Many people are eager to set New Year’s resolutions, but are less enthusiastic about following through with their goals. After the first few weeks or months of a new year passes, the excitement and motivation you initially had starts to wear off and the old habits and excuses creep back in.
How do you maintain momentum on your New Year’s goals once motivation fades? You assess your goals to make sure they are realistic and meaningful, break them down into small action steps that don’t overwhelm you, create check in systems that support smart habits that aid you in achieving your goals, and you track your progress so you can see how far you’ve come and celebrate your small wins.
The point of a New Year’s resolution is that it provides you with the opportunity to improve in some aspect of your life. Usually we start out strong in the first weeks of the year and we’re committed to being a new and improved version of ourselves, but then motivation starts to fade and we stop taking action.
All progress on your goals grinds to a halt and it feels harder to keep going than it was to start on January 1st. But obviously it is imperative to maintain your momentum if you want to see results and complete your goal by the end of the year.
Why We Love New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s resolutions are a great way to start fresh with a new outlook on life. Being able to put the disappointments and baggage of the past year behind us and go forward with a blank slate is like taking your first hot shower after spending 365 days walking through a muddy swamp.
You get to be a shiny, new, upgraded version of you with unlimited potential! Without a trail of let downs or failure behind you it’s easy to be optimistic about the future.
However, just because you made a decision to do something on January 1st doesn’t mean the motivation will last. You miss a few workouts, you cheat on your diet, the project you’re working has unexpected obstacles, the bad habits you were trying to break suck you back in, you get tired, or you forget why you wanted to achieve that goal in the first place.
It is important to remember that the best way to stay on track for any goal is maintaining momentum through consistent action. You have to keep showing up when it’s hard and you’d rather stay on the sofa watching Netflix.
Lets discuss the steps to help you stay motivated to complete your goals when the excitement of the new year has worn off.
How to Maintain Momentum on Your New Year’s Goals
1. Set realistic goals for yourself that you can achieve within the year
Setting realistic goals for yourself doesn’t mean you’re playing small or settling. It means that you’re putting some mental boundaries around your ambitions that will not only keep you sane, but will also help motivate and inspire you because your resolution is actually attainable.
Here are some tips on choosing realistic goals that you can achieve in a year.
- What will add the greatest value to your life? Focus most of your time on that.
- What reflects your values and interests? What excites you? Excitement will help you stay motivated.
- Break your goal down into smaller steps and create a timeline for it, while adding some flexibility for delays. How much can you really do each month? What goal posts can you reach in a set amount of time?
How will setting realistic goals help me achieve my more ambitious goals?
Nine out of 10 resolutions don’t last past January because people set their resolutions too high and too quickly. This creates unrealistic expectations and sets them up for disappointment when they can’t reach those expectations.
Achieving these small goals creates evidence that you can in fact achieve the challenging things you set out to do. They are like the foundation of a pyramid, if you keep stacking these goals on top of each other, eventually you build the life you want.
When people feel like their goals are achievable and they can chip away at them throughout the year and they are seeing results, they want to work harder and stay committed to them. If the goal feels too big, they get discouraged and quit.
These small goals build momentum towards big results.
2. Make sure that your goals are meaningful to you
Sometimes we set goals for the wrong reason. We decide we want something on whim, but later realize it’s not really going to improve our lives or bring happiness like we thought it would. Or society tells us we need to be this thing or check off this list, but those things aren’t really important to us.
Meaningful goals are more likely to be attained than goals that are not meaningful. When people only set goals because of what other people might think of them, then it is unlikely that they will have any motivation to work towards reaching that goal.
If you’re only becoming a doctor to please your parents and not because you want to heal people then your excitement and motivation aren’t going to be there, and if do you achieve that goal you aren’t really going to be happy.
You should be excited by your goals, and while the process of achieving them may not always be fun or easy, there should still be moments where you enjoy yourself or at least the small achievements along the way.
If your goal is truly meaningful and you know it will add value to your life you’ll work harder to achieve it, rather than if you set a goal because you think it will please someone else.
Ask yourself why you want to achieve your goal. What will the end result bring to your life? How will it increase your happiness in a lasting way?
3. Break it down into small steps and habits
Have you ever set a big goal and then had no idea how to accomplish it? It seems so overwhelming and impossible that you feel defeated before you even begin and never even start.
That’s because the most important step is breaking a goal down into tiny little chunks that you can actually do.
No one sets a big goal and then achieves it in one giant leap. Every great achievement in history has been accomplished through hundreds if not thousands of small steps taken over a period of time.
Imagine if NASA had said, “well, the rocket we need to land on the moon didn’t get finished after one day of effort, it’s just too hard so I guess we’re not going.” You can’t accomplish anything with that attitude.
Small, consistent actions done every day add up to the completion of your goal and the results you want. If you break your goal into smaller steps and take it one day at a time, you won’t be intimidated by something that feels huge and overwhelming.
I use my big goal action planner to lay out my goals step by step. This way I know exactly what to do.
Every day ask yourself, “what is one small step I can take today to work towards this goal?” And then do it. Make it a habit so that you are automatically and consistently making progress on your goals.
Learn the best way to create habits that help you achieve your goals.
A consistent goal-oriented mindset allows you to take more control of your life, and can lead to increased productivity and reduced stress.
4. Have quarterly goals
In the past I’ve found that one of the main reasons I didn’t make progress on a goal is because a year is just a long and vague timeline.
When I started setting goals each quarter, then I had some solid mental markers of when I needed to start taking action and when I needed to finish.
In 2021 one of my goals was to create and launch three courses. I assigned each course to a different quarter of the year. This allowed me to give them my full focus during their respective time frames and motivated me to take action and finish them because there was an specific due date.
The excitement of having the first one done early in the year also motivated me to keep working on the rest of them. It created evidence that achieving my goal of 3 courses was possible.
Setting a goal in January to do something “at some point this year” isn’t the best strategy. Assign your goals, or parts of them, to specific quarters of the year. You can even break it down further into monthly timelines, but if you goal is quite big quarters may be better.
A huge perk is that you might check off a goal way before the year even ends! Setting quarterly goals can be a great way to ensure that you’re always making progress towards your ultimate objectives.
5. Check in frequently
Most of us think that the first few days of January are the best time to make resolutions, but really any time is a great time to set a goal.
In reality, people who have successfully reached their New Year’s resolutions usually take the approach of checking in and reevaluating their resolutions throughout the entire year.
This way, they make sure they are still connected to their goal and can give themselves a chance to evaluate their lifestyle and decide what needs to be changed so they can meet their goals.
I’ve found that if I’m not checking in with my New Year’s resolution’s at least once a month, then I’m far less likely to make any progress on them. This is why I have a reminder on my Google Calendar to check on my goals the first of every month.
If you’re not making progress like you should, assess why and alter your strategy. Ask what actions you need to take, what habits needs to be changed, and reconnect with the purpose of your goal. What will it bring to your life when you complete your goal? What will happen and how will you feel if you don’t achieve it?
If a goal doesn’t resonate with and excite you anymore, feel free to take it off your list and set a new goal.
6. Track your progress
A lot of people set goals for themselves and then they forget about them. A goal that isn’t tracked is like a car with no fuel; it will never make it to its destination.
The benefits of tracking your progress on your goals are numerous. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or saving money, tracking your progress helps you stick with the program and reach your goal. It helps you maintain focus on your goal because you’re checking in frequently.
Tracking also gives you a sense of accomplishment that can be very motivating. You’ll feel like you’re really accomplishing something when you tick off small goals, like walking 10 minutes every day, or paying down $25 in debt each month.
If you have evidence that you can achieve small goals, then the big ones don’t seem so hard.
I recommend using a habit tracker if your goal requires daily action. I have a variety of printable habit trackers that I use for monthly goals, and I also use an app called Loop Habit Tracker.
7. Celebrate your successes
We tend to think that we should only celebrate our biggest wins, or we forget to celebrate them at all and just dive into the next project. But what’s the point of achieving these goals if you don’t take the time to acknowledge how awesome you are?
Give yourself credit for each step along the way. Sometimes it can feel so hard to just start on the simplest task, and it’s soooo easy to make excuses not to do the things you need to do, so give yourself a high five for all the times you showed up and put in the work. Even if it’s for the smallest thing.
Every time you check a task off your big goal action plan tell yourself how awesome you are. It motivates you to keep going.
And if things have come up and you aren’t making progress as quickly as you’d like, give yourself a break. It’s not too late to get back on track, and you don’t always have to go back to square one, you just keep going from where you left off.
What Should I Do If I Don’t Achieve My Goal?
It can feel really crappy to set a goal and not achieve it. However, the key is not to give up. Even with setbacks, you can still come back with a game plan that will help you achieve your goals.
Hating on yourself is a waste of time and it fixes nothing, so tell your inner critic to zip it!
If you’re not meeting milestones, ask yourself what is impeding you from getting where you want to be.
You may have been too ambitious and need to create a plan that will help you focus on smaller goals that feel more attainable, or maybe you just ran into some unexpected circumstances and need to get the ball rolling again.
One of the most important parts of achieving a goal is perseverance. You should also be mindful of how long it’s been since you began working towards the goal, as it’s possible that you have accomplished some progress without realizing it and need to give yourself more credit.
For example, if you want to lose weight, don’t give up on your goal just because you gained a few pounds. Revisit why you set the goal in the first place, identify why you fell off track, assess if your original plan was flawed or you just need to recommit, and then start taking action again.
Put these strategies into action and you’ll regain motivation and momentum on your New Year’s resolutions and goals in no time!
Here are more resources for goal setting and motivation: