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Articles of Interest

How to Set Better Goals

Many people start a new year with big resolutions – losing weight, learning a new language, eliminating stress, etc – but they often stop trying by February, their goals for the New Year forgotten. It is clear that New Year’s resolutions often don’t work. So instead, how can you get better at setting goals for yourself?

Why Resolutions Do Not Work

The main reason New Year resolutions do not work is that most people tend toward undefined, overly-broad goals. They will say things like “I want to learn a new language” or “I want to lose weight.” These are admirable goals to set, but the problem with them is that they provide no real direction. There is no driving force or incentive for someone to hold to them. Further, most people are not setting these resolutions because they want to, but because something in their life makes them think they should. They do not believe in the goals they are setting, because if they did believe in them, they would not be waiting to start pursuing them until the New Year. Instead, they would begin working toward the goal as soon as they came up with it. Put the two together, and most people’s New Year’s resolutions fail because they are not setting realistic goals. 

Setting Better Goals

So, how should you set your Near Year’s resolutions? The short answer is that you should not, while the long answer is more nuanced. Goals are something to be achieved, and after achieving a goal, people can find it easy to slip back into old behaviors and undo all of their progress. Creating achievable goals starts with addressing desired behaviors; ask yourself can you reasonably do it, and how well you can fit it into your lifestyle? Instead of focusing on a goal, focus on good habits you can realistically build in the short-term that will help you achieve your goal. Instead of saying “I want to save money,” say “I am going to cook dinner at home at least twice a week instead of eating out.” Habits are stronger than goals because once they form, they become easy and unconscious. Maintain the same good habits for long enough, and you might even find yourself surpassing your initial goal. 

During the New Year, we recommend focusing on building healthy habits as opposed to creating New Year’s resolutions. If you found Penn Foundation’s advice helpful, we recommend you check out our other Articles of Interest for tips on managing stress, practicing wellness, getting a handle on familial relationships, and more.