Don’t let New Year’s resolution failure fool you. Setting goals is a good thing.
Let’s talk about goals.
Wait! Not New Year’s resolutions. I mean regular, everyday goal setting; those goals that you can (and should) start at any time. Although around 80 percent of us fail to achieve our New Year’s resolutions, setting a goal—a SMART goal—will make you feel better. And in some cases, literally.
A SMART goal is a task based on something Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. And while resolutions may bite the dust two months after we set them in place, the truth is that almost half of us (40 to 45 percent) continue to make goals for ourselves each year.
We, as humans, struggle with following through on New Year’s resolutions. But the practice of continually setting goals is a good thing. Here are six reasons why.
- Setting goals improves focus.
Do you know how it feels to merely coast through life, where you find yourself simply reacting to things? When you target your energies into achieving a specific goal, you are forcing action.
“Goal setting helps you align focus with behavior because you get feedback on your progress,” says Forbes contributor Jeff Boss. “The actions you take—or avoid—offer clues about your values, beliefs, challenges, strengths and weaknesses which allow you to course correct as necessary and reset your goal achievement strategy (and subsequently, your focus).”
- The right goals get you motivated.
Goals that truly make an impact are those that are specific and follow a timeline toward completion. For example, instead of making a goal to be thinner, a well-thought-out goal will include a series of smaller goals that encourage weight loss and are arranged over a month, a year, or two even years.
“Think of your goal as the destination. Now think of each step you take toward that goal as a smaller yet attainable step to get you there,” explains Dave Richards, a performance and leadership coach. “If your goal is to launch a business someday, your smaller steps would include defining your products or services or getting funds to start up.”
- Accomplishing goals improves your self-image.
There is no better feeling than one of accomplishment. And when you set attainable goals, your success at achieving those goals is an incredible boost to your self-esteem. Keep in mind the operative word here is “attainable.”
“By setting goals and achieving them, you send a signal to your brain that you are successful which builds confidence and pride in yourself and that helps build your self-esteem,” says Jennifer Silvershein. “We all love to feel accomplished and meeting or exceeding your goals does just that.”
By setting up a primary goal, which is your main objective, and secondary goals, which are the stepping stones that move you toward your primary goal, Silvershein believes “you can set yourself up for success with the right mindset and the right tools.”
- Goalsetting staves off depression.
This process of identifying a primary goal that’s supported by secondary goals boosts your self-image. But it can also stave off mild forms of depression. “Setting goals and targets can sometimes help when a person is feeling demotivated,” reports Jayne Leonard. “However, it is important to make sure that goals are achievable, specific, and realistic.”
For instance, a goal to no longer be depressed may not be all that successful as a stand-alone goal. But setting a goal that is proven to help treat minor forms of depression, such as to eat two servings of fruits and vegetables every day or exercise daily, makes reducing or eliminating depression an added benefit to your primary goal, which may be losing twenty pounds. This brings us to the next benefit: your health.
- Setting goals is good for your health.
Of Inc.com’s ten top New Year’s resolutions of 2019, five dealt with improving our health. So while we may not always follow through on those resolutions, they are certainly on our minds. In fact, out of the 2,000 people surveyed, 71 percent of them wanted to eat healthier in the coming year. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed planned to exercise more, and over half (54 percent) hoped to lose weight. Whether you are a fan of New Year’s resolutions or not, making conscious goals about lifestyle changes will have a positive impact on your overall health.
“Staying engaged in life as you age is essential for your health,” say experts at Harvard Health. “Goals should revolve around a purpose in your life: What matters to you now? What is important?” Once again, setting up a SMART goal will help connect your goals with a meaningful outcome within a specified amount of time. And when it comes to goals about your health, the end result feels great.
- Setting goals benefits other people.
Let’s consider for a moment what the process of setting goals is doing. According to research by goal-setting theorists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, goals not only affect behavior and work performance, but they also ignite a desire to put forth a higher and more persistent effort. And because with every action there’s a reaction, people around you are impacted by your efforts.
For example, if your goals are to be more productive and efficient at work and to manage your time better, you’ll likely return home sooner. Depending on what goals you’ve made regarding your habits at home, your family will benefit from the time you are able to spend with them. Perhaps you’ve made a goal to be more patient or a better listener. Those efforts impact others.
You will likely see similar positive effects if you have a goal to volunteer in your child’s school every month or plant a vegetable garden and share your harvest with neighbors. And as the cycle of goal-setting continues, you’ll be motivated to set more goals because of the positive feedback you receive from those who’ve benefited from your efforts. See? Win-win.
Don’t let the bad publicity surrounding resolutions fool you. Setting goals is a good thing. Nothing else is more effective and empowering than setting goals that improve your health, quality of life, focus, and contributions to the things you care about most. So let’s hear it for the new year and make it a goal to ensure it’s the best one ever.