Here's Why Micro Goals Work Better Than New Year's Resolutions
Every January, thousands of people declare new resolutions for the coming year—but how easy are they to actually keep? Research shows that 60% of people can't keep their New Year’s resolutions, and the reason why is actually pretty simple. Most resolutions involve grand ideas that sound good the day after New Year's Eve but aren’t actually realistic goals for the other 364 days of the year. By making a bold lifestyle-changing decision—like not buying any clothes for a year or not eating a single carb in 2021—you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll eventually cave and see a great sweater on sale or you won’t be able to resist a sweet treat. And once you break the resolution once, it’s easy to throw in the towel and quit altogether. Rather than make one grand resolution, here's why micro goals can actually help you reach the same end goal more quickly.
The wellness website Verywell surveyed their audience of 25 million readers about their resolution-keeping habits and published the findings. They found that 60% of users weren’t able to follow through on their resolutions—and in most cases, it was because the goal was too unattainable. But lucky for us, their research offered a simple solution: Rather than setting what they call “all-or-nothing” resolutions, set smaller, more achievable goals—AKA micro goals.
When you're laying out your micro goals, keep in mind that January 1 isn't the hard and fast rule when it comes to making lifestyle changes or forming new habits. It's best to start your goals as soon as you decide to do them—while you're still motivated. If you can stay motivated long enough to form a habit, you have a better chance of completing your goal for the new year. If you're motivated in December, start then! Your motivation will be less likely to fizzle out before the first of the year rolls around if you aren't sitting around waiting for January 1. On the flip side, don't feel like you can't set goals for the year just because prime resolution-making time has passed. Goals made in March can still have the same impact on your year, if not more of an impact.
How to Set Micro Goals
Instead of setting out to lose 40 pounds in a year, set smaller monthly goals instead. Losing a few pounds a month isn’t as daunting of a task, and you’ll be less likely to quit if you aren’t seeing fast results.
The site Examined Existence is all about personal development through scientific research, and they swear by the use of micro goals. Their outlook is all about having goals you can accomplish now, rather than focusing on a daunting task. We live in a world of instant gratification, which can actually impact our expectations when it comes to something like New Year’s resolutions.
If you can check something off a list every day, you’ll be more accountable and more motivated to reach the end result. If you want to run 100 miles in a year, you can’t just wake up on the last day of the year and run all 100 miles at once. Running one mile every other day is way more manageable, and more satisfying to check off the list.
The New York Times suggests that setting micro goals can actually increase your productivity in just about every area of your life—they’re not just for huge year-long goals! They attribute the success of micro goals to an actual change in your mindset. If you can use this way of thinking in every area of your life, eventually it will become second nature and you’ll find that just about every task suddenly becomes easier and more manageable.
Use Micro Goals to Reach Your Resolutions
Verywell found that rather than deciding to restrict yourself from something completely, simply cutting down your action or activity is actually more effective. Instead of saying you won’t buy a single clothing article in a year, limit yourself to one item a month—or set a manageable limit on carbs instead of cutting them out completely. The micro goals method creates a healthier mindset and you’ll be able to celebrate all year as you hit each monthly or weekly goal, instead of becoming discouraged when you aren’t able to quit a habit right away or immediately implement a big lifestyle change.
If you really want to accomplish an all-or-nothing goal, micro goals can make that easier, too. Instead of looking at a whole year of not eating candy, take it day by day (or hour by hour, if you have to). Anyone can go just one day without candy—and as Examined Existence points out, all you have to do is do the same thing the next day. By breaking down your goal into 365 manageable goals, you’ll feel more accomplished and be more likely to reach the end of the year without reaching for the candy jar.