Thinking of Setting Goals for the New Year? Why Your Relationship with Your Goals Is More Important than the Goal Themselves

Nikki Kett

Unsplash - Ronnie Overgoor

As we enter into the last month of the year, what does it bring up for you? Do you think about all of the goals that you didn’t achieve this year and start spiraling into all of the things you are going to do next year? Or do you look back at the year with pride in the things you have overcome and accomplished and look towards 2022 with excitement and the possibility of what’s to come? Maybe it’s both. But just notice the power you have in the story you tell yourself around your goals –do they empower you or make you feel small?

The past 18 months have been filled with so much heaviness and uncertainty, if you look towards the new year with a bit of trepidation, you’re not alone. The New Year can also feel like a reset — like an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again. When it comes to setting goals for the new year, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Goals are important because they determine our direction, but ultimately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. When we don’t take the time to understand what’s driving our goals we set ourselves up to fail. It’s important to take your goals a bit deeper than just writing them down– when we understand WHY we want to accomplish our goals and clean up our relationship with them it sets the foundations for sustainable change and long-term success.

Rocks with one with a question mark

Our relationship with our goals is critical. Are you someone who sets goals through a negative relationship with yourself? If so, you will likely continue to beat yourselves up when things don’t go perfectly. A good way to start removing judgment from your goals is to practice using an evaluation process. Can you start by evaluating the last year without self-judgment? We want to learn to allow for failure around our goals — it’s part of the process. But what most of us do that keeps us stuck is we beat ourselves up at the first sign of failure and make it mean we can’t reach our goals, causing us to give up quickly.

Think about this past year:

What went well that you’d like to build on?

What didn’t go so well?

What would you like to do differently next year?

What got in the way of you achieving your goals?

Remove the judgment and use it as a way to start gathering information.

Enjoy the Process of Reaching Your Goals

One of the most important skills we can learn when it comes to reaching our goals is how to be happy during the process. This means we have to learn to create happiness right where we are even when we don’t have the result already. For example, so many people have weight loss as a goal to start a new year and they want it to happen FAST. Anytime you feel yourself rushing to create a result it may be a sign you are trying to escape the body/life you have and how you feel right now. Can you learn to love and appreciate your body as it is in this moment so that your goal isn’t laced with pressure and thinking “I can only be happy when my body looks a certain way”?

Cooking in the kitchen

Another symptom of the sneaky (and incorrect thought) “I’ll be happier when” is trying to change too many things at once. When you learn to love yourself and your life as it is now, you can be more patient in the pursuit of your goals. This will not only create sustainable change but teach you to embrace the ups and downs. It’s the process of changing who we are as we reach our goals that changes our life — not the actual outcome itself. And changing ourselves takes time and developing new habits. The reality is that life is a mix of positive and negative emotions. There is no escaping that. We will experience ups and downs on our journey. When we learn to embrace this we can find more peace where we are. So often when we achieve an outcome through bypassing our emotions and pushing through at all costs, we will still have the same mindset and thinking patterns when we reach the goal, so our life experience won’t be any different.

What’s Your Reason Why?

Can you anchor down your compelling reason why you’d want to reach your goals? How would your life be different? So often when we start setting goals it’s because we assume we SHOULD. We assume we should workout more, eat healthier, make more money, etc. because society says it’s better. We think the people will like us more. But we want to really question our thinking and our reasons why. When determining your compelling reason why, be clear on why you would choose to take action –for you. What are you hoping to feel by reaching your goal? Once you can get clear about your reason why it becomes a great roadmap to the internal work you need to do along the way. For example, if you want to lose weight to feel more confident, doing the internal work to feel more confident as you go about your goal is what will create sustainable change. The outcome itself is not what creates confidence, it’s who you are becoming in the process. When focus solely on outcome we are more likely to experience high levels of pressure and anxiety and give up along the journey.

Once you have your compelling reason why, you will want to practice tapping into it throughout the process. At the beginning of the new year, often our goals are motivated by extreme pressure to change ourselves or high excitement of possibility. Extreme ends of the emotional spectrum are not helpful in resiliency towards our goals. When creating any new habit we will experience resistance, the initial emotions will wear off. How are you going to handle that resistance when it comes up? Your brain will start throwing you every reason why it’d be easier to sit on the couch than get your workout in — but you have to remember your why. What is the reason you would choose to do it and how can you connect it with the energy you want to feel at the end of your workout?

Coffee cake and coffee on a table

Allow & Plan For Failure

Finally, when it comes to setting goals — prepare for and expect setbacks. Expecting that everything is going to go perfectly causes our brains to spin out when things come up. And things will come up. When they do, reconnect with the belief in yourself that it’s possible to reach your goals, and take the next right step forward. You can write out on a piece of paper all the things that could happen on your journey and what you will do to overcome setbacks. When you ask yourself where your belief is that it’s possible to reach your goals on a scale of 1–10 what comes up for you? What are the limiting beliefs you might hold? What do you need to make that belief a ten? Maybe it’s a mentor, coach, or friend to support you in the journey. Maybe it’s letting go of old stories or past failures. Failure isn’t failure unless you make it mean you can’t reach your goal. You can plan for it ahead of time so it doesn’t throw you off track.

If you are going to set goals in the new year, it’s so important to clean up your relationship with them. Otherwise, you will be setting yourself up to quit and potentially negatively impact your relationship with yourself. If you have resistance to setting goals, ask yourself why and see if you can start changing your relationship with them.

Nikki was a collegiate athlete and All-American swimmer at Kenyon College. She has worked as a college swimming coach at Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, and most recently the University of Michigan. She now works as a life and mindset coach for athletes, former athletes, and high-achieving women, helping them to honor their well-being and build self-trust and confidence so they can enjoy their life without burnout. You can find her on Instagram @nikkikettcoaching.

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