One-Up Your New Year's Resolutions
December 29, 2016
Set golden year goals you can crush
As New Year’s Eve approaches, many circle back to their customary tradition of making resolutions for the year ahead. Eat healthier, achieve something extraordinary at work, take up a new hobby, travel somewhere exciting; you know the usuals.
While New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad rap for being shallow aspirations that are deserted a few weeks in, there’s quite a bit of science that backs the benefits of a resolution’s charming and more detailed counterpart: a goal. Among the documented benefits of setting goals is that the practice can make us happier, more organized, and more focused. One study even uncovered that our brains use the neurotransmitter dopamine as an internal motivational system to continually guide us toward attaining goals. It’s been noted that the dopamine signal in the brain gets stronger as the goal becomes closer to achievement. How fascinating is that?
No matter who you are, where you live, or how old you are, setting goals is a healthy personal endeavor that can enhance quality of life, according to Harvard University’s Initiative for Learning & Teaching. For older adults, the scope of potential goals could become narrower than those in younger age groups, as there may be less in the realm of profession, family, or marvelous physical feats. When it comes down to it, with the time golden-agers earn back by not working a traditional nine to five or raising children, the possibilities for goals in other areas are limitless!
So what are you waiting for? 2017 will be here before you know it, and your future goals are calling your name. As you jump in to brainstorm and whittle down your goals of priority for the coming year, here are four tips to help you along the way:
- Think small and attainable
Psychology Today suggests that, since having a goal to focus on can instill motivation, a sense of purpose, and pride in accomplishment, allow yourself many victories of smaller endeavors. The more opportunities you give the dopamine to surge in your brain, the more likely you are to stick with your next goal.
- Attach a “when” to your “what”
You’ve heard this one before: a solid goal requires a measurable component. If you want to eat healthier foods, make sure you give yourself parameters, like trying a new vegetable each week, or having something from all food groups on your plate at least one meal every day. Give yourself something to measure against so you can easily mark your successes or areas for improvement.
- John Hancock it
Active.com reminds us to “ink it, not just think it,” when it comes to goal setting. As you might imagine, writing down your goals solidifies them and leads people to higher rates of achievement. A Harvard alumni study showed that the three percent of alumni who wrote down their goals at graduation made more money 30 years later than the 97 percent who neglected to. As long as you’re writing down your goals, finish them up with your signature and get a buddy to do the same. If your goals align with theirs, invite them to join in and work towards it together. Having a “goal buddy” is extremely valuable in holding you accountable, supporting you, and being honest when things get dicey.
- Be kind to yourself
Frame your goals in a positive manner (e.g. “I will drink one can of soda per week” instead of “I will avoid drinking soda.”), and go easy on yourself if you slip up. When you’ve gone through the effort of determining your goals, documenting them, focusing on them, and doing your very best to stick to them, it’s tempting to be harsh on yourself when you encounter an obstacle or shortcoming. Above all else, goals are meant to motivate and guide you to being a better you, so remember that failing and learning from it is part of the process. Plan on scheduled check-in points to periodically evaluate your goals and make adjustments as needed, particularly if you experience repeated difficulties.
We challenge you to make thoughtful personal goals for the year ahead - and go out and get ‘em!