We all start out with good intentions when we set our objectives for the year to come, but motivation notoriously wanes with time and has the potential to sabotage our chances of achieving our dreams.
While many studies reinforce the notion that willpower struggles after only one month, a study tracking respondents over the course of a full year suggested that at around the three month mark half of resolutions fall over, increasing to a failure rate of around 82% by years end.i
Monthly micro goals
One way to deal with our waning motivation, instead of setting one daunting goal to be achieved over the period of a whole year, is to come up with a series of monthly, smaller goals. That will give you 12 ‘mini goals’ which ideally need to be achievable on a daily basis. The theory is that if you follow the same pattern for around 30 days, you’ll be establishing this pattern as a habit that you are likely to continue into the future. Each successive month will see you build on that success.
Working towards an end goal
Part of the key to making this approach work, is to ensure that all your monthly micro goals are working towards an overarching end goal. Your micro goals need to follow a theme.
This is where you can come back to your New Year’s resolution and base your theme on what you want to achieve for the year. Say your theme for the year is around career aspirations – for example achieving that promotion. Your first month could simply be setting aside some time each day to network and meet people within the organisation – improving your interpersonal skills. The next month might be focused on exploring tools to improve your productivity…and so on as you work your way through each successive month.
If your priority is to work on your health and wellbeing, and end the year capable of running ten kilometres, it’s also important to set some micro goals that get you there. Again, you can start small – a way of working incrementally towards your goal might be to start by drinking more water, then a month dedicated to getting more incidental exercise in your day, then a month focused on improving your diet and losing a little weight, working slowly up to lacing up your boots, hitting the track and increasing your endurance.
Smaller goals add up with time
We are calling them micro goals for a reason, it’s important to not bite off more than you can chew. The key is how they add up. Viewed alone these smaller goals may not seem like a lot, but the shorter duration makes it a lot more likely you’ll stick at them, developing good habits that will hopefully accrue, rather than fade over time. The fact that you are in effect starting afresh every month also gives you a much better chance of success.
Add some support into your plan
Don’t be afraid to put in some processes to help you get there – it can be a good idea to use online apps to aid or track your progress. It can also help to dangle the carrot and build in some rewards for when you get to the end of each month successfully. Tell friends and family what you are working on and celebrate your successes with them.
By the end of the year, you can look back with satisfaction at each little milestone as a personal win and you’ll have stepped towards, and finally reached an overall goal that may have seemed intimidating unless broken down into manageable chunks.
So what are you waiting for? Get out that calendar and pencil in a goal a month to reach your dreams this year.