If you have ever set a New Year’s resolution, you have probably noticed that by February, the momentum of your original motivation begins to wane or disappears altogether.

Professor Peter Herman of the University of Toronto explains that our expectations when making New Year’s resolutions are often unrealistic and out of alignment with how we see ourselves. He calls this “the false hope syndrome.” Setting goals we would like to attain rather than goals we feel capable of achieving are often the downfall of our resolutions.

Common resolutions:

  • Financial/debt reduction
  • Weight loss
  • Smoking cessation
  • Exercise goals
  • Self-improvement (reading, education etc.)

You may even think if you attain your resolution, your entire life will improve, and happiness lies at the end of the rainbow. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why people who quit smoking often restart and why weight loss results in regaining weight. The reward just wasn’t worth the effort emotionally.

How to Win at Goal Setting

There are some tips to help you attain your goals more effectively and efficiently. Setting a goal and making positive changes requires rewiring your brain by creating new neuropathways to undo habitual thinking and patterns. In essence, practice makes perfect. When they say it takes X amount of time for a new habit to form, these are the new neuropathways that they are referring to. It is a re-training in essence.

Here are some ways to get started.

Choose One Goal

Rather than overwhelming yourself with a list of goals, focus on one significant change you would like to make.

Make That Goal Quantifiable

How will you know if you reach a goal if you do not have a standard by which to measure your success? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Reduce debt by 50%
  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Read one book per month
  • Save $5,000

Putting a number or measurement on your goal can help maintain momentum once the initial excitement wears off.

Make That Goal Reasonable

Losing 100 pounds in a month is not a reasonable goal and sets you up for failure. Losing ten pounds in a month is a more achievable, yet still motivational way to get to your goal weight.

When concerning money, sit down and make a realistic budget based on real numbers prior to setting your goal.

Create a System with Accountability

How will you hold yourself accountable? Will cheating be allowed? It is vital to put realistic systems in place that will support your success even when motivation wanes.