With each new year I have the urge to reinvent myself: I’ll find a new hobby, I’ll work harder in school, I’ll eat well…the list goes on. But, as you may have guessed, I’ve never actually achieved any of these goals, and chances are you haven’t stuck to your New Year’s resolutions either. In fact, only 8% of people actually do!
While we start the year with the best of intentions, we often frame our goals in a way that doesn’t set us up for success. We can let external pressure define our goals, and, more often, we set unrealistic goals that simply cannot be achieved. So, what are healthy, attainable goals, and how can they be set?
Setting a Goal
A goal should be meaningful and personal—we all want to feel as if we have accomplished something significant. When setting new goals, it is helpful to look to the future and seek new opportunities and to also reflect on your values. Reflection can take whatever form feels most comfortable. Below are some points to help guide your thoughts:
1. Think about the values that are most important to you. How would you like to be of service to others? What makes you happy?
2. Reflect on how you achieved those values last year. What are you proud of? Which values did you enact the best?
3. Reflect on the ways in which you did not live up to those values. What steps can you take to overcome those challenges this year?
What is a Healthy Goal?
Now that you’ve chosen your goals, assess whether or not they are realistic and beneficial. Just because we want to do something doesn’t always mean that we should. A healthy goal should motivate you and be realistic and measurable.
To sustain the effort needed to achieve a goal, it’s important that your motivation comes from within. Achieving something for yourself is a rewarding, even empowering experience. Before setting a goal, reflect on why you are setting it and whom it is for. This can be difficult; we often do things under the influence of friends, family, social norms, or the media without realizing it. Reflect honestly and openly about your motivation for a goal before selecting it.
While I could set out to travel the world this year, it’s probably not going to happen. By setting goals that are overly idealistic, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We cannot change others or totally reinvent ourselves—there are limits on what we can achieve and control. Assess your own limitations and abilities and choose goals that are challenging, but achievable.
How will you know when you have achieved your goal? I can say that I want to get in shape, but what does that mean? Is it losing weight? How many push-ups I can do? When choosing your goal, set distinct, measurable milestones to monitor your progress and achievements.
Ultimately, when you’re setting a New Year’s resolution—and actually trying to stick to it—make sure you set SMART goals ! Know your priorities and values and take realistic, measurable steps to realize them. When you set healthy goals this New Year, you’ll be a better you!
Julia Rodriguez, Beta Psi/McGill, is the recipient of Theta Foundation’s Joyce Ault Cordon Scholarship and is a senior at McGill University this year. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Development with a minor in Hispanic Languages.
This blog post is part of the Scholar Blogger series, showcasing four of Theta’s leading women who are sharing their experiences, insight, and advice on topics relevant to all students. Learn more about the Scholar Blogger series and this year’s bloggers here.