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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Why We Should Set Short-Term Goals Instead Of Big New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is a great opportunity for a fresh start, right? Now is the time to let go of what impedes your happiness, become a better version of yourself, turn over a new leaf, you name it.

However, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with New Year’s resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, setting goals is essential to move forward and bring positive change in your life, and the beginning of a new year sounds the right time to do it. More often than not though, New Year’s resolutions are nothing but “great expectations,” which we somehow feel obliged to set. And we somehow consistently fail to reach them. Case in point, according to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year's resolutions have failed by mid-February.

If New Year’s resolutions don’t work, then it’s time to take another approach to goal setting. Here are five reasons why this year we should all set short-term goals instead of big, fancy New Year’s resolutions.

1. Short term goals are attainable

We tend to go big with our New Year’s resolutions. It’s as if we expect to turn our life upside down over the course of a few months or reinvent ourselves. But, when we set unrealistic expectations, we feel flustered, go overboard to reach them, and eventually quit. Our short-term goals are usually realistic and within our potential. We manage to fit them into our life, and, thus, attain them.

A common example where it pays to set a short-term goal is when you want to start running more. Running, and exercising in general, is a process that requires patience and perseverance, especially if you haven’t done it for a while. If you set the goal of say, wanting to run a marathon right from the get-go, chances are that you’ll lose patience and feel frustrated by how long it takes to reach your target. Any progress you make might not feel enough because there’s still a long way to go. But if you set a number of smaller goals, you’ll see, and appreciate, the first results soon and stay motivated.

2. Short-term goals create long-term habits

A lot of New Year’s resolutions revolve around the formation of new, healthier habits or quitting unhealthy ones. When the end goal involves a big life change, it can be deterring. Short-term goals are more effective in creating long-terms habits or letting go of old ones because they ease you in.

Say you want to get fitter and again decide that running a marathon is a great goal for you. You might know that running a marathon might be quite far off for you at present, yet you make the same decision to go for it. On the other hand, if you started with running for 30 minutes, 3 times a week, it wouldn’t sound so intimidating and you’d be more likely to stick to your promise, and maybe even eventually end up running that marathon after all!

3. New Year’s resolutions can be stressful

Like I said previously, New Year’s resolutions are rarely humble. Why commit to running three times per week when you can commit to running a marathon? Some people think that they need to set a big goal to stay motivated. However, in doing so, they put unnecessary stress and pressure on themselves.

Short-term goals can still lead to great things. The only difference is that they lay out the path towards your end goal, breaking it down into smaller steps that are easier to follow. To enjoy yourself along the way and not turn your resolutions into yet another source of pressure and stress, keep them small.

4. New Year’s resolutions are usually “all over the place”

Here’s what a New Year’s resolution sounds like: “This year, I’ll be happy. I’ll turn myself into a zen master. I’ll be super-grateful for everything. I will become the most positive person I know.”

Here’s what a short-term goal sounds like: “I’ll start meditating five times per week. Before I go to bed every night, I’ll write down three things I’m grateful for. I’ll clean up my space and give the things I don’t use to charity.”

Do you see the difference? New Year’s resolutions are often like daydreams with no concrete plan in motion, while short-term goals are specific and down to earth. Of course, there’s no harm in dreaming big. But without a concrete plan to reach them, in the form of a short-term goal, big resolutions remain dreams.

5. Short-term goals make you happier, sooner!

Don’t look down on short-term goals because they might be too simple or easy. They say that happiness is in the small things, and that includes the small things we do for ourselves. Even if what you’re aiming for is drinking six glasses of water every day this week, the satisfaction in knowing that you succeeded is great. This further motivates you to set other short-term goals like that and keep working towards a new, happier you.

Also, while big resolutions usually take a lot of time to accomplish, short-term goals are achieved in the near future. If you don’t want to wait any longer to start feeling better about yourself, set your first goal now!

New Year’s resolutions often fail too soon. So, how about we all take it easy this year for a change? Start small and humble, and see where it goes.


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