New Year Goals

By Shelley Galasso Bonanno, MA, LLP

The end of the year is often a time of reflection, providing us the opportunity to review progress toward our goals. The start of a new year can be an exciting and motivating time, offering us a marker for new beginnings.

Every year, many of us commit to resolutions designed to improve our lives. These goals might include career, personal, or relationship goals. Sometimes the goals extend to improving the world outside ourselves. Yet, resolutions can be very difficult. While goals can easily inspire us, they can also just as easily drain us, becoming overwhelming and feeling ‘unachievable.’ Life has a way of derailing us from our initial lofty goals. Yet while it is difficult to remain inspired and motivated to achieve our goals, it is possible, and can lead to a great sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem.

Here are some ways to make goals more realistic, manageable, and achievable:

Break down goals into small increments.
Bite-size pieces are easier to swallow. Rather than identifying one large, nonspecific goal, set a specific, attainable sub-goal. For example, instead of saying, “I will get in shape this year’ instead say, ‘I will be aware of what I eat each day and keep a food journal.’ Or perhaps instead of working toward ‘making the world a better place,’ a more specific goal such as, ‘I will be kind to one person I meet today,’ would be easier to measure for progress.”

Embrace your goals.
Find what motivates you and you’re more likely to stay on track. Identify what inspires and excites you. Making a list and ranking your goals could prove helpful and inspiring. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Try setting no more than two to three goals at a time.

Be specific.
Rather than say, “I’m going to get in shape’ this year, set specific, measurable goals. For example, a sub-goal would identify behaviors, such as, “Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will exercise for one hour.” An end goal could be, “My waist measurement will be … by the end of the year.”

Don’t burn out.
Listen to your mind and body. They provide valuable feedback. It’s okay to give yourself a break or ‘take time off,’ and still achieve your goals. For example, if your goal is weight loss, consider giving yourself permission for one ‘splurge day’ a week while eating healthy the six remaining days of the week.

Seek support.
Ongoing motivation often requires support from others seeking the same goals. Joining a support group and connecting with others who can help us stay focused on our goals is often helpful. Working toward any goal alone can often feel isolating, which often makes it harder to achieve.

Hold yourself accountable. Assess your progress. Whatever frequently feels best for you — daily, weekly or monthly. Then consider which strategies worked best toward achieving your goals and which did not. Give yourself a pat on the back for staying on track. Reward yourself in small increments. Assess new ways of working toward your goals, letting go of strategies that were not useful.

Go easy and forgive yourself. One mistake does not result in a total failure. Remember, there is always tomorrow to begin again.

A lifelong resident of Macomb County, Shelley Galasso Bonanno is a practicing limited licensed psychologist who earned her master’s degree from Wayne State University in 1987. She has a breadth of experience in working with adults, children, families, and couples. In addition to working in private practice, Ms. Bonanno performs consultative services for State and forensic agencies. She performs custody and parenting time evaluations and is a court approved mediator. Her writings have appeared in various online and print publications. An advocate for mental health, you can follow Ms. Bonanno on Twitter @shelleybonanno.

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