Everyone aims for a fresh start around New Year’s, and while you ooze with energy and motivation for the first few weeks of January, it doesn’t take long to lose track of your goals in your everyday routine. “People fail to meet their goals because they’re not really clear what the outcome is,” says fitness trainer Gitanjali Borkar. For the past four years, she’s worked on developing a fool-proof goal-achievement strategy. Define your goals with Borkar’s five-step success plan and refer back to it regularly for year-long success.
1. Define and Commit.
Take the time to really define your goal. Break down bigger umbrella goals (such as “I’m going to live healthier”) into smaller, obtainable ones (like “I’m going to eat more vegetables” or “I’ll go to the gym”).
Focus on what that goal looks like, but try to avoid obsessing over scales or miles. Maybe a healthy lifestyle means a new wardrobe, more greens at the dinner table, or more confidence when you look in the mirror. Try creating a vision board to motivate yourself, and place it somewhere you’ll see it regularly. Write all of these things down, along with how you’ll define successs. How will you know you’ve achieved your goals?
Reinforce your goal with a why now. For example, I need to start going to the gym because I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. “Think about why you want to do that so you create emotional attachment,” says Borkar. Then, write your statement down, and sign and date it. “You’re formalizing the fact that it’s not really a wish or a fleeing thought. You’re putting some weight to it by writing it down,” says Borkar.
Break those goals down into actions. Write down three steps towards your goal that you are going to take this week. Write down three steps that you are going to take within the next month.
You want to consider both things you can do and things you can give up. If healthier eating is your goal, one of your steps this week could be limiting your dessert to one piece of chocolate each day or eating three servings of veggies each day. Maybe you find a gym buddy this week and meet them twice a week for the rest of the month. Get creative!
“I’ve focused on numbers in the past and it got me into an unhealthy fixation,” says Borkar. Stick with the more positive—I’m running faster, I feel better, I worked out more this week than I did last week.
“Writing is very powerful,” says Borkar, who keeps old-fashioned checklists. For the tech-savvy goal-setter, My Fitness Pal, Map My Run, and Fitbit are all great accessories for tracking progress. “But honestly, it has to be what works for you,” says Borkar.
Assuming you had something to work towards and your goals were realistic, you have a lot to be excited over. “You want to acknowledge that you worked really hard to achieve your goal,” says Borkar, who likes to celebrate with an expensive pair of sneakers or a spa day. “If you think you’re not only going to fit into a pair of jeans, but also have a spa day when you hit your goal, what could be better than that?” she laughs. Just be sure your celebration isn’t detrimental to your goal.
“They’re a lot of unsexy, monotonous grind that goes into achieving your goal,” says Borkar, so don’t be disappointed if you have a small misstep. Look forward to the next opportunity you’ll have to make a healthy decision. If you miss your morning workout, fit in a twenty-minute run in the afternoon. If you have a second slice of cake, load up on veggies for your next meal. “Don’t let a misstep turn into a series of disappointments because then you’ll get farther from where you want to be,” says Borkar. Even following a few poor decisions, don’t give up. Go back to step two, remind yourself why it’s important, rework your goal if necessary, and get back on track.