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What to do if you haven’t made progress on your goals yet

The freshness of the New Year’s encourages, almost impels, us to delare a host of ways in which this year will be different. We promise to abstain from all vices, improve our knowledge through careful study of the daily newspapers (instead of just skipping to the cartoons) and, of course, lose those extra kilos that snuck themselves onto us three Christmases ago and have stubbornly refused to move on, like a particularly obnoxious housemate.

But as the days slip away, at first gently and then with a hurried burst, those goals that once seemed so certain, lose their thrill. We fall back into old routines. Content ourselves with trashy magazines while chewing sugary donuts at 3o’clock in the afternoon.

When we realise we’ve made scant progress on our goals, we shrug and think “Oh well, next year then. No point starting now.”

And yet, something nags away inside - like a burning ember just waiting for a particularly dry piece of kindling to burst into flames - a yearning to embrace our possibilities.

This obsession with New Year's resolutions can be detrimental to starting on our dreams at any other time. In fact, the failure rates for goals set upon in January is so poor (a mere 64 percent manage to make it past February) as to almost make it foolish to attempt anything ambitious at that time. Imagine Steve Jobs coming up with the idea for Apple computers then telling himself, “oh no, best to wait til January 1st to give this a go”.

Instead, we think, goals should be commenced not on a particular date or with the pressure of societal expectations, but rather as soon as the desire wends its way to the forefront of our minds.

If you need a reminder about how much you can achieve in a short amount of time, just think back to your most productive day this month. How it felt to get so much done. If a day can yield so much, just think what you could get done in six months of focused action.

To get you started we came up with our tips for starting on your goals, whether it’s January 1st or a Tuesday in October.

Revisit your goals from the start of the year

As the bottles of sparkling were being popped and someone turned to you to ask what your resolutions were, did you hurriedly rattle off a few well-meaning goals for the year? Yet now that you think about it, you don’t really care all that much about them.

Examine each of your goals and ask yourself why it is important to you. Get specific. When we can identify the emotional imperative of our goals, we’re that much more committed to achieving them.

If you can't identify a reason to move forward, drop that goal like it's hot, knowing that you've now made more room for the things that matter to you.

Begin with a small win

Once you have decided which goals matter the most to you, it’s essential you take action immediately, before the desire to change wanes.

Yet where do you begin? Many of us fail to achieve any of our goals because we have so many, each as important as the last. We get stuck because we don’t know what to do first.

Research has shown ticking off a small goal can have a disproportionate impact compared to the actual outcomes of said goal.

So if you’re struggling with where to start, pick something small that you can get done immediately.

Perhaps your goal is to give up television for a week. Seems unlikely that a small goal could have such an impact, right?

But, instead of vegging out in front of the TV, you use that time to read a book or do a gentle evening stretch routine. That better sleep you’re getting means you wake up earlier in the morning, so you’re less stressed when you get to work. With a clearer mind, you get more things done. Your manager notices and suddenly they’re talking about a promotion. And so on.

Use the buddy system

There’s nothing like a little external accountability and support to motivate us to reach a goal. Letting down ourselves is easy, but telling someone else you’ve not done what you said you'd do can be nerve-wracking enough to spur us into action.

Choose your friend well. If they regularly flake on your dinners out and return text messages a week late, it’s unlikely they’ll provide the impetus you need to get shit done. However, if they turn up early to meetings and check in on you just because, they’re perfect.

Don’t want to team up with a buddy? You can still get yourself the accountability you need by announcing your intentions, finding a Facebook group related to your goal, or just writing them down and placing them somewhere you’ll see them regularly.

Remember, change doesn’t wait for a specific date to begin. Start now and when December 31st comes around you can cheerily wave away those questions of "what's your resolution for the year" and tuck into another round of hors d'oeuvres.

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