On New Year’s Eve, thousands of people around the world set their goals for the next year. There is something about the start of a new year that pushes people to take a positive look inward and define for themselves what it is that they truly want—whether that be to find love, to lose weight, to leave the job they hate, or to stop smoking.
’m here to tell you that if you keep your New Year’s resolution, you are in the minority. But, that's usually because people tend to set unrealistic and overwhelming goals for themselves. There is a very important lesson that needs to be ingrained in us as we set our resolutions for the New Year—there is a healthy way to set goals and an unhealthy way. Yes, it's true, goals can be unhealthy.
Goals Aren’t Everything
When we set goals that are unrealistic or place too much emphasis on achieving them, they can impact our overall health in a really negative way from mental health concerns to actual physical pain.
Researchers from four leading business schools came together to conduct research on the impact of goal-setting and found that goals can lead to uncalculated risky behavior, reduced intrinsic motivation, and neglect in other important areas of life that may not be in the goal vision. Psychology also supports these findings, often citing that goals can become idols in our life, and that the achievement or failure to achieve them can consume individuals and create a great deal of unhappiness.
Realistic Goal Setting
This then begs the questions: how do we set healthy goals? How do we create these plans for our future without letting them consume our lives or have a negative impact on our mental health?
First, we must be completely honest with ourselves. I know it’s easier said than done, but if we cannot set a honest goal, it makes it that much harder to achieve.
You may say, “I want my side hustle to fully support me by the end of the year,” and for some people, that goal could be totally achievable. But if you know that you can’t put in the hours necessary to commit to that goal because of your current work schedule, how can your side hustle grow?
In order to make this an achievable goal, you would need to take hours away from something else (perhaps cut your work schedule by one day, or even more doable— replace your two hours of Netflix in the evening) in order to work on your side hustle. If that isn’t something you are willing to do, then your goal is unrealistic and will therefore become an unhealthy, unachievable goal.
Mind Over Matter
The second step is to remember that your mindset is everything. You are in the driver's seat of your life, and the portion of you that steers is your brain. We literally program our beliefs into our brain, and that power lies within us without question. In order to achieve your resolutions, you must believe that you can do it. If you do not believe it, you will fail. And no, this isn’t just some woo-woo, spiritual enlightenment belief. It’s science.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to experience. While scientists used to believe that this stopped after a certain age, we now know that our ability to rewire our brain never stops, though it does become more difficult and change must be more deliberate as we age. We can program our minds to make positive change for our lives if we are consistent and deliberate in our thoughts and actions.
Henry Ford said, “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.” If you want to elevate your brain’s neuroplasticity, studies show that those who get lots of rest, exercise, and enrich their life through learning and creativity are able to rewire their neural pathways easier and faster.
Thoughts Shape Reality
Another helpful tip to conquer your New Year’s goals is to avoid sending any type of negative thought, or more specifically, any stress indicators to your mind. Believe you can, and believe you can with ease.
According to science, almost all stress in the body is self-reported to your immune system, which is waiting to hear from you. Your thoughts literally create your stress. If you send positive thoughts that are not stressful, your body will not react to the event in a way that causes stress.
Intentions Connect The Mind & Body
Instead of focusing on a New Year’s resolution or goal, try focusing on an intention instead. The main difference between a goal and an intention is that while goals are very specific, usually something that you want to change on the outside, intentions guide how you want to show up in the world on a larger scale. The intention directs the vision behind the goal. Think of it as an internal compass to point the way for all of your decisions.
For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, your intention could be energy, confidence, transformation, vitality, or even self-control. These are just a few. It honestly could be anything. The key is to select what intention will help you feel the most motivated and optimistic about your vision for your future.
With your intention set in place, it will be easier to create smaller goals in monthly or quarterly increments to achieve and stack on top of each other in order to step fully into your intention. Your intention will guide your actions.
With all of these tips, you'll be able to rock any goal! Goals, don't just have to be set at the New Year. You have the ability to improve your life any day of the year!