WRITTEN BY: AUDREY BALL
how to prescribe
how to set goals
likely to keep
There’s something about a new beginning that makes you want to set goals. It could be the beginning of a new week, a birthday, or the turn of the year where we decide to commit to something. This new year is a big one; it’s a new decade. So if you’re like me, you’re reflecting and asking yourself “how can I be better & what can I achieve in 2020”?
I like to start with reflecting on the year that’s ending. What did I achieve? What was I proud of? How do I improve on the losses? Build on the successes?
Then I make some goals for the new year. I’ve always intuitively loved lists and writing things out, and it turns out you’re 70% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down.
How you write your goals is up to you, but I’ve found it works to organize them into a framework.
The Goal Framework:
I start with the things I want to embody or “BE.” These are mantras or principles to live by. They’re less about checking a concrete activity or accomplishment off the list and more about HOW you want to approach the year. How do you want to BE this year?
I also make a “DO” section. These are goals to achieve that align with your values & help you live out the “BE” goals. For me, those categories are Do, Make, Give, and Learn.
Starting with the last:
LEARN is about self-improvement.
What do you want to learn, study for, acquire new skills in?
MAKE is financial.
What do you want to make in income? Save? What other business ventures do you want to take on?
GIVE is the stuff you do for nothing in return.
What can you do that is bigger than yourself, that makes you confront the issues that bother you, that makes you actively and positively engage in the world?
DO is the other stuff you want to do.
For me this is usually more fun and activity-based. Do you want to take a specific trip? Make new friends? Find a fun new hobby?
That’s how to think about & categorize a resolution in an organized way… but how do you write it effectively and actually keep it?
The Science of Habits
Psychologists say that there are two lines of behavior science at play in new year’s resolutions: the science of habits and the science of self-stories.
The science of habits is key, as most resolutions are about changing habits or creating completely new ones. (This is about your DO goals)
Changing or creating habits isn’t hard if you do it in a science-backed way. According to Fogg and Duhigg, these three steps done for 3 to 7 days straight will result in a new habit:
Pick a SMALL action. Example: Run 30 minutes more each week. This is different from a vague goal like: Exercise more.
ATTACH the new action to a previous habit. Find the habit that you already do that is related to the new action and begin attaching them. For example, attach your previous habit of “go on a run 3 days a week” with “add 30 minutes to the total.” When you do the older habit, it is now a cue for your new one.
Make the new action as EASY as possible for at least the first week. For instance, put a post-it on your keys or gym shoes that says “Run 10 more minutes on this run” or set a phone reminder! Once you complete the action 3-7 times, you’ll have a new habit!
The other crucial side of successful resolutions is the science of self-stories. (This is related to your BE goals).
Story Edit your Self Stories
Self-stories are what help you accomplish those big or long-term goals. We have ideas of who we are and what’s important to us. Our self-stories govern our decisions, mostly subconsciously. When we stay true to them, it feels right; when our actions stray from them, it feels wrong.
If we want to accomplish a new goal or change something in our lives, we have to address the underlying self-story. Timothy Wilson in his book, Redirect, explains how we can “story-edit:”
Write your existing story and pay special attention to the parts of your story that go against the new goal you want to achieve.
Now re-write that section of the story! Re-write it to reflect the new way of being.
Such a simple self-story change has a huge impact on your probability of successful resolutions.
Follow the 3 Steps
Whether you choose to organize your many resolutions in a framework like me or pick a few themes to live by, make sure you write them down, follow the 3 steps to make it a habit, and edit your self-story, and you’ll be well on your way to being and achieving all you want this new year.