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Most new year's resolutions tend to fail by February. At the end of the day, most people are really just not that great at setting goals and seeing them through. However, there are some proven scientific strategies that can help you keep the promises you make to yourself. Let's take a look.
1. Set a theme in-line with your personality
Setting goals is something that we do naturally, whether to improve our life in some way or just to give us something to strive towards. However, highly specific goals can be damaging, especially when they fall outside of your comfort zone.
Having hyper-specific goals means that we're setting ourselves up for failure, even when something relatively close to the goal occurs. To understand the psychology behind this and why it might be better to set a theme for your goals, rather than having specific goals, take a look at the video below.
2. Don't be strict
Following in line with the idea of setting a theme, we also want to make sure that we give ourselves room to breathe as we try to accomplish our goals. Being overly strict can take the fun out of accomplishing the goal in the first place.
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Accomplishing a goal takes a variety of paths, often different from the one you originally mapped when you set the goal in the first place. Don't lock yourself and your brain into one track for achievement, but rather allow yourself to get to the end, in whichever way you can.
3. Track everything and reward yourself for the small stuff
Monitoring and tracking progress of goals has been shown to be one of the most useful things you can do for actually accomplishing that end goal. By tracking goals in individual segments, it ultimately breaks down one big goal into multiple easily achievable goals. After a while, you start getting used to doing "the little things." Then, succeeding at larger things gets easier.
4. Move slowly
Uprooting your life and completely shifting to a new lifestyle isn't easy. For example, immediately shifting from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one takes a lot of grit and determination, which are traits not everyone possesses. The best way to make changes is to slowly and progressively turn them into a habit.
Our brain's neuropathways require a lot of intensive training in order to be rewired. By moving slowly and utilizing neuroplasticity to your advantage, eventually, you'll start naturally doing the activities you were trying to do in the first place. Moving slowly makes things easier on our brains.
Lack of sleep increases the rates of depression and decreases the willpower in people. Sleeping is a crucial aspect of being able to achieve your goals. Without it, you just won't have the energy necessary to do your absolute best.
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On another note, when we don't sleep, or rather stay up late, we're usually not doing anything productive. Usually, the times where sleep would otherwise be occurring are filled with non-goal achieving things, like drinking, partying, or just browsing on your phone. Making sleep a priority and sleeping more, can actually give you more productive hours of the day.
6. Get rewarded
Drawing back to neuroplasticity and training our brain, one of the best ways of doing that is through a positive reward cycle. We discussed breaking down goals into smaller segments, but now, take those segments and figure out some way to reward yourself for them.
If you just work non-stop, you'll quickly burn out, and you won't have the willpower necessary to see out that long, lingering process from start to finish. Instead, every once in a while, give yourself mini-rewards, like taking a quick snack after a marathon study session.
If you're writing a book, give yourself time to do something desirable when you reach a certain point or points in the process. Working towards rewards on the way towards a goal can tremendously help boost your spirit.
7. Appreciate the little things
While we've firmly established that you should be rewarding yourself frequently, it's also good to take time during those small achievements to focus on attitude. Accomplishing a goal is usually a road of self-improvement. While you're on that road, don't forget to take the time to realize the importance of what you're doing.
Our brains like to forget what the ultimate purpose of a given goal is. Don't let it lose value and take time to stay focused.
8. Redefine success
Achieving a goal isn't always going to happen. But that doesn't mean you didn't do an incredible thing.
This concept ties back to the idea of creating a theme. If your goal is to win an Olympic gold medal, chances are there are ten other people gunning for the same gold medal as their goal. While determination and hard work can help increase your potential, even just getting close is a massive accomplishment—not a failure.
As you work towards goals in your lives, make sure you recognize the successes in failures.
9. Get social support
Humans are social creatures. Except for engineers, we prefer as little human interaction as possible. However, psychologists underscore the importance of having a support network around you when working towards a goal. The path to accomplishment can get rather lonely if you don't have a friend by your side. Make support in whatever way you can, even if just in an online group.