I absolutely love this time of year. It allows me to fully examine my life and, of course, assess if I achieved the goals that I set for the previous year. I began 2015 with seven resolutions and am happy to report that I kept every one of them. Honestly, I think it was a first for me to accomplish every single one. It is a great feeling and as I prepare for 2016, I wanted to share my process with you!

Why Set Resolutions?

Goals and resolutions are like a compass to provide direction in motivating us towards self-improvement and growth. Goal setting is a critical habit to develop in creating success in all areas of our lives. Life can often beat us down with obstacles and challenges, so achieving your goals is a way of creating a “success cycle.” Even little successes help us feel better, build self-esteem, and fuel a desire to tackle bigger things.

Key #1 – Ask the Right Questions to Identify Your True Goals

You will need the right diagnosis in order to have the right remedy. In order to create the necessary leverage to move a person to achieve a goal or make good on a resolution, it requires an honest appraisal and look in the mirror. These questions can help get the process started:

What do I need to do to make my life better?

What areas in my life am I most dissatisfied with or causing me the most pain?

What are the reasons why I want to have a better life?

Key # 2 – Make Your Goals Attainable and Realistic

Any voyage begins with one step and is followed by many other steps. Daily and short-term goals can be used to help you achieve those long-term goals. Get in the habit of asking yourself the following question each morning and evening: What must I do today to achieve my long-term goal? Again, goals can be used to create a success cycle and positive self-image. Little things add up to make a major difference in the way you feel about yourself. It is these micro-decisions that will help you make or break your goals.

Key #3 – Be Specific and Write Your Goals Down

One reason that I think a lot of New Year’s resolutions do not get met is that they are vague and off target. The clearer your goals are defined, the more likely you are to reach them. For example, let’s say that one of your goals is to lose weight. What is the weight you desire? What is the body fat percentage or measurements you desire? Clearly define what it is you want to achieve. Have a safe guard so that it is sustainable once you achieve it. For example, if your target is to weigh less than 150 pounds, I would suggest having another goal of never having two days in a row weighing above 150. A lot of times people achieve their goal and then relax. You need a safeguard goal to keep the achievement in place.

Key # 4 – Attach Emotion to Your Goals

The truth is that what motivates people to change is either the avoidance of pain or the desire for more pleasure. And of these two motivators, the avoidance of pain is much more powerful. So take a look at your goal, and attach as much pain to it as you can. But, don’t stop there. Once you have loaded up on pain, fill your heart and mind full of the pleasure that achieving your goal will bring you.

Let me give you a personal example. Last year, I asked my wife if there was any resolution that I could make that would make her life better. I was surprised that it was something as simple as it was (putting my dirty clothes in the laundry hamper). It was an “irritation” to her. These sorts of little things are common in long-term relationships. Not a big deal? Perhaps, that is why they are so difficult to change. So in order to make the change in my habit, I associated not doing it with how much it was disappointing her. None of us wants to disappoint someone we love, which can be painful and a big deal, right? These simple irritations we all are guilty of can take their toll on a relationship. You have to keep irritation from overflowing and every little bit helps.

Key #5 – Tell Others

Another way to associate more pain to not achieving a goal is by telling others about your goals. I would be selective on both whom you share your goals with and what goals you share. But for many goals, the additional peer or family pressure can be used for a positive result. For example, for people wanting to quit smoking having them tell at least ten friends that they have quit smoking is a very good strategy. Most people want to avoid embarrassment, ridicule, and failure. Going on record with friends and family is additional leverage.

Key # 6 – Create a Routine

Old habits/behavior are often difficult to change, and new habits/behavior often take a considerable amount of time, before they become routine. All of us have probably heard the old adage that it takes 21 days for a new habit to take hold. I don’t agree with that at all. With conscious awareness, daily goal setting, and motivation we can change immediately. So to start, we have to consciously create a routine by mapping out the day. Create your routine on paper everyday, at night before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning. I know this task in itself is a new routine, but it is only temporary until your daily routine becomes habit.

Key #7 – Celebrate Your Success

There has to be a pay off for achieving your goals. Yes, personal satisfaction may be reward enough. But, I would suggest really pumping up feelings of success. Celebrate! Give yourself a cheer! Any positive change in your life, no matter how seemingly small, should be celebrated. Again, the more emotion attached the better, as it will lead to you wanting to experience even more success.

Final Comment

If you are familiar with some of my key messages on health and wellness, you know how important it is to find ways of expressing gratitude in our lives. As a suggestion for one of your goals in 2016, you may want to let someone you come in contact with during the day something about them that you appreciate. In that light, thank you for being a part of my community and supporting my work. Have a great New Year.

Dr. Michael Murray

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