Katelyn Lukensmeyer MSW, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first month of a new year! The holidays are over, kids are back to school, and you’re crushing those new 2024 goals, right? Right?
The resolutions we set for the new year often start off great; we feel motivated, ambitious, and hopeful at the prospect of, “the new me!” Then, the holidays end, the kids go back to school, a foot of snow falls, the kids return home, your entire house gets sick, your to-do list grows, your resolutions take a back seat, and feelings of failure or defeat start to creep in.
It’s around this time of year, when clients start saying some variety of, “I’ve already ruined my resolutions for 2024, maybe 2025 will be my year!” If you’re feeling this way, and wondering what you can do differently, here are a few common “Mistakes” and “Fixes” when it comes to setting and executing those New Year’s goals!
Mistake 1. We set a LOT of goals all at once! “I’m going to get back to the gym, meal-prep every Sunday, spend more time with friends and family, go to church more, stop eating fast-food, become a volunteer, stop spending money on things I don’t need, etc. etc.”
Perhaps your goal list isn’t THIS extensive, but the point here is that change does not have to happen all at once, and really shouldn’t happen all at once.
THE FIX 1: SIMPLIFY! Narrow your list to 1-2 goals to focus on today, this week, this month. We want to create motivation and momentum by setting reasonable goals. The example goals above are not individually unreasonable, but become unreasonable when trying to work on them all at once.
Mistake 2: We set (unattainable) time-limits. “I want to lose 40lbs in 3 weeks.” “I want to learn to speak another language fluently by April 1st.” Again, these may be exaggerated examples, but time frames should be used to track progress not perfection. Setting deadlines may seem like a good motivator to reach goals faster, but the “achievement” is often temporary or unsustainable.
THE FIX 2: Make your goal ATTAINABLE, by setting goals within the goal. The ultimate end goal, might be something that requires a great deal of time and effort, which can feel very overwhelming or even impossible. We want to increase the chances of success by changing the way we perceive the problem, and the belief that we are capable of overcoming it.
What is something small that you know you can easily achieve? Make that your first step, and build from there. If your goal is to build your self-esteem, today you can start by saying 1 thing you like about yourself aloud! If you want to start working out, today you can focus just on putting gym shoes ontomorrow you put your gym shoes on and walk to the mailbox! Give yourself grace and celebrate the small victories!
Mistake 3: We want immediate results! This leads a lot of people to start at a spot they are simply not ready for yet. If your goal is to eat healthier and spend less money going out to eat, you may tell yourself, “starting Monday, I will cook all meals at home and only go out to eat on the weekends.”
While the example may or may not be reasonable or attainable, the focus is more on the execution of achieving our goals.
THE FIX 3: BE FLEXIBLE AND PATIENT. In the example above, the goal starts at 5 days a week. If you are someone who cooks an average of 1 meal at home per month, this goal would most likely be unsuccessful without other goals/steps put in place first. When we set a goal that requires a drastic change in daily routine, it’s important to take the time to build that foundation and allow time for trial and error. By setting the initial expectation too high, we leave very little room to experience the feelings of success, and a lot of room for feelings of failure.
Remember, success is measured by your own personal progress, not how you compare yourself to others!