Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How to Achieve Your Goals in the New Year

Hello, beautiful! Recently, I've spent a lot of time thinking about goals: goals for my blog, goals for my personal life, setting goals, how to achieve them, etc. etc. etc.

I recently attended an amazing webinar by businesswoman Carrie Green on setting and achieving your goals in 2017 (side note, but comment below if you'd be interested in hearing what I learned, because I'd love to post about it!) that got me thinking about this upcoming year. Before Carrie's webinar, I never really gave much thought to how I was going to achieve any of my big dreams for 2017.

Listening to all of the incredible, inspiring things she had to say convinced me that I should do more to attack my goals and craft the life I want in the new year. However, though Carrie helped me set goals and get inspired to overcome the challenges ahead, I realized I also needed some tools to get me to the finish line.

I'm a firm believer that when your physical and mental health are aligned with your big dreams, that's when the most magic (i.e. productivity) happens. That's why I created the 2017 Whole Body Reset, a weeklong challenge designed to help us create the body and mindset that are going to help us achieve our goals in 2017.

For a week, we're going to be meditating, journaling, and thinking about our goals for the new year - not to mention, getting into some of the best shape of our lives! While I designed the challenge with motivated millennials in mind, it's perfect for almost anyone, from the overworked mom of three to the single career girl living it up in NYC. Not to mention, this program is completely and 100% FREE to join! 

Join the 2017 Whole Body Reset by clicking here!

The challenge starts January 8th, so be sure to sign up while you still have the chance. Meanwhile, let's talk about goals.

Some of us probably already know what we want to achieve in 2017. You're the ones who have had their New Year's resolutions set since February of 2016, who set weekly and monthly goals for yourselves, and who have rigidly followed the same five-year plan for years now.

Until about a week ago, that person was not me. I was the person who had a basic idea of what she wanted to achieve - for example, growing Haley Marie and tackling the personal challenges that come with my anxiety - but needed a little extra guidance to set and start working toward concrete goals.

Then, I signed up for Carrie's webinar and everything changed. I went out and bought a notebook specifically for setting blog and personal goals in the New Year. I made a list of New Year's resolutions, big and small, and started thinking about ways that I could achieve them starting now.

Carrie's webinar gave me the push I needed to (finally) get inspired for 2017. Now, I want to pay it forward by sending that push over to you.

If you're the person who might be feeling a little "meh" about 2017, who's behind on setting her New Year's resolutions and isn't sure what goals to set or how to achieve them, this post is for you. So, here are 17 goals we could all use some improvement on in 2017. Plus, scroll to the end and you'll get a few of my insider tricks on how to tackle them like a #girlboss!

1. Track your water intake every day.

I think it's safe to say that everyone could stand to drink a little more water in 2017. (Spoiler alert: we'll be doing this as part of the 2017 Whole Body Reset!) While technically it's recommended that we drink 8-12 glasses of any fluid per day - i.e. not just water - water is probably one of the healthiest things you can drink. It's sugar-free, calorie-free, and, if it's filtered, free of any chemicals or pollutants that will clog up your system.

Most of us probably aren't drinking enough - but maybe you are and you don't even know it! Either way, tracking your water intake is a great way to get a handle on your basic hydration level and what you can do to improve it. You can track how much water you're drinking pretty easily, in an app, bullet journal, planner, or whatever medium you like! I usually track mine using Pacifica, a multifaceted app I use to track my anxiety and healthy habits to help curb it. But however you choose to sip it, drinking more water is a great habit to track, so grab your favorite water bottle and get hydrated in 2017!

2. Meditate 5-10 minutes every day.

A lot of us know we want to get healthier in 2017, but are probably overlooking the importance of our mental health as well as our physical health. You could be fitter than Jillian Michaels on the outside, but on the inside, you might be completely out of shape! Chronic stress can cause everything from headaches to depression to heart disease. When left unchecked, stress can even alter your thought patterns, making you more prone to catastrophizing and other negative thinking habits that might be making you unhappy without you even knowing it. That's why meditation is such a powerful secret weapon for your brain. 

If you're anxious or prone to overthinking like I am, meditation might feel hard the first time you try it. However, the goal of meditation isn't to shut your brain off, but to make peace with whatever you're thinking about. Whether you find that your mind is chaotic or still, meditating will help you find a little rest and relaxation in even the craziest of days. Not to mention, you'll learn to observe and honor rather than ignore your feelings, so you'll soon be able to recognize the days when your mind and body might need a little extra TLC. 

There are lots of ways to meditate - no matter what you've heard, it's truly as easy as closing your eyes and observing your breath - but personally, I like to use an app like Meditation Studio ($3.99 for iOS and Android) or Calm (free for iOS, Android, and web). And if you aren't sure where to start, sign up for the 2017 Whole Body Reset! As part of the challenge, I'll be emailing you a week's worth of recommendations in Meditation Studio.

3. Sign up for a fitness class, get a gym membership, or join a free fitness challenge.

Okay, so this is basically the quintessential New Year's resolution - we've all seen how gym membership tends to skyrocket in January and plummet again a month later. However, chances are that most of us aren't getting the 3-5 days of 30+ minutes of exercise per week that the federal government recommends, so trying to get fitter in the new year is always a commendable goal! 

The plus side of adopting the same New Year's resolution as pretty much everyone else is that a lot of gyms and fitness studios are running promotions for the holiday, where you can get a gym membership or class pass at a discounted rate. However, if you'd rather fly solo than become a gym bunny, you can just as easily walk into a Target and leave with a yoga mat and dumbbells. 

A lot of fitness blogs also run free challenges this time of year that you can follow either on your own, or with a friend-slash-community of other fans. For example, I'll be following (well, trying to) the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge this year! Or, if you're looking for something a little more low-key, you can join my 2017 Whole Body Reset. We'll be working out two times over the course of our week together, as well as focusing on mind and body fitness with activities like meditation, tracking our water intake, and more!

4. Start using a planner or bullet journal.

Planning-slash-bullet-journaling grew in popularity in 2016, and I suspect it will only continue to do so in 2017! I love that getting organized is finally becoming cool again - and as an added bonus, it means that my local Michael's is always chock full of adorable planner stickers. However, if the sheer thought of planning doesn't rev you up, just remember that people who write down their goals are significantly more likely to achieve them! 

The best thing about planing is you can easily adopt it to fit your personal lifestyle and needs. For some people, a physical planner or bullet journal works great; for others, an app or their iPhone's calendar does the trick just as well. Me, I'm a fan of using a good, old-fashioned planner. I picked it up for about $8.00 at my local TJ Maxx, spruced up the pages with some $4.00 stickers from Michael's, and am absolutely hooked. 

My favorite way to use my planner is to fill in my goals and tasks at the beginning of the week. While I personally don't schedule a set day or time to do this, you might decide to set aside 15-20 minutes every Sunday or Monday and schedule a reminder on your phone or calendar. Or, you could just as easily fill in your planner as the week goes along! Whatever method you choose, make sure you pick the one that works best for you, to help hold you accountable for all the tasks, goals, and events you have going on throughout your busy life.

5. Wake up at the same time every day.

Have you ever noticed that hitting the snooze button each morning - or worse, waking up without an alarm on the weekends, sometime around 12 noon or 1 PM (nope, that's definitely not me) - actually leaves you feeling more tired? Yep, I'm raising my hand right now, too! 

Believe it or not, sleeping in on the weekends to "catch up" on sleep doesn't actually help you at all, and may actually be the reason you roll out of bed feeling so lethargic every Saturday morning, even though you just got 10+ hours of sleep. Waking up at the same time every day is an easy way to fix this common problem. For college students, that goal can be especially tricky, seeing as your class schedule may not be the same every day. Trust me, I know better than anyone how hard it is to get out of bed at 8 AM when your first class isn't until 10. But in the long run, I think it's worth it to set that alarm at 8 every day to make sure you have more energy to accomplish everything you need to get done. 

If you're not into waking up early, an easy way to "trick" yourself into getting out of bed is to do it gradually. Start by setting your alarm at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, 9:00 AM on Wednesday, 8:30 AM on Thursday, etc. until you finally get to your desired waking time. (For me, around 7:30 AM is ideal.) Oh, and here's a trick I stole from Ryan! To resist hitting snooze when that 8 AM alarm rolls around, put your phone or alarm clock across the room so you have to stand up to turn it off. Once you've already gotten up to walk across the room, you won't see a point anymore in crawling back under the covers.

6. Write a five-year plan.

Personally, I never saw a point in having a five-year plan until I was a senior in high school. Some of my friends had planned the next five-to-ten years of their lives out to a perfect T, and I basically felt like I was wandering around aimlessly (even though that wasn't the case). But the way I saw it, plans constantly change anyways, so who was I to say what the next five years of my life are going to look like? 

In reality, a five-year plan is more of a set of guidelines than a rigid step-by-step playbook for your life. The point of a five-year plan is to guide you through choosing what classes might work best for your major and what internships will help you get to where you want to be after graduation, not to keep you from saying yes to going on a date with that guy or going out with your sorority sisters because it's not "part of the plan." As a college student who's preparing for a future career, there's a tremendous benefit in having the next five years of your life roughly planned out.

On the other hand, there's also an unspoken agreement that yes, plans change. Your life won't always go the way you want it to. The guy you thought you were going to marry in five years might dump you at the three-year mark. The internship that was supposed to get you through year four might wind up going to one of your classmates instead. Life is full of disappointments, as well as happy surprises - and you would never want to let a five-year plan stop you from taking a better opportunity when it's handed to you. However, as long as you don't take it too seriously, a five-year plan can seriously help you make better decisions for your academic, personal, and career life. 

So, if you don't already have one, make 2017 the year that you finally write up that five-year plan! Your future self will thank you five years from now, when you're trying to get into grad school, taking that amazing job, or moving in with the one you love.

7. Read a self-improvement book for 15-30 minutes every day.

This was my personal New Year's resolution for 2017! Needless to say, I'm currently writing this blog post instead of fulfilling it...but before you start screaming "HYPOCRITE!" and throwing your drinks in my face, Ryan and I have plans to go to the library tomorrow so I can get started ASAP :) Remember, these things take time! (No, that's not an excuse, leave me alone!!)

After completing Carrie Green's webinar, I found myself so engrossed by all of her advice that I vowed to read her book, She Means Business, as quickly as I could possibly get my hands on it! That's where the idea for my New Year's resolution came about. 

I love hearing inspiring advice from other entrepreneurs and millennials who have their hearts set on accomplishing amazing things. For me, other bloggers, businesspeople, and my celebrity icons are my primary source of inspiration. I also love getting ideas for new habits I can adopt that will help bring me greater success. Reading self-improvement books helps me combine both of these loves for some major inspiration in 2017! 

On my list so far are She Means Business by Carrie Green, How to be richer, smarter, and better looking than your parents by Zac Bissonette, and Living Well With Anxiety: What you doctor doesn't tell you - that you need to know by Carolyn Chambers Clark. (Other titles desperately needed - leave your best book suggestions in the comments below!)

My Foolproof Secret for Achieving Your Goals

Now that you've picked one of my seven suggestions or set your own goals for 2017, how do you hold yourself accountable for achieving them without a) giving up, b) failing epically, or c) forgetting about them altogether? The answer is SMART goals! 

I first learned about SMART goals when I was in Girl Scouts as an elementary schooler. Every year when we started selling cookies again, my troop leaders (shoutout to Mom for being a co-leader for eight of my twelve years!) talked to us about SMART goals and had us set our own.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Setting goals with these five characteristics is my almost foolproof way to ensure that I reach my goals by the end of 2017. Here's a quick rundown on how to make sure that your goals hit all of these points:

Specific: How many times have you failed to reach a goal such as "Exercise more" or "Drink more water" because you weren't quite sure what you meant by "more"? When you don't set specific enough goals, your thinking goes from determined and focused to a little something like this: Okay, should I exercise three times a week or four? Drink eight glasses of water or ten? Does going to the gym once this week count, because it's more than what I used to do before? Ugh, I might as well not go at all now! That's why "Exercise three times a week every week for a month" is a much better goal than "Exercise more"! 

Measurable: Another problem with goals like "Exercise more" and "Drink more water" is that by the end of 2017, you'll have no idea if you've reached them or not. Does once a week count, or should you only count weeks where you exercised two or three times? Does it count if you drank tea or coffee as well as water? It's important to set specific parameters for success every time you set a new goal, so you have some way to measure and describe what you've achieved. Additionally, every good goal needs numbers to truly be measurable: it's much easier to tell if you "Exercised three times a week" or "Drank eight glasses of water every day" than it is to tell if you "Exercised more" or "Drank more water."

Attainable: For a goal to be SMART, you have to be able to reach it. The problem with a goal with no set parameters such as "Exercise more" or "Drink more water" is that you can't ever really reach a point where you know you've achieved it. Even if you get to a point where you're exercising seven days a week and drinking an entire gallon of water every day, theoretically there is still always room to "Exercise more" or "Drink more." That's why it's so important to make your goals specific and measurable - setting those parameters is what makes them attainable!

Realistic: "Exercise three times a week every week for a month" is a realistic goal. "Run seven days a week, do one hour of yoga five days a week, and lift weights three times a week, every week, for the rest of your life" might not be. The thing about setting realistic goals is they have to be realistic for your lifestyle. Since everyone is different, "Exercise three days a week" might be a realistic goal for you, while for someone else who's used to working out a lot more, "Exercise six days a week" might be equally realistic. Setting realistic goals ensures that you're able to reach your goals (i.e. that your goals are attainable), so that you don't wind up disappointed that you didn't climb Mount Everest or jump out of a plane without a parachute by the end of 2017.

Timely: Finally, every goal needs a deadline. Setting a goal without a deadline is what enables you to keep putting off "Exercising three days a week" indefinitely. Timeliness makes "Exercise three days a week every week for the month of January" a much better goal than "Exercise three days a week." Even if "Exercise three days a week" gives you a measurable parameter to achieve, without that deadline, you won't know when to review your progress and see how far you've come. Keeping your goals timely makes it easier to tell when you've succeeded (and when you haven't).

Put those five characteristics together, and you get a SMART goal - my secret to making my goals foolproof and easy to attain! What are your secrets for goal-setting in 2017? Connect with me on social media @haleymarieblog and let me know - I'd love to hear them! 

Want to achieve your goals this year? Sign up for 2017 Whole Body Reset!

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