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Goal Flourishing: How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick!

I routinely fall asleep on my recliner at the end of the day. It’s very annoying, and I know it’s not good for me, but somehow it keeps happening! Do you have anything like this happening in your life? I’m motivated to break this habit in 2019, but I need to know how I can frame my goal to make long lasting changes. So, I’ve been doing some research on goal setting. I found a wonderful article entitled “Facilitating Successful Behavior Change: Beyond Goal Setting to Goal Flourishing” In it, Kenneth Nowack, outlines great tips for making your goals stick. I will summarize his findings here as well as add some other tips I’ve picked up along the way.

The first step in setting your goals is to look at the big picture. What is your vision of yourself? It is helpful to write this down. There’s no format for this one, just take a moment, and think about this. Who is your ideal self? This is essential because you want to make sure you are linking your goals to your ultimate vision. For example, my vision is to be a wonderful wife, an exceptional mother to my children and an amazing physical therapist. Sounds easy, right? Don’t stress! This is just step 1.

Now that you have your vision, it’s time to link some goals to it. In the past, I would have written something down like, “Don’t fall asleep on the recliner anymore!” However, with this type of phrasing it is highly unlikely that this goal will happen. Let’s use this example to figure out why:

  • Research suggests that phrasing your goals in more approach terms (i.e. Establish a better bedtime routine in order to fall asleep in my bed) versus avoidance (i.e. don’t fall asleep in the recliner anymore!) creates more sustainable change. Negativity generally isn’t the answer.

  • Frame the goal as a learning goal versus a performance goal. A learning goal is acquiring a new skill, such as performing mindfulness meditation as part of my bedtime routine to wind down from the day in order to fall asleep in my bed. This is in contrast to a popular performance goal of “losing 10 pounds”. A more ideal way to phrase this is “I will work out 3 times a week at 6 pm or attend a 6 pm class three times a week to reach my ideal weight.”

  • What about my vision? “I will perform mindfulness meditation as part of my bedtime routine in order to fall asleep in my bed so that I can be fully present for my family and patients the next day.”

  • Goals need deadlines. Not just time frames but specific deadlines. “Starting December 31,2018, I will perform mindfulness meditation in my room as part of my bedtime routine in order to fall asleep in my bed so I can get a good night’s sleep and be fully present for my family and patients the next day.”

  • Have an if/then plan: I will set an alarm on my phone in the evening when I am finished with the day. If I forget to practice mindfulness meditation or I fall asleep for a minute on the recliner, then my phone alarm will wake me up.

  • Be sure to write down your goals and let other people know about your plans! I did that with this blog post! You can post them in your house or carry them around with you to remind you.

Finally, there is a lot of discussion about SMART (Specific-fall asleep in bed, Measurable-every night, Achievable-reach out to family and friends for support/check in, Relevant-makes a difference in my energy level, Time-bound-starting today or by what deadline) goals which are great but there is also a place for the BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) so try to put one of those far reaching goals in your plan too. Also, focus on about 5 goals for the year. You can always reassess but don’t overload yourself!

Do you have any questions? PTs are great people to share your goals with and we can help you to streamline them as well! Just ask! Feel free to email me any questions or comments too!

HAPPY 2019!!!

Mara Towne PT, DPT


Nowack, K. (2017). Facilitating successful behavior change: Beyond goal setting to goal flourishing. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 69(3), 153–171. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000088

How to Write Game Changing Goals in 6 Easy Steps: https://medium.com/the-mission/how-to-wrtie-game-changing-goals-in-six-easy-steps-588d01e1ff1e

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