Setting Actionable, Attainable Self-Improvement Goals for 2019

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Start doing something good and stop doing something bad. Isn’t that what New Year’s resolutions are all about? Every year it’s the same story. About 60 percent of the population resolves to change their lives for the better — and within a few months half fall of the wagon.

The sad truth is that New Year’s resolutions are often short-term pick-me-ups for some of us to feel like we’re working toward improving our lives without having to follow through. Maybe our intentions are good, but maybe we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

So this year, instead of going through the frustrating process of making vague commitments to get in better shape, lose weight, work harder, travel more and eat better, let’s try to make small, measurable changes along the way to self-improvement.

Here are some actionable tips to help keep your goals realistic so you’re not just setting goals and then giving up on them:

Overly Ambitious Isn’t Always Good

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents limited your sweets intake, and how it tended to make you want them even more? So the first chance you got, you gorged on candy bars. Being overly restrictive can backfire. You could apply the same reasoning to a lofty goal.

If your goal is to quit sugar in 2019 but you aren’t a healthy eater to begin with, it may be too ambitious to say you’re going to completely cut sugar out of your diet. Structure, limits, and routine make more sense and give you the chance to cultivate real change.

“Small, incremental lifestyle changes may feel less sexy, but they have a much greater chance of creating real change,” writes HuffPost contributor Carolyn Gregoire. “According to Dr. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and nutrition professor at Baylor College of Medicine, moderating your resolutions could be the difference between giving up in February and creating a lasting lifestyle change.”

Even Sarah Wilson, the author of the 2012 best-selling book “I Quit Sugar,” eats some sugar now. In addition to her book, the author’s eight-week sugar detox program is designed to rid yourself of sugar so that you can eventually eat a small amount again without becoming addicted to it. Moderation is a good thing. It’s also a good idea to read up on new undertakings.

If You Really Want to Do It, You’ll Do It

 As Forbes contributor Erika Andersen puts it: “Unless you want to do the thing you’ve resolved to do more than the thing you’re currently doing — you won’t do it.”

Let’s say someone is always complaining about their job and keeps talking about quitting. You’d think that if they actually wanted to quit they would, because people end up doing what they really want to do.

“Not the things you say you want to do — but the things you actually want to do,” Andersen wrote. “In fact, I’m convinced that any time we say we want to do something over and over again and don’t — it’s because we really don’t want to.”

Someone who really wants to find a new job would be updating their resume, networking, or applying for jobs instead of complaining. As you head into the new year, you may be wondering if your career is going in the right direction or if it’s time to go down a new career path. Launching a career change in the new year could be the exciting, new opportunity you’ve been looking for.

Think About the Steps It Takes to Get There

 Let’s say you pick one or two resolutions to tackle. Outline your goals using the S.M.A.R.T. method — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

  • Specific: Identify your goal in clear terms. If you want to exercise more throughout the year, be prepared to identify what exactly that entails. Do you want to go the gym twice a week for six months?  Or do you want to hire a personal trainer for three months? Do you want to buy a pass for yoga classes?
  • Measurable: Be able to easily track your progress. In the case of exercise, keep a journal or use a sports tracking app to document your workouts.
  • Attainable: Pick a goal you think you can reasonably do — one that’s not too hard and not too easy. If one of your goals is to travel more, what does that look like? Do you want to visit more cities in the U.S. or do you want to go to Bali?
  • Realistic: If your goal is to travel throughout the year and specifically see some of the largest cities in the world on foot, can you really make this happen on your budget and with time constraints?
  • Time-oriented: How long it will take to reach the goal.

If you’re able to break up individual goals into steps, they become more manageable and easier to accomplish. It’s those small steps that propel you forward to reach your ultimate goal, so don’t underestimate them. Being specific will lead to successful resolutions too. Set and work toward those personal goals in 2019!

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