How to set goals for the New Year

How to set goals for the New Year

People can be awesomely optimistic, especially when it comes time to set goals for the New Year. It’s a fresh start, ‘this year I will become the person I want to be…’

Goals for the New Year can come with the idea that bad habits, indulgences and life patterns that have been in place for years, even practised every day, can simply be overridden by willpower.

It’s a tough call. Ditching your habits cold turkey, having to think carefully about activities you normally do so easily can be frustrating and exhausting. Your unconscious mind is thinking, ‘um, why are we doing all this work when we have a direct, fast and easy way, just there?’

As much as you try to argue, your brain eventually overrides your best intentions and takes the path of least resistance, sending you back to old habits again.

Bye-bye New Year’s goals and resolutions.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to change your life. It is, many people do, which is why we get so optimistic in the first place. There are people out there who have turned their lives around, living proof that you can too!

Like winning the lottery, the odds of success are insanely low. Did you know that only eight percent of people actually get their New Year’s resolutions to stick?

If you really want to set goals for the New Year and you really want those resolutions to work, we can help you increase your odds. Not just by a little bit. We can take your wish-upon-a-star and make it come true.

How to set goals for the New Year

You don’t have to know anything about psychology for this to work, in the same way you don’t have to know that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen to drink it. It’s water that’s wet. This is goal-setting strategies that work in a way your brain understands and accepts.

It’s all about Cause and Effect

It’s not about lifestyle or how big or small your goal is or how much willpower you have. It’s about mindset.

People either have the mindset of “How can I cope?” Effect. Or the mindset of “How can I get better” Cause.

Living in effect means everything happens to you. You know those cartoons with a person standing under their own personal rain cloud, that’s a bit like living in effect. “Why is this rain cloud following me!”

Those people who get through and reach their goals did so because they were living at cause. Which means they take responsibility for what happens in their life, no blame, no excuses, no aggression.

They ask, “What is causing this rain cloud?” They go looking and searching and investigating the rain. When they find it, they can make a change to step out from under it.

Most people live in effect. To them, it feels like the only option. When you learn about Cause and Effect though, switching between them is really simple.

Where do you live? Cause or Effect?

When a problem is presented, we have the choice on how we will respond. Either we learn from it (Cause), or we run from it (Effect). There is also the freeze stage, which is where you don’t make any kind of decision, you just stand there like you’re frozen, it’s basically a run-from-it phase in slow motion.

Effect gets us further from our goal and keeps us stuck in the same habits and rituals. When you adopt the learn-from-it mindset (cause) you get to where you want to go. It’s a direct path to living the life you design.

At Cause, you forgive yourself those times you do not act perfectly (you will act to the best of your ability at any given moment). You get to know the gaps that exist in your knowledge and understanding and fill those gaps with research and help from other people.

For example, you want a promotion at work. You see that the best way to get a promotion is to take a short TAFE course, you look up the course, wiggle your schedule to fit in the classes, give yourself some set study time and go.

On the flip side, a person in effect will feel embarrassed, even humiliated that they do not have the skills to apply for the promotion and will feel inadequate and not apply – or, they assume that they will get the job because they are already working in the company and know most of the tasks and apply anyway. They will be upset, maybe resentful when they do not succeed. In effect, even being told that the course will help improve their chance of promotion will not motivate a person to take that TAFE course. The excuses will flow. “I’m too old, I’m too stupid, I am bad at tests, I don’t want the job anyway.”

It seems really obvious to anybody watching that they are limiting their choices and making excuses!

When you are looking at someone else’s life or someone else’s scenario, it’s really clear what’s happening. The problem is, in our own head, we are on autopilot and not thinking about the situation or the outcome as a big picture, we are stuck in the detail, which is usually an emotional one.

We can slip into effect even when it’s an illogical and unproductive choice, even knowing that if someone else were to act that way, we might get really mad. Even though it means not reaching your goal.

The first part to breaking free of effect is to start paying attention. When you do that you can get back in the driver’s seat and steer yourself towards your desired goal.

Start by paying attention to your thoughts when you are faced with an obstacle or conflict, when you are having a rubbish kind of day or things ‘go wrong’.

What are your thoughts like: Positive or negative?

If they are positive, you can find creative ways to look at your options, learn from your mistakes or surrounds and improve your performance. Your goal gets rapidly closer as more and more options present themselves. You have access to more possibilities. You are motivated and excited about how far you’ve come. You are at Cause.

If they are negative, you are in runaway mode. Thoughts like; I knew it was too good to be true! See, I can’t get anything right, What’s wrong with me? I always have bad luck, This person really hates me, I’m not as good as everyone else…are all examples of deflection and retreat.

When you have these kinds of run-away thoughts, you move further and further away from your desired outcome. Your goal shrinks into the distance and you quit. Maybe not straight away, maybe after a few setbacks. But you quit. You are in Effect.

That’s why setting a goal that works over a long period of time is more beneficial. It aligns with cause. You give yourself time to adapt, learn and make alterations.

If you set a goal to say, “I will never…” the first time you hit a stumbling block your goal is shattered. A goal based on perfection will tumble. Expect some hurdles and give yourself enough time to insert some learning and growth.

I once had someone tell me they didn’t complete their goal of doing their first triathlon. The weather was too rough and they cancelled the first leg open water swim. She was crushed and disappointed. She felt like all her build-up and physical and mental training had been wasted. She kept telling me that it was not her fault the weather was so bad, she would have completed it if she got a chance.

I asked her, “So, when’s the next triathlon?”

It hadn’t even occurred to her that she could go for her goal again, this time with added experience of having the real-life challenge of two legs completed. She had marked a date on her calendar and that date was blocking her from completing her goal. She was so stuck in the effect of the weather cancelling her swim, she told herself she had failed.

Of course there is a next time, there is always a next time, and the next time might not be perfect either, it’s all part of the process. What you gain as you learn is something much greater than achieving the goal: Grades in the university of life.

Setting Long-Term Goals

Set your goals for the long term. Play the best game you possibly can every day and give yourself some wiggle room.

The best way to get to know your autopilot is to have someone else – a really close friend, your coach, or someone you trust to tell you when you are in effect. It will be obvious to them when to react rather than respond. As soon as they point the effect out to you (or you realise yourself) you can instantly and naturally stop doing it – all you need to do is draw attention to how illogical that reaction was.

The same goes for if you tell yourself you want to get fit and you will exercise every day. These kind of goals go in the bin the first time you are sick or some kind of emergency pulls you away from your routine.

As long as you exercise when you can and push yourself to get fitter overall, not in a day or a week, you will get there. Exercise is not a straight line of progress, neither is success. Some days, out of the blue, our performance drops. Our bodies need rest and recovery time and they can’t always do better than yesterday, overall though, you will see results.

Break your goal into bite-size pieces

It’s important to use milestones to bring your goal down to achievable action steps and measure your progress over time, not day by day or week to week. Be realistic about how you start out, give your mind and body time to get used to new activities and routines and build up in levels to your goal.

Practice flexibility

There are multiple ways and choices to reach a goal. If your goal is very new to you, I’d suggest getting a professional to help you out. If your goal is about good food choices, visit a nutritionist, doctor or holistic care professional for their advice and to get your blood and health measured before you start.

If your goal is around finances, talk to a financial planner, accountant or life coach about your options. If it’s about launching a small business, join a business network and get a business coach to help steer you in the right direction, minimise mistakes and check you when you get into effect.

Maybe your goal is about fitness. Hire a personal trainer or class trainer. It doesn’t have to be in a gym, there are plenty of outdoor training businesses if you work better in fresh air. If you are finding exercise too boring – get creative – this is what being at cause is all about, when you are faced with a hurdle, you think, “Okay, how can I do this better?” and brainstorm options.

Being at cause is all about finding choices and being flexible.

In effect, your only choices are 1) put up with it or 2) quit.

Let’s say you find exercise boring, do you put up with it, quit, or move to cause?

Did you think of some creative options like:
• Boxing (non-contact)
• Martial arts
• Obstacle courses
• Team sports (e.g. netball, basketball)
• Seasonal sports (e.g. Skiing, water skiing)
• Hiking
• Rock climbing
• Dancing
• Surfing
• Weightlifting
• Water aerobics

Rather than say, “I will do yoga every morning at 6 am” have an overall goal to manage your stress, clear your mind (or whatever you want to achieve in that yoga practice). Activities will mean leaving the house, so if your goal is activity based, focus on where that activity will take you and make a list of alternative ways to get there to bolster your drive, increase choice and bypass trouble.

Options for a clear mind

– Yoga (especially in the morning)
– Meditation
– Getting up early
– Going to bed on time
– Turning off electronic equipment (including phone) 1-2 hours before bed
– Drinking water
– Listening to music
– Watching a candle flame
– Yoga retreat
– Warm bath with lavender oil

Adding in choices gives you more ability to complete your yoga and achieves the results of practicing yoga much more rapidly. This way if your back is too sore for yoga one morning you have other options and you can continue to meet your goal without hurting yourself or causing stress about not getting a perfect record on your yoga resolution.

Always make sure your goal is in line with your vision for your future.

With any goal and any change in a goal plan always be sure to ask yourself; Is this choice leading you to the life you want to live?

When your goal is in line with your life choice it will be much easier to stay above the small picture emotion, because you have a big picture backup.

When you feel like quitting, ask yourself why you started.

Positive goals stick

When you like what you do, you’ll do it more often, accept it into your routine easily and stick to it.

So many of our New Year’s resolutions are based on things we don’t like. They are activities or habits we feel we are supposed to have. We also tend to focus on the negative things. So our New Year’s goals and promises are actually painful and restricting.

I will not play video games until 2am
I will not eat junk food
I will not be fat
I will force myself to exercise

Even if we don’t write our goals down exactly like that – we think about our goals like that: An internal torture chamber.

State Goals in the Positive

There is good news: Goals don’t have to be painful or restrictive.

It’s so rewarding to focus your goals on positive rather than negative and also to add as much value and enjoyment to your life as you can, so you feel you are gaining something, not sacrificing.

Your mind wants pleasure and relaxation, if your New Year’s goals and resolutions cause stress and pain, you will drop them like hot coals. Get into Cause and find fun and creative ways to get what you want in the most enjoyable and flexible way possible.

Rather than having a goal of: Don’t eat junk food, a positive goal could be, ‘I enjoy healthy natural foods that sustain my body and mind.’ Take the time to find healthy food you enjoy eating, there are thousands of recipes out there. Have fun taking a cooking class, grow your own vegetables…get creative.

There are always more choices and always more options you just need to be in the mindset to go looking.

If you can’t think of any choices, you are stuck in effect. Brainstorm some new options (even silly ones), get together with a friend, coach or work colleague to get different points of view, ask yourself what you need to do, see or saw to get new ideas.

When you are at Cause you unlock your ability to overcome anything. From there… you can achieve anything!

To learn more about Cause and Effect and how it relates to your goals, join us at Live it Now and uncover all the secrets.

Kindest regards,

Matt Catling

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