters might have taken first priority. It could just be that you’re trying to study too late at night, or there are too many distractions at home. Identify these problems and reflect on how you can eliminate them in the future. It’s all part of a process and it happens to everybody, so don’t guilt trip yourself.
5. Hold Yourself Accountable
Once you’ve got a plan in place, give yourself some extra motivation to get it done. Tell a friend what you’re planning on achieving and the date you want to have a set task finished by. If your ambition is a personal one, you don’t have to be very specific, but be as honest as you can be. The more they know, the more motivation you’ll feel to honour your commitment. Ask them to check up on you and ask how your progress is going. You can do the same for them.
Work together to motivate each other. A support network is super valuable, you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Stick up some sticky notes around the house, to act as daily reminders of the promise you’ve made to yourself.
The beginning is always the hardest part, so now that you’ve got the start of 2016 out of the way you’re all set to have greater success for the rest of the year. There’s no substitute for hard work.
There’s still time to make 2016 the year you kick some goals!