Setting goals for the year ahead

January 16, 2023

The beginning of a new year often sparks a desire to start fresh and make changes to yourself or your lifestyle. Many people make resolutions around exercising more, removing certain foods or drinks from their diet, or reducing their screen time. But the “new year, new you” isn’t as simple to accomplish as it sounds. With all the pressures to suddenly become a ‘better’ version of yourself, the chances of failing to achieve your resolutions, whatever they may be, are high. But there are simple ways you can set personal goals and make meaningful progress towards them.

A good place to start is to set intentions rather than resolutions. Carmel Watson, Organizational Assistance Specialist of Employee Assistance Services with Manitoba Blue Cross, explains the difference: “A newer idea that people are adopting is setting a New Year’s intention. Where resolutions tend to focus on the things you need to ‘fix’ about yourself or your life, which automatically sets the stage for self-criticism and negativity, an intention is more focused on creating an opportunity in your life where there’s more flexibility and compassion. The beautiful thing about an intention is that it is ongoing growth throughout the year and tends to focus on expanding on positive things that we either already have in our life or we want to add.”

Setting intentions or personal goals throughout the year helps you to continually engage in self-reflection and to challenge yourself in ways you never thought were possible. When you identify what is important to you, you can then prioritize your time and energy to ensure you are spending your efforts on things that matter most.

And most importantly as Watson reminds us, “If your goals don’t spark excitement in some way, you should question whether these are the right goals for you at that time. You are less likely to follow through on putting any time or energy into achieving your goal if you aren’t excited about it or if it’s someone else’s goal for you.”

Here are a few suggestions Watson gives to help set yourself up for success:

  1. Make your goals SMART: A mnemonic acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This will help you create clear, achievable goals where you can track your progress.
  2. Share your goal: Share your goals with someone close to you who will not only cheer you on but also hold you accountable if you start drifting away from your goal. It’s important to choose these people wisely. Don’t choose someone who will shame you or make you feel bad if you’re off track but rather someone who will gently remind you of your goals.
  3. Give yourself permission to adjust your goal: Setbacks are common and if we can use compassion with ourselves and take the attitude that every misstep is an opportunity to learn and adjust, then we are less likely to abandon our plan all together. Give yourself permission to adjust your goals to suit your situation and the lessons that you’ve learned along the way. Just because your goal was one thing at the beginning of the year doesn’t mean you can’t change it up. You’re the one who gets to decide these things.
  4. Write your goals down: Research has shown that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. Consider creating a goal setting journal or using a goal tracking app.
  5. Celebrate your progress: It's important to celebrate your achievements along the way, no matter how small they may seem. This will help keep you motivated and encourage you to keep going.

By setting and working towards personal goals, you can create a sense of purpose and direction, build self-confidence, understand your motivation, and ultimately improve your overall well-being.

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Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get counselling support. Begin the process here.

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