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Achieve Your Goals - How to Stay Motivated and Get Results

When your new year's resolutions start to fade, here are tips on how to get back on track.

Posted on February 23, 2024 by Sarah Shellam


It’s February. This is the time of year when we start to lose interest in our goals, plans, ambitions, and New Year's resolutions. The enthusiasm of January is replaced with sluggishness, procrastination, and old habits. One positive aspect of the new year is the sense of opportunity it brings. Now that the previous year is behind you, you can focus on the potential for change in the upcoming year. Maybe your goal setting is designed to inspire you to develop healthy habits. Maybe you set financial goals to save more and build future wealth. Whatever it may be, there’s no doubt that it gets more difficult to stay motivated. Your routines begin to fade gradually, and you may start to feel like your aspirations end up on the back burner.

For many Americans, financial goals remain the most common goal people set. It’s also the most common type of goal that creates stress when not achieved. There is no doubt that more and more Americans are becoming concerned about their money. According to a survey from Investopedia, 40% of respondents said they were more worried about the future of their finances at the end of 2023 than in past years. This is leading Americans to set lofty financial goals as they move in to 2024, and it can be upsetting and stressful when you feel like your motivation to achieve them fades.

How then can you sustain your goals long-term, whether financial or personal goals, while holding onto the enthusiasm and intention you had when you began the new year? This is the method.

Make Intentional Time to Remember What Motivated You in the First Place

Let’s face it. When the initial motivation of the new year starts to wear off, you will have to seek out additional motivators waiting in the wings. We are inspired at the beginning of the year because we see an endless possibility and a brand-new beginning as exhilarating before we lose the drive to put in the hard work necessary to truly make those changes happen. When we realize that we have complete control over our motivation, this is much less likely to occur. Create an action plan taking into account your personal motivators and include them into your system for forming habits and achieving your objectives. Remember that motivation is like energy—it needs consistent attention and effort to thrive.

  • Build a Support System - Tell your family and friends about your goals and ask for their encouragement and support. You can even invite them to participate with you, making the journey more enjoyable and motivating. Having a support system that can check in on your progress will help you keep going when you may not be feeling the motivation to keep going yourself.
  • Start with Small Steps - Begin with manageable action steps that align with your larger goals. Small successes build momentum and keep you motivated.
  • Track Your Progress - Seeing your progress will encourage you to keep hitting your other goals. When you set a goal and work toward it, your brain releases dopamine—a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This dopamine spike occurs when something important is about to happen or when you accomplish a task. So, when you achieve a milestone - no matter how big or small - write it down. When you start to see daily reflection streaks, it will become harder to deviate from the process.
  • Reward Yourself - Yes, treat yourself! Maybe you reward yourself with a nice dinner, a new pair of shoes you’ve been wanting, or a night out with your friends. Setting extrinsic motivators when you reach micro-goals or milestones encourages you to stay motivated as you progress toward your final goal. Remember that rewards don't have to be extravagant. Even small treats can make a difference. Regularly rewarding yourself reinforces positive behaviors, making it more likely that you'll continue working toward your goal.

Re-evaluate Your Goals

One of the most common mistakes people make when setting goals at the start of a new year is setting TOO many goals or unattainable goals and expecting results right away. In the rush to start a new year, you may feel inclined to set all the goals you can think of. While it’s great to be motivated to improve your life, setting too many goals can make it difficult to do the things you need to do on a regular basis.

One trait of motivated individuals is having realistic expectation management. Don’t start off the year by setting 100 goals – it’s simply unrealistic to achieve everything. It’s important to remember that it takes time to create new habits, which is often necessary when setting new objectives. Change often happens more slowly than you would like. Be patient with yourself and set realistic goals. Concentration is key to moving forward, so you won’t lose momentum. Instead of overhauling your entire life and doing everything at once, focus on narrowing your goals. You can still set challenging goals, but don’t aim so high that you wind up setting yourself up for failure from the start.

Expect Frustrations & Don’t Take Failures Personally

As is often the case at the beginning of the year our motivation is high, and we are significantly more prone to feel let down when our expectations are not fulfilled. And what happens when you realize you’re not meeting your goals fast enough or are seeing multiple disappointments in your life? It’s inevitable that you'll want to give up - and lots of people do. Be realistic and be compassionate to yourself. Achieving big goals can take time, and setbacks are common. Instead of solely focusing on setbacks, celebrate your wins—no matter how small. Even when we have the best intentions to keep motivated, life can still happen. There is only so much you can do when things don’t go as you’ve planned.

When you fail, it’s normal to want to blame yourself and wonder what you could have done differently. Do not take your failures personally. One of the main reasons our motivation to hit our goals decreases throughout the year is because we start to take our failures personally and it’s hard to understand why you are not seeing results even when you are trying. Take the emotional and human components out of the picture. Rather than making the situation of failure about you, shift your focus back to the support systems you put in place. Go back, look at your goals, and make the needed changes if something is not working.

Create Systems to Help You Meet Your Goals

When setting goals for the new year, it’s easy to want to dive straight in, but in order to actually hit those goals, you need to have systems in place that will help you. Your goal is WHAT you want to achieve, but you can’t forget about your HOW – and that is where having a strong system in place is crucial.

Systems serve as a means to shift your focus from the future goals and redirect it towards the present system, enabling you to stay on the paths you’ve set for yourself. Establish your main objectives, create the necessary structures and processes to achieve your goals, and establish principles that can keep everything in place. Some people use the SMART goal method (a method that encourages measurable and attainable goals) to help them better define what they need to do to have a successful outcome. Maybe you start by breaking down your goals so that they don’t feel so overwhelming. Making a list and tackling the easier ones first is a great way to start small and still see results. No matter what though, make sure you remain consistent.

Following a routine is a great way to see constant progress, which in itself is motivating. When you stop focusing on the end goal but rather how you will achieve that goal, your perspective on failure will also change. The biggest part of adjusting your goals and remaining motivated is letting go of the outcome you’re trying to reach and instead focusing on the actual process of achieving that goal. Having intentional direction starts with a system.

Sticking with your goals is hard, and no one said it would be easy. Maintaining motivation throughout the year requires a strategic approach, but if you take the right steps, your motivation will stay with you. Small successes pave the way for larger achievements, so celebrate each step forward. Always remember that motivation is both internal and external; be optimistic and hopeful while still being realistic. The most important part is embracing the process of change as part of life, and it’s okay to adjust your goals as needed. So, congratulations. You’ve already taken the first step to stay on track by equipping yourself with tools that can help you achieve your goals in the new year.

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