setting goals and actually reaching them can be an elusive bullseye on an ever-growing target.
for many of us, new years resolutions and large goals, in general, are more of a feel-good factor at the start of the year, rather than a list of past achievements of which you have a good track record of achieving.
Many of us have started a goal that is important to us, tried and tried to stick to it, then before we know it, we are remaking the same resolution the following year, having not succeeded the first time.
don’t ditch goal setting.
your destination is determined by your direction, and not setting goals does not mean you will simply stay the same, rather staying the same means you’re going backwards, or getting worse.
rather you should continue to make goals, but you need a system in which to reach them.
the key to making a goal is to determine the steps to reach it.
I began creating numerous habits to help me in my daily life.
I made them small, a set of behaviours that were achievable every day.
the end goal isn’t what drives you toward success, it is the small habits you repeat daily that move you toward reaching the goals that you set for yourself.
let me share how to understand how to replace habits, bad with better, and how when you do this, you WILL be able to achieve your new year’s resolutions.
There are 6 steps to creating a goal that you can stick to.
- Write down Why the resolution/goal matters to you
- turn that big goal into smaller time-specific goals
- reaching small goals requires even smaller daily habits.
- create your cues. (learn what triggers your bad behaviour)
- reward (create a healthy lifestyle of work/rest)
- learn how to hack your brain and overcome procrastination
these 6 steps are how you turn a goal into practical and achievable steps.
Step 1. Write down the “why” to your goals
so, let’s pick a fairly common if not the most common goal.
goal number 1 for 2023. “I want to lose weight”
with just this resolution in mind, in all its entirety, your motivation to reach that goal is based solely on willpower.
January 1st. I want to lose weight. avoid the sweets in the fridge.
January 2nd. I want to lose weight. walk past the cake on the way to my takeaway coffee.
January 3rd. I want to lose weight. I will spend 3 hours a week at the gym
how long can you keep going? how long until you get stressed, tired and just want to relax, you get tired of the restraint, you get tired of saying no?
how many times will you make the same resolution only to have it fizzle out, and you can barely remember when?
let’s start again.
Goal number 1 for 2023. I want to lose weight.
- I want to look better.
- I want to feel better.
- I want to sleep better.
- I want to be fitter in my old age.
- I want to begin making habits toward living a healthier lifestyle.
To learn how to exist within a healthy balance that I can maintain over time
if your goal is to save money, your answer shouldn’t be. ” to save for a house deposit” as valid as that is.
you need to know why? where do you see yourself, Your ideal self in two, five, or ten years’ time?
and then you need to be specific.
I want to save 3 thousand in 8 weeks.
work in smaller batches of time, continue to analyze how you live, and where you can continue to fine-tune your goal and the habits it takes to reach it over time.
Step 2. Identify smaller goals and be specific.
smaller goals are in the weeks and months that it will take to lose that weight.
so break down your big goal into smaller ones.
to succeed in reaching a new years resolution you need to make 3 daily behaviours for each goal you set for yourself
An example of how you can break down a big goal into daily habits.
let’s say you decide that a healthy way for you to lose weight would be to eat 80% of your meals in a very healthy way and 20% not so healthy.
how many healthy meals is that a week, more importantly, how many meals can you afford to splurge on something that you may love now, but have too much of?
the 20% equals approximately 4 meals. (4.2 to be exact.)
that means you now have the goal of eating healthy meals for 16-17 meals a week, and more indulgent meals 4-5 times per week.
now you have smaller goals, perhaps plan when you want to be able to eat the more indulgent foods and then plan your healthy meals, with a meal plan and shopping list.
smaller goals like losing the first 5 kilos in 3 months.
eating three meals without carbs each week.
swapping sugar for honey in baked goods.
drinking mineral water instead of soft drinks.
there are so many ways you can create smaller goals, which over time, create big changes.
create your CUES
Now, let’s talk about the habits it will take to get you there. these are the mentioned, 3 daily behaviours (habits) that will move you toward your goal.
know what you need to change in your life on a daily or weekly basis.
try and stick to 3 behaviours per day.
habit 1. meal plan. you know that this is a crucial habit for you to master to stick to this long term.
Sunday meal plan.
Monday food shop.
plan your not-so-healthy meals in your week.
put away the leftover food right after you serve your plate so you don’t come back for seconds.
buy a large water bottle to keep up a water quota.
choose three, 15 minutes workouts each week.
small changes in your behaviours each week can create serious movements toward your goal.
Now daily behaviours.
create three daily habits/behaviours, that are sustainable.
a better set of behaviours you can master are ones that move you gradually into slightly harder habits in the future.
- wake half an hour earlier.
2. move your body for 20 minutes a day.
3. cull the after-dinner sugar.
if this is new to you, then you want to create a cue for that habit.
a cue is a state of mind, an action or an outside stimulant you can create or something already in place that you will recognise to take action.
A smoker’s cue to light up a cigarette could be a mid-afternoon cup of coffee.
If the smoker decided to quit smoking, would then do something drastic like never having a cup of coffee again?
this wouldn’t be a surefire way for the plan to quit to fail.
The smoker cannot avoid the desire for the cigarette, he can instead, feel the desire to light up as he sips or even smells a cup of coffee, but he has to put a new action in place.
Recognise that an outside stimulant is his cue smoke.
of the cue remains, the action must be replaced.
TWEAKING YOUR CUES.
keeping a cue and changing the action is an approachable tactic if the action can be physically removed.
if you can’t then you are going to have some trouble keeping a new habit. (action)
How long does it take to change a habit by tweaking a cue?
our brains are hardwired to keep a habit, as this means we DO NOT THINK AS WE DO IT.
not thinking means that partaking in that action you do not want is going to take some planning on your part to change up an element of the old habit, so that your brain, for a time, has to now think and relearn that the changed cue, means a different action.
there have been studies done on how long this takes, and the outcomes always vary, the answer really was, it’s up to the person.
from days to weeks, maybe even months, there is no surefire answer to how long it will take you to continue taking the mental path of a tweaked cue in order to break a bad habit.
how to tweak a cue
this is entirely up to you and how much you need to change a cue in order for it to determine in your brain a set path of action.
perhaps you don’t want to overeat.
switch out a plate for one your buy specifically to serve your meals on. buy it, and intentionally set it as the plate you eat from, with mindful serving sizes.
Make a point to sip water if you don’t already.
set a timer and take as long as the timer to eat your meal.
change where you sit to eat.
trying to not order takeout more than once a month?
No meal plan, get home, relax and watch tv, and begin to wind down early.
write your meal plan and keep it where you can see it every day.
plan a takeout day in advance as a reward.
don’t turn on the tv or look at your device until you have started to cook your meal.
if you feel tired and know that once you relax old habits will come back into play, do something like keep your shoes on until you begin cooking.
make a motivation playlist if your feel unmotivated and tell yourself you will stay in the kitchen and prep for one song ( the two-minute rule)
there are many ways to tweak a cue.
change your small behaviours.
If you are trying to ditch a bad habit, such as sleeping too late, eating too much, or not saving money, you need to know you will feel your old cues, your life is filled with them, and you need to come to terms with the idea that you need to replace the action the cue is cueing you for.
The smoker replaces the cigarettes with a cookie, a crossword or something that he can use for a release of dopamine ( a feel-good hormone in the brain or something that is engaging) after time, the habit is ingrained.
Habits are the small steps it takes to quit something and start something new.
if you were trying to lose weight, and you knew you needed to take action with several small steps in order to reach a goal then you need to look for things in your life that you can use to first create small but effective habits.
now start with making a list of habits that you think will help you in reaching your goal.
- meal planning.
- moving for 15 minutes per day as a start.
- create a walking route you enjoy.
Now it is time to create a cue, or use an old cue, that you currently want to change the action (habit) of.
for example, making a meal plan.
- pick a day to do this.
- pick an approximate time of day, say am or pm.
- create a cue, like making yourself a cup of tea to drink while creating a meal plan and shopping list.
the cue can be, “it’s Sunday (the day you chose to do your meal plan), it’s 2 pm, and I am going to have a cup of tea, or an iced coffee or just a glass of water.” make this cue for you to sit and create a meal plan.
Soon, Sundays, or any day you chose to set out your meal plan for the week, are as natural as taking a shower.
a more difficult habit like going to the gym, eating veggies instead of bread or getting up early, take a little more smart action.
you still make yourself a cue or use an old cue. for example, I used to watch a show for 30 minutes or so in the evening or afternoons, now that is my cue to sit on the couch and do nothing.
now I have an exercise bike. so now, when I want to watch a show, 3 times per week, Monday Wednesday and Friday(cue) I pick my show, (cue) and I jump on my bike. (action) I make myself hot cocoa if it’s in the evening or a choc protein shake if in the day (reward)
Now, I have even gone a little further, and before I watch my show I complete a 20-minute HIIT workout, but it all started with just getting on and letting myself get used to spending that time on the bike.
habits are created and then honed into better ones, always remember that, and don’t compare where you start with someone else who has been doing something for a long time.
It takes weeks to build the foundations of a building and without good foundations, it would start to crack and will fall and crumble after only a few years of standing.
Habits are the same, start with what you can realistically manage now and you will reach your goals in the long run.
In order to sustainably repeat a hard habit to stick to your new year’s resolutions you need to
- set yourself up (cue)
- ask yourself a question.
- count to five.
- create the reward.
to stay consistent with harder habits you need to Set yourself up
Setting yourself up to first understand the cue.
old or new, know it, to know it is to put yourself in control of the action.
the alarm goes off, it;s 5:30 am.
you don’t want to get up, you would rather sleep until 7 am and rush to work.
but you have planned a workout for yourself this morning.
what do you do to set yourself up and work through a hard habit?
- you first set the alarm the night before at an odd number. say, 5:23. strangely, this gives you more purpose for your waking time, removes the uniform waking times, and creates your own unique one which helps you to stick to YOUR purpose.
- the alarm goes off. you know that is the cue for you to get up, get dressed and work out.
- ask yourself. Am I going to work out today? it’s another strange one, but often, when we have ideals, like exercising, we think of our better selves partaking in the action. when you ask yourself a direct question with a yes on no answer, you most likely will find your ideal self, the self you want to be or become, answering.
- count to five. On 5, get up. do this every time you find a habit easy or hard, count to five, and that itself will become a cue for you to push through.
- create the reward. it could be you can have a cup of coffee and a hot shower, it could be on the days you work out your plan to eat a muffin on the way to work. the reward is important, plan one for yourself and work towards it. the reward cannot be, I will look better in 6 months if I exercise today, it is a reward, sure, but it won’t get you through the hard days, on the hard days you will need extra if you want to keep showing up.
The reward maintains the habit.
Rewards can be tricky.
You don’t want to be rewarding yourself with things that you may see as rewards now.
allowing yourself to indulge in a bowl of ice cream after every workout, wouldn’t really be the best way to go about reaching your goals.
and how do you reward behaviour like not spending over budget? or not eating that slice of cake?
when you have a bad habit, the reward is the action.
A bad habit will usually get to where you don’t want to be.
poorer, overweight, underslept, stressed, unhealthy or not growing in your personal life.
therefore, almost always, the action itself of a bad habit is the reward your brain seeks.
Dopamine is the feel-good hormone our brain releases when we satisfy a craving.
from screen addiction to eating too much to smoking, all are acts that we desire to partake in because when we do, we get a hit of feel-good dopamine.
How I would work rewards when first introducing habits is to choose something you enjoy but that won’t set you back.
didn’t spend money when you left the house? put away 10 dollars into your holiday fund.
you didn’t eat that 2nd piece of cake? go and do something for 20 minutes you enjoy doing.
did you wake up early? enjoy a hot beverage in the quiet to start your day positively.
How to hack your brain
Dopamine is a chemical in our brains that essentially is a motivator.
the release of it motivates us to partake in certain behaviour.
years ago, when I was younger and newly married. I had no motivation.
At first, I thought I just got older, that I was just in a rut then thanks to life and how it turned out, I managed, thanks to not being in a rut anymore.
but now I know I was wrong.
with time, I began to feel more and more motivated, more and more able to do more, want more and be more.
It started with setting goals, with being able to see myself where I desired to be in the near future.
from losing weight to having an organised home, when I look back now, I achieved it all, and keep it up with small habits, that aren’t hard to do consistently.
use your dopamine to enjoy the process
I now, enjoy more, the process rather than the result.
I am here, writing this post at midnight, but I am not sad about it, I am motivated and this action, is habitual.
not always as night, but rather, the earphones in my ears, the playlist I write to, and the reward of knowing I am moving forward toward my goals is the habit.
I am a busy mum, I rarely write for more than an hour at a time, but slowly and steadily, my content is emerging.
create cue, earphones. ( I put these in when I know I need to write, from the early am, to while I am doing dishes at night, when I am wearing them I know I will write.)
start the playlist.
set the timer.
I used all the points I have talked about in this post.
If I don’t feel like working out.
count to five.
set the playlist.
If I am lacking the motivation to get up.
count to five.
reward with coffee and quiet before I start my day.
now, my counting to five is the most powerful cue of my own creation, (note, it isn’t my invention, I read about it years ago but I can’t remember where)
I have done this for long enough now, (7 years) that now creating goals, analysing my habits, and striving to perfect them in order to make the most of my time to reach my goals has become second nature
THE TWO-MINUTE RULE
when it comes to achieving the goal you set for yourself, then the two-minute rule is another game-changer.
You can do anything for two minutes.
the hardest thing for most of us to do is to start.
starting is where almost all the battle is.
Getting up, working out, not buying takeout, and not allowing stress to determine the outcome.
The two-minute rule is another way you can overcome procrastination and overall failure in the long run.
You only have to do the thing you don’t want to do for two minutes.
two minutes and then you can stop.
if you complete the two minutes and you want to keep going then you successfully overcome the hardest part of doing something new, hard or maybe you are just in bad mood.
if you do it for two minutes, and then want to stop, then stop.
9 times out of 10 you will keep going since it is almost always that we don’t want to start, not that we don’t want to actually complete the task.
In order to hack your dopamine you need to encourage these ideas in your life.
- create goals.
- understand that your life is one goal after another, and enjoy the process.
- habits, done over and over again, become the reward.
- get enough sleep!
- work on your stress.
- give yourself a reward for reaching the goal.
this won’t happen overnight.
And as much as your may hate to hear it, there is an element of having to show up despite feeling crappy.
you can use the cues to get started, but some days the action may be harder than others.
This is normal.
It can not be avoided.
use the two-minute rule.
if you are feeling overwhelmed all the time with your new year’s resolutions then you may have made too many.
don’t overwhelm yourself.
if you have more than one large resolution, one that takes many habits and a long time, then you may just want to stick to one.
life is long, the days are short.
you don’t want to be feeling stressed by the process.
if you do, then you won’t be able to feel good doing it, and that is KEY to succeeding in reaching your new year’s resolutions.
use habits to your advantage, and if you struggle with a new habit for months and you cannot learn to enjoy it, then perhaps you need to change up the habit or break it down even further into a smaller habit.
a full workout can become smaller bursts of activity.
avoiding sugar can be done four days a week at first.
not spending money can start with halving the amount you spend now.
habits should work for you.
Not you working for them.
hello! I’m shenaede
Wife, mother, & homeschooler
I started this blog to help mothers find joy in the home.
Joy is not just feeling, it is a culmination of actions and mindsets, you need to create it, to set yourself in it.
Motherhood is a mindset, it is hard work, and all we do as mothers can be moulded towards growth and nurtured into a genuine capacity for joy!