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Turn Resolutions into Doable, Practical Goals

Jan 16, 2015

Jan 16 Blog Trophy FINAL

A couple of weeks into second semester and grim reality has hit: it’s a new semester—a new year, even!— and things haven’t miraculously changed. You aren’t exactly jumping out of bed for your early class. You’re starting to slip behind on assigned readings. Those A’s aren’t magically appearing on assignments. And the healthy breakfast you imagined eating after your brisk morning walk has been replaced by sugary coffee concoctions and whatever snack you can ‘grab-to-go’ at the bus-stop coffee joint…if you even make it that far: usually you end up obsessively playing Bejeweled Blitz under the covers because it’s too cold to go outside.

It’s easy to beat yourself up because you didn’t come out of the gate galloping. But you’re actually OK: a better way to successfully tackle your goals is to keep them manageable and realistic—and consistently strive towards reaching those goals year round, not just on landmark dates like your birthday or New Year’s Day.

  • So, how do you turn New Year’s resolutions into manageable and attainable goals?

    Break it down:

    For example, instead of completely overhauling your diet and exercise routine all at once, introduce one new healthy food a day and aim to hit the gym three times a week. (Or mix it up with something fun that doesn’t seem like a work out, likeplaying intramural sports with your res floor or organizing a snowball fight with a group of friends). Instead of setting your alarm at a jarringly early time, set it five minutes earlier each day until your reach your goal of waking an hour earlier.
  • Introduce change all year:

    The idea behind New Year’s resolutions is that you set a specific date to make big changes and go for it. That may work for some, but for others it can backfire. A better strategy may be to slowly introduce changes in your life throughout the year.
  • Push through...and do things you don't want to do:

    It's a fact of life. Resolutions promote the idea that you need to be in a certain mind space before you can get started with the hard work of change. Accept lack of motivation, indifference, that 'meh' feeling...and do it anyway!
  • Avoid beating yourself up:

    It's natural to stumble a bit—you skip breakfast, procrastinate on a project, sleep in, basically get off track in some way. Move past it and move on. Don't let a temporary setback be an excuse to give up on your goals. Missteps on the road to success are natural. The key is to re-commit and keep at it!

The key thing to remember is: don’t engage or all or nothing thinking. “I have to do it perfectly or not at all.” That only sets you up for failure. There's a healthy way to achieve your goals: Aim to be what Brené Brown, TED talks presenter and author of The Gifts of Imperfection, calls a 'Healthy Striver' instead of a perfectionist. Be kind to yourself, really savour your successes and understand that things may not always work out exactly how you planned.

Find out more about goal setting and avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism by visiting your student counselling centre or academic services department.