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4 Strategies to help you achieve your New Year's goals

With shorter days and cold weather, the winter months are a perfect time to slow down, reflect on past accomplishments and create goals for the future. Ringing in the new year is also a natural time to take stock of where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Setting goals for the coming year is exciting and inspiring, but it can also feel overwhelming. Whether you aspire to learn new habits, unlearn old ones or change direction in some part of your life, these strategies will help you get there.

#1 Have a Vision

When creating a goal, have a clear idea why you want to accomplish it. Humans derive meaning from our experiences, and we’re much more likely to accomplish goals aligned with our personal values. To explore your values, try looking at things that bring a sense of satisfaction to your life, and then envision what you want your life to look like one, five or 10 years from now. For example, if you value connection with others, some goals that align with this could be planning dinners or weekly calls with friends. Journaling and making a vision board are also tools that help. Literally making a vision of your goals in this way can help you focus on the most meaningful ones.

#2 Make a Plan

The next step is figuring out just how to pursue your vision and goals. SMART goal setting, which my colleague Oscar Campos has previously discussed, is an excellent framework to help you set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. To stay motivated it’s a good idea to have a variety of goals, some related to learning skills or performing tasks, and other goals related to pleasurable activities. It’s also helpful to have some steps that are finite and some that are ongoing. For example, if you have an ongoing goal of going to the gym weekly, you can set a one-time goal of deciding which gym to go to.

#3 Take Action

After considering your vision, and making a plan, it’s time to take action. Of course this sounds easier than it is. We often start with lots of motivation and energy, and then find ourselves slowing down or even abandoning goals when setbacks occur. But setbacks are an inevitable part of the process. Expect them, and give yourself permission to modify your goals as you progress. Some ways to support your motivation include: • Breaking goals down into smaller, manageable steps • Reward yourself after completing these small steps • Schedule specific times to carry out tasks related to your goals • Pair a task you find difficult to start with an activity you enjoy, such as such as listening to music while housecleaning. • Use the buddy system—enlist a friend or family member to help you stay on track.

#4 Take Time to Reflect

It’s easy to dismiss or minimize your progress if you don’t take some time to reflect on the goals—even minor ones—you have attained. Reviewing your journey so far gives you valuable information about what’s been helpful, what has worked and what hasn’t worked so well. Be gentle with yourself as you do this. Your focus should be on progress, not perfect goal attainment. You may want to keep a journal or create a visual representation of all that you’ve done to support your values throughout the year, and celebrate yourself in a way that is meaningful to you. This kind of positive reinforcement helps you stay on track, and keep creating the life you want. Julie Blair is a registered social worker specializing in person-centred and trauma-informed individual therapy with youth and adults. Your Therapy is a safe, welcoming, counselling therapy practice in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about talk therapy or other mental health issues. We offer depression therapy, anxiety therapy and more.
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