How to Reset and Realign Your Goals After a Setback
We've reached the end of January and statistically, most Americans have already given up on their New Year's resolutions. In fact, January 17th is known as Quitter's Day because it's the most likely day for people to give up on their New Year's resolutions. Whether you've gotten sick, had a family emergency, had a work deadline that took up most of your time, or whatever it is, there are no shortages of setbacks that can get in the way of us achieving our goals.
I was crushing my goals this month and feeling really proud of myself, but then last week I got Covid and all of my good habits and practices went out the window. Obviously I didn't want to get sick and this setback wasn't my fault, but it still happened and now that I'm over the sickness (thank god) I need to get back on track with the goals I made for this year. If you also want to reclaim your goals for the year after experiencing a setback, keep on reading.
How to Reset and Realign Your Goals After a Setback:
Forgive yourself for having a setback. This step may seem obvious, but no matter what your setback was, forgive yourself. You may have had something out of your control happen or you might have just lost motivation and made up excuses that got in the way of your goals. Whatever the case, that is in the past and you can only move forward by forgiving yourself. If you're anything like me, one setback could completely derail your goals in the past. If I didn't do a perfect job at whatever my goal was at the time, I would beat myself up and inevitably give up all together. This is all-or-nothing thinking and there is no place for this in goal setting. Instead of making a big deal about your setback, nix the drama by acknowledging the setback and promptly move on.
Remember your why. Why did you set your goals in the first place? Are these goals still in alignment with what you want today or are you wanting to continue pursuing these goals because you think you should for some reason? Do these goals excite you? Are these goals important to you? Will these goals move you towards where you want your life to go? Are these your goals or someone else's? Access if the goals you made then are still relevant now.
Make adjustments where necessary. If you're still excited by your goals and want to see them through, stick with them! If not, toss them aside. You're not married to your goals. You can decide to change your goals at any time and create new goals if they better suit where you are now.
Evaluate what lead you to have a setback. As we discussed before, sometimes setbacks happen that you can't avoid (illness, family emergencies, etc.) so if that was your circumstance, feel free to ignore this step. Shit happens. If, however, you played a part in your setback, now is the time to understand why. Look inward and acknowledge if you had something to do with this setback. Deep down, you know if you did or not. Maybe you over-planned your month by saying yes to too many commitments, which got in the way of you accomplishing your goals. Or maybe you didn't have a plan so you didn't know how to accomplish your goals in the first place. Figuring out what led to your setback will help you to not make the same mistakes in the future.
Make a new plan for the next three months. Now that you know why your setback happened, you've forgiven yourself, and you're clear on your goals, you can make a short-term plan for success. Of course planning for the long-term is beneficial and you should have long-term goals, but I've found that creating three month plans is enough time to make progress on your goals but not so much time that your goals seem out of reach. Here's how we're going to map out a plan for the next three months:
Grab a piece of paper or open a document on your computer and start by writing down the goals you've decided you're going to focus on for the next 90 days. I'm going to use health and fitness as an example since these are very common goals that a lot of people have. Example: Goals: 1) Lose weight, 2) Eat at home more often, 3) Drink less alcohol. Do you see how vague these goals are? Starting out with broad goals is a great place to start, but the real magic happens when we define our goals in specific, measurable terms. After you've identified the big goals you want to accomplish over the next three months, flush them out by making them detailed, specific, and actionable. Example: Losing weight becomes: I want to lose 15 pounds. Eating at home more often becomes: I will only eat one meal out per week and the rest of the time I will eat at home. Drinking less alcohol becomes: I will limit my alcohol consumption to two drinks per week.
Now break up your big goals into smaller, actionable goals. Even though you've made your goals detailed, specific, and actionable, having action steps for each goal will help you achieve your goals. Example: Action steps for losing 15 pounds could look like committing to going to the gym 5 times per week, going on daily walks, eating vegetables with every meal, or not eating fast food. Action steps for eating at home more often could look like ordering a meal delivery kit, meal prepping on Sundays, or planning your meal out ahead of time and putting it on the calendar as something to look forward to. Action steps for limiting your alcohol consumption to two drinks per week could look like saying no to happy hour with friends, only drinking on a certain night per week like Fridays, or finding another beverage to take the place of the alcoholic drinks you normally drink like sparkling water or tea.
Schedule these action steps or mini goals into your calendar by week or month. Most or even all of the mini goals I laid out as an example for one's health could be put into a person's calendar on a weekly basis and are repeatable. But let's say your goal is something that can't be measured as easily on a weekly basis, like traveling to three new places. Perhaps your action steps for this goal would be 1) Save $2,500 to visit three new places, 2) Choose three new places I want to visit, 3) Create itineraries for my three trips, 4) Book hotels for my three trips, and 5) Pack for trips. In month one, you could choose the three places you want to visit. In month two, you could create your itinerary for each trip. In month three you could book your hotels for each trip. Over the course of the three months, you could save $834 per month to get to your total savings of $2,500. Lastly, you could pack for each trip the week before each trip takes place.
Have check-in points to hold yourself accountable and evaluate your progress. I recommend checking in one day per week with yourself to see how far you've come on your goals. I check in with myself every Sunday to see my progress from the week and to prepare for the next week. I ask myself questions like: 1) What went well this week? 2) What was difficult this week? 3) Did anything get in the way of me working towards my goals? 3) How did I honestly do on upholding each of the action steps/mini goals I set for myself? 4) How can I do better next week?
Reward yourself. Having the discipline to continue to work on yourself is tough, which is why I believe in rewarding yourself. You'll have to be the one to decide when you deserve a reward and what qualifies as a reward, but here's an example to help you out. Example: if your goal is to lose 15 pounds, consider rewarding yourself for every five pounds you lose. Something important to remember about rewards is that you don't want to reward yourself with something that undermines your progress. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, you don't want to reward yourself with a bag of candy when you've made some progress. That will undo the work you've been doing and puts that food on too high of a pedestal. The same is true if you were trying to pay off debt. If you did well and paid off $200 in debt, you don't want to reward yourself by going out and buying something.
No matter what your goal is, it's completely normal to lose sight of your goal every once in awhile. I can't tell you the number of times I've tried to lose weight but haven't succeeded. The most important thing to remember when goal setting is that it's not a linear process. There will be ups and downs. You will have wins and losses. But as long as you continue to work towards your goals and never give up, you will eventually succeed. And if you're ever thinking about quitting because of the time that your goal takes, just remember that the time will pass anyway. Wouldn't it be nice if you spent that time accomplishing something your future self can thank you for?