Struggling With New Year Goals? Career Coach Offers Tips

Focus on smaller goals and don't make them too big or too vague

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We’re a few days into January, and if you haven't figured out how you're going to tackle your new year's resolutions yet, don't stress.

There are some techniques life and career coaches recommend to get you started.

One is called the "SMART" method, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?
  • How will I track it?
  • What resources do I need to achieve this?
  • Is this realistically within reach?
  • When do I want to reach this goal?

Casey Hasten, a Dallas-based ICF-certified executive coach and author, recommends another technique called "mind mapping." Draw a circle and write your goal in the middle. From there, map outlines on how you think you can accomplish that goal.

She recently created an interactive journal to help people structure their goals.

She said perhaps the first most important thing everyone needs to do while planning their year is to write it down.

“People that write down their goals are 40% more likely to achieve them,” said Hasten. “When you write it down, it’s a process called double encoding. So your brain is picturing it as you’re writing it down but then when you look at what you wrote down, it takes a picture and it stores it in a different place. Now you don’t even have to consciously think about what you wrote down – your brain is going to be chewing on it subconsciously for the rest of the day.”

Another strategy that works for some people while creating their list of goals is to include some that might seem over the top.

“Think about Elon Musk, when he set a goal to go to space, he set a goal to go to Mars. He set a stretch goal that went just a little mile further,” said Hasten. “Set some stronger goals. Set your own target, something that is achievable. But then, set that stretch goal as well. It's what I call a bonus target. If you don’t hit it, that’s OK. Because you can still hit your on target. You can even set a minimum target.”

Experts say it’s important to find the method that works for you. Some like to focus on smaller goals – don't make them too big or too vague.

For instance, if your goal is to get in shape -- perhaps that in itself is too vague. Reframe your goal to taking a walk around the block once a day and work your way from there.

Plan to accomplish one thing per week, something called "the science of small wins." It can give you the momentum and motivation to do the next thing a little bigger each week.

You can also track your journey in accomplishing your goals in a journal.

“If it’s just a notebook, write it down each day. Start your day with gratitude, talk about why you’re grateful because it’s going put you in a positive mindset,” said Hasten. “Write down what it is that you want to accomplish that day – your thoughts, your feelings, and your intention for the day.”

She also recommends finding an accountability partner.

“I think the biggest piece to accomplishing your goals is accountability. Share your goals with someone who can hold you accountable, that could be a coach or a friend,” she said. “I particularly share with my significant other. We actually journal together in the morning and then share what our intentions and plans are for the day because then that holds us accountable. Even if they don’t check in with you, the fact that you said it to them it’s like you’re making a promise to yourself.”

And if you’ve heard a myth about it taking 21 days to build a habit, turns out there’s some more truth to that.

Research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology shows it actually can take at least two to three months for it stick, so don't be hard on yourself if you're struggling after only three weeks.

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