We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-term. The frustration that results is one big reason why so many New Year’s resolutions die before spring.
If you use key strategies that are supported by deeply-held values, you’ll set better goals and achieve them.
Know Your Values
Knowing your values can provide clarity on what you want to achieve in life.
- What’s important to you?
- What makes you excited to get up in the morning?
- What are the passions and interests that fill your time when you’re not working?
If you’re still unsure of your values, explore your values by trying new things like volunteering at your local church or community center. It may reveal a passion for teaching or philanthropy that you never knew you had.
Align Goals with Values
Behavioral scientists have found that achieving goals is rarely a matter of ability or knowledge. A person wanting to lose weight knows that eating ice cream five nights a week is not compatible with weight loss. Yet, the reason they keep eating ice cream is often due to a lack of motivation. The immediate pleasure can be greater than reaching the long-term goal of losing weight.
The more important a goal is to us, the more motivated we are to achieve it. Asking “Why?” can help you align your goals with your values and increase motivation.
- Why should I stop eating ice cream five nights a week? Because I want to be healthier.
- Why do I want to be healthier? So that I can live a longer and more active life.
- Why do I want to live longer and be more active? So that I can do more things with my children and grandchildren.
We have now identified core values — health and family — that are tied to the goal. These values will make the goal more important and more likely to be reached.
Develop an Action Plan
Asking “Why?” helps us move our goal-setting to a higher, value-driven space. Asking “How?” helps us drill down into specific actions we can take to achieve those goals.
“I want to lose weight” is the sort of goal many people set and then abandon. That’s because it’s too vague. The better question is, “How am I going to lose weight?” The answer matters, too. Be specific with your answer such as riding your bike through your neighborhood every morning or jogging 30 minutes three days every week.
Measuring is Motivating
Whatever goal you set, try to keep score. It could be as simple as pulling out a piece of blank paper and putting a check mark on it for each day you don’t eat ice cream. We find that the act of keeping score creates its own momentum and can be like a “pat on the back” for a job well done.
Even a perfectly-set, highly-motivated goal will be challenging. Some lazy Saturday you’ll snooze past your workout. You’ll cheat on your diet. But that’s okay! We’re all human. Roll with it that day but then get right back to your plan.
Most importantly, stay positive. If your goals truly are aligned with your values, then working towards them shouldn’t feel like punishment. When you experience setbacks, try to embrace them as learning opportunities and adjust your action plan accordingly.