With a show of hands, who here has ever achieved one of their New Year’s goals? If you raised your hand, congratulations! If you didn’t, no worries, we’re still in the first quarter of the new year so you still have a strong chance to do so.
But this begs the question, why do some people find it easier to achieve their New Year’s goals than others? What magic are they doing and how can you do that for yourself?
Well, sorry to say but there’s no magic, there are personality traits that goal-getters do have in common though.
Let’s talk about 10 of those:
1) They set SMART goals
In case you didn’t know, SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. What does this mean?
I’ll explain it using a popular goal as an example: Spend less.
Let’s set that goal a little SMART-er, shall we?
- Specific: Setting a goal more specifically will give you clarity and direction in achieving said goal.
So instead of just saying “Spend less,” you can say “I want to cut down on ordering takeouts by 50%.” Or “I want to reduce impulsive sale purchases to once every quarter.”
Limiting the scope of your goal will help you stay focused. You can also just break down a larger goal into smaller, more manageable goals.
- Measurable: How will you track your progress and milestones if your goal is so vague?
Now I’ll use one of the specific goals I’ve mentioned above: “I want to cut down on ordering takeouts by 50%.” To track your progress, you can set a budget and check weekly or monthly if you’re following this set budget.
- Attainable: Be realistic.
Sure, “I don’t want to order any takeouts at all,” is an admirable goal but be realistic if this works for your lifestyle.
- Relevant: As said in the article I linked above by career coach Jennifer Herrity, “When setting goals for yourself, consider whether they are relevant. Each of your goals should align with your values and larger, long-term goals.”
Quickly think back to your previous failed goals and resolutions and see if they aligned with your long-term ones. If you failed those, this could be one reason why. More on this on #2
(This is my roundabout way of giving a pep talk that your previous failures are just learning experiences. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
- Time-based: Set a time frame or a deadline.
Personally, nothing motivates me harder than a deadline. Regardless if you’re the same as me, working within a time frame can help keep us on track.
Important: A deadline for your goal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an end all be all situation. It could just be a point where you reevaluate your goals, whether you hit milestones or not.
Deadlines can be a good time to check your progress and change strategies if you end up not hitting your desired milestones.
Deadlines could also just be a cause of celebration if you do end up progressing the way you want.
2) They are motivated
You’ve set your SMART goals, now ask yourself, why are you setting them?
Are you setting New Year’s resolutions for the heck of it? Because everyone’s doing it?
It’s easy to lose sight of your goals if they’re not really important to you in the long run. Easier to stop tracking progress if you really have no interest in it or if it doesn’t impact you.
For example, last year, a goal I gave myself was that I wanted to learn the Korean language (I didn’t set it SMART-ly, don’t be like me.) I sorta did it, I can read and write the language and can even say sentences.
But I’m soldiering on this year because my long-term goal is to write a poem in Korean. It’s a silly little dream but it’s what motivates me.
So reflect on your why (they don’t need to be grand or life-altering), anchor them in your values, and look at your goals again and see which one actually is true to you. Revise accordingly.
3) They prioritize
Overwhelming yourself will lead to frustration and maybe even burnout, so learn to prioritize. (This is also sage advice for life in general.)
If you have multiple goals (and most of us do), determine the hierarchy of importance. And within those goals, rank the tasks within it.
It’s not sustainable to give your 100% attention to everything all at once. Even our browsers get super slow when there are too many tabs open.
So divide and conquer. You got this.
4) They are disciplined
You don’t form a habit just by doing things once. Commit to doing one thing towards a goal every single day.
It doesn’t even need to be an enormous task. Let’s use the takeout expense reduction as an example. Your small daily task could just be checking if you’re within budget.
Or it could be making sure your meals are planned ahead so you don’t find yourself in situations that would require a takeout.
Small ripples cause big waves, after all.
This #4 is heavily connected to the next one which is Consistency.
5) They are consistent
During his acceptance speech for Best Actor at the NAACP Image Awards 2017, Denzel Washington threw this nugget of wisdom, “Without commitment, you’ll never start, but more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish.”
Whenever I come across stories of individuals replanting a whole forest or making animal sanctuaries or maybe even just starting smaller initiatives, I’m reminded of the fact that those initiatives started with a small action.
That replanted forest must have started from a seed or a cutting. A sanctuary could have started as just one rescued animal. An entire art exhibit could have just been one painting to begin with.
An entire restaurant borne from one childhood dish, one family recipe, or one dream. An entire acting career could have been built from multiple failed auditions, one commercial, or one big break.
Sure, I just mentioned life-altering goals above and probably not what a normal New Year’s resolution would include but the point stands: Consistency is key.
6) They are okay with failing
Jake the Dog from Adventure Time said it best, “Dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” (You didn’t think you’d get a Denzel quote and a cartoon character quote in one article, did ya? Ha.)
Why am I talking about failing when our topic is achieving something? Well, let me tell you, so many people run at the first sign of failure, myself included.
I get it though. Failure sucks, it feels like a hit to our confidence and self-esteem but know this, to fail is to also learn.
Let’s use our sample goal from before: Reduce takeout expenses by 50%
If in January, you met your budget goal but failed in February, do you just forget the progress you’ve made? I sure hope not.
Go back to the drawing board and learn where you failed then plan better. And I’m going to paraphrase this quote that I don’t know who to attribute to: You won’t be starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience.
7) They try again (and again)
Let’s face it, several factors of our day-to-day living can hinder progress toward our goals but the point here is not to do one big thing and then stop, the point here is to keep trying.
When I started learning Korean, I got frustrated. I kept mispronouncing things, I read too slowly, I couldn’t make sentences properly, and I kept forgetting what I’d learned.
And then I didn’t try to learn anything for a whole month.
You know where I failed? I tried to do everything all at once and expected I would get it right the first time. That’s not sustainable or efficient. Luckily I got back on track and went easier on myself.
Motivation comes in handy here, I knew my “why”, so even if the failure was still stinging, I tried again. And much, much more patient this time.
8) They are patient with themselves
I know we’re talking about New Year goals here but this advice goes beyond that: Be patient with yourself.
If you fail, tried, then failed again, be patient with yourself even then. If you’re not reaching your milestones as quickly as you may have wanted, be patient with yourself.
Things take time, don’t lead the situation with frustration. It’s going to do more harm than good if so.
So if you fail or if things are taking too long, be patient.
9) They are adaptive
And flexible. Goals can change, after all. The values you started with in January might be different in August, so constantly aligning your goals with the present really helps.
I’ll use our sample goal: For the first quarter of the year, you managed to hit your goal of reducing your takeout expense by 50%
But you’re unhappy. Maybe you look forward to treating yourself after a long day but the budget restraint doesn’t allow you.
Or it could be that the takeout expense was reduced by half but your groceries expense tripled so it didn’t make sense to your budget holistically. Whatever it may be, being adaptive is a good trait to have.
Personally, after my first failed attempt at learning Korean, I adapted to new ways of studying. I found that I didn’t learn well from strict lessons and I recalled things better if I heard them.
I added the fact that I recall words faster when I listen to Korean songs so the way I moved forward was this: I printed out songs I loved and learned from them. Vocabulary, pronunciation, and reading activities were based on those songs, too!
10) They celebrate wins
CELEBRATE. YOUR. WINS. No matter how small.
We often notice the losses more than our wins and there are times we dismiss our small victories because they seem insignificant.
Well, let me be your cheerleader this time to say: CELEBRATE THAT SMALL WIN. From now to the end of the year is still a few months away, but next week could already bring you a milestone in your goal.
Celebrate it. Reward yourself for your effort, and at the very least give yourself a pat on the back.
You’re changing your life (hopefully for the better) and attempting something new. This could very well be uncharted territory for you yet here you are, trying. That in itself is a win.
With this, I hope this coming year will be filled with good things for you. More than that, I hope you accept the opportunities and changes that will come your way.
May you reach your goals this 2023. All the best!
Can you believe it’s 2023?! I’m still trying to process 2022 (and 2021 and 2020 if I’m being completely honest) but here we are. Another New Year