THE BLOG
04/28/2016 10:31 am ET Updated Apr 29, 2017

7 Tips for Sticking to Your Goals

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Here we are in April of 2016. And I wonder how many of you have followed through on your New Year's Resolutions? Depending on your source, at least 80% of people don't follow through with their resolutions. So are you one of the 80% or are you in the 20% of the people who are still making the positive changes this year? Hopefully the later, but if not, then keep reading!

Honestly, I don't even like the concept of New Year's Resolutions. Why? Because I think it's a subconscious message to yourself that the "resolution" really isn't that important. Think about it. If something is REALLY important to you, then you won't put it off, right? You'll get to it right away. Now. But if it's not that important, and you are really dreading it, then you will set some arbitrary "start date." And for most people, that is January 1st of any given year.

But I think there's a difference between New Year's Resolutions and goals. Goals imply that you are more committed to it. The word sounds stronger to me for some reason. But even still, many people go around thinking or talking about their goals, but they still don't follow through.

So let's talk about why it's good to set goals, then I'll give you some tips for sticking with them.

First, goals give you a map. Let's say you wanted to take a road trip out to San Francisco. Well, what would happen if you just hopped in your car without your GPS, a map, or the directions from Mapquest? Well, you'd probably wander aimlessly for quite a while...maybe forever. Having a plan will ensure that you actually get there. Otherwise it's like saying "Gee, I hope I get there someday. Maybe I will, maybe I won't." But with a goal, you are making more of a commitment - it's like a contract between you and yourself. And it will help you hold yourself accountable.

Before I go into my tips, let me tell you about two goals that I have been working on: organizing my house, and healthy eating/losing some weight. First, I needed to do some research to help me figure out what to do with all of my clutter, and also the best strategies and recipes to use for a healthier lifestyle.

Then, after I was armed with more information, then I had to sit down with myself and take my own advice about goal setting. I'll use my two goals to illustrate what I mean as I go through the list of tips.

So here are some of my tips to keep in mind when you are setting your own goals:

1. Write your goals down.

This is the first thing you should do. Because honestly, some people don't even really know what their goals are. Instead, they have a general feeling of "something needs to change" but they don't really make these feelings concrete. So writing them down makes them real, and lets you actually see what you want to accomplish.

2. Make them attainable.

If I said I wanted a clutter-free house or to lose ten pounds by tomorrow, that would wildly unrealistic. So in order to make these goals actually attainable, I needed to be get real with myself. How much time do I really have to put into re-organizing my house? And how often do I really think I could exercise? The more realistic your goal seems to you, the more likely you are to actually follow through.

3. Make sure you really want the goals.

There have been times in my life where I have wanted to lose weight, but I just hadn't hit my "oh I'm so sick of looking and feeling this way" point yet. When I hit that, I know I'm committed. So I don't bother making a goal until I know that I can follow through. Same with my house. Sometimes I look my little piles of clutter and I'm able to ignore them. But sometimes, I just hit my limit and go on a cleaning spree.

4. Make them specific and measurable.

For me, I say things like, "I'm going to clean this closet today. Then tomorrow, I'll tackle the garage." Or, "I will go for a 30-minute walk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1:30-2:00." This is more effective than saying, "I'll work out 3 days next week," or "I'll start cleaning on Monday," being specific about your goals will help hold you more accountable.

5. Make sure you set short and long term goals.

Like I said in #1, I'm not going to get to my goal weight overnight. And my whole house will not be spotless and completely clutter-free next week. So I just sit down with myself and honestly ask not only what I think I can accomplish in the short term, but also what is ultimately my final goal. In other words, it helps to break down the goals step-by-step.

6. Make a vision board.

I have talked about vision boards in some of my other articles. I am a big believer in them, because they work. Cut out photos or draw pictures and put words on a poster board that represent your goal(s). Hang the vision board(s) around your house where you can see them. This helps you stay constantly reminded of following through with them. I know it helps me.

7. Be flexible (but not too flexible).

Practice self-compassion. For example, if some friends ask me to go out for happy hour with them, I don't beat myself up for cheating on my diet that day. I just shrug and say, "It's one day. I'll get back on track tomorrow." But then I really do it. I don't use happy hour as an excuse to fall off the healthy eating wagon. So be kind to yourself, but don't let yourself get away with too much.

Change is never easy -- especially changing old habits. It can be done, but only with proper planning and consistent follow-through. Good luck with all of your accomplishments... you can do it!