Secrets to Successful Goal Setting

January is fast upon us, and with it comes a new year full of new opportunity…and for many, resolutions. Come January 1, many of us are ready to hit the ground running with plans for self improvement and behavior changes. If by mid-month those resolutions have come down with the twinkle lights, you’re not alone: over half of resolutions fail. While we start with the best of intentions (and often set goals that will have positive impacts in our lives), our approach to goal setting is what sets us up to stumble. With the right strategies those changes can stick around long after the snow is gone, and we’re here to help.

Work from intentions

Work from intentions, not “must do’s.” Have you ever found yourself pulling back from a task, simply because someone told you that you had to do it? Achieving a goal feels much more manageable when it isn’t framed as something we “must” or “should” or “have to” do. If you’re approaching your goals based on what someone else (or society) is telling you, the goal isn’t likely to stick. By picking a goal that is meaningful to you and in line with your own intentions, you’re already setting yourself up for a successful new year.

Get SMART about planning

Steal a page from management strategy’s playbook and get smart about your goals. When formed in the SMART format, goals become easier to track and achieve. Let’s break down SMART:

Specific – time to take those intentions and create a clear goal. Planning on hitting the gym more often? Be specific – how often? A vague plan is hard to follow, create a concrete plan to help keep you on track.

Measurable – find a way to measure your goal, whatever it may be. Fitness and weight loss goals may appear to have easy targets to measure, but even healthy eating or habits can be measured. Want to eat more vegetables? Pick a serving amount to aim for each week. The best way to keep track of changes is to write them down, and lucky for you the Brook app is the perfect place to do that!

Attainable – filled with the vigor of a new year, it can be easy to shoot for the stars. While we like to aim high, it is important to consider what life looks like for you now to make sure your goals will fit into your life without creating an unnecessary burden. Barely have time to sleep and brush your teeth? An hour long gym session every day may not be in the cards. Start small and achievable – as you settle into a new routine and start to achieve results, you can always increase your goal!

Relevant – this comes back to setting goals with intention. Why are you setting this goal? Is it coming from a place of wanting to support and benefit your life, or is it coming from a place of negative self-talk and punishment? Ditch the deprivation and punishment, the best goals are the ones that allow you to thrive. If a goal comes from a place of negativity, it’s certainly no surprise that we’re willing to ditch it come February.

Timely – behavior change can take a long time, but that doesn’t mean your goals have to. Set a time-frame to work within – a little bit of structure can go a long way. If your timeline for achieving a goal is far off, it becomes easy to keep brushing aside the steps it may take for goal achievement. Having a close(r) deadline combats procrastination and turns “some day” into a real time. For larger habit changes, you can create in-between goals and checkpoints to keep the momentum going. The more you keep progressing, the easier a larger, long-term habit will be to build.

If you need a little more help breaking down those New Year’s resolutions into actions, check out our guide to setting SMART goals.

Create a plan

Now that you’ve created some goals, it’s time to put them into action. Starting with SMART goals sets you up to think about the ways in which you are going to start modifying your behavior, and a timeframe in which to do it. Even the SMART-est goals, however, won’t magically make themselves happen without a little bit of legwork. Ready to start those weekly gym trips you planned for? Make sure you have all the tools you need for successful visits – snacks to fuel you up before, appropriate attire, and water. Looking to increase your veggie intake? Set aside time to browse through recipes and make a shopping list. With a solid plan in place, you’ll be ready to take on your goals for months to come.

Break through barriers

Let’s face it, change can be hard and there will inevitably be hurdles that may set you back. While we can’t remove every barrier, a little bit of foresight and planning can make them easier to overcome. By thinking about the things that can make us stumble on our goals, we can start to create a plan should we find ourselves tripping. The best way to ensure that roadblocks don’t completely derail your goals? Be flexible. When setting plans and goals, create concrete steps to keep you on track but also remember that life may get in the way. If you’re finding that life is getting in the way a bit too much, check back in with yourself and your goals – maybe there are ways to modify your goal to make it more realistic so that you can keep moving forward. Progress doesn’t have to mean perfection, so take a deep breath and jump back in!

We’re here to help cheer you on and work through roadblocks as you reach your goals. Chat with us in your Brook app about goal planning and strategies for success. Log your progress in the app for feedback, support, and virtual high-fives.

Reviewed by Heather King, MS, RDN​, CDE

on December 2nd, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years, and is Brook's Health Director.