10 questions to ask yourself when setting your New Year's resolutions according to this life coach

How to not set yourself up for failure.

By Georgia Aspinall
Hon­estly, af­ter years of failed New Years res­o­lu­tions, we're less con­cerned about what we should re­solve to do in 2019, and more whether we should bother set­ting any. It can some­times feel like a fu­tile pur­suit, only set­ting us up to feel guilty mid-June when we can't even re­mem­ber what we wanted when we got sucked into the 'New Year, New Me' In­sta­gram posts.
Of course, for some, set­ting goal posts for the next year can pro­vide a blue­print to achiev­ing the suc­cesses we yearn for all year round. Whether it's in­tend­ing to get a pro­mo­tion, or sim­ply be kinder to your­self, there are re­al­is­tic ways to set goals that don't feel point­less.
That's why we spoke to life coach Al­ice Sta­ple­ton about how to set re­al­is­tic res­o­lu­tions, and what we should be ask­ing our­selves when we make them…

1. Is it a goal I want, or just something I feel I should do?

"If you per­son­ally are not that fussed about los­ing weight, get­ting fit, giv­ing up al­co­hol etc, then don't do it," says Al­ice Sta­ple­ton.
"There's lit­tle point set­ting a New Year's res­o­lu­tion based on some­thing you don't re­ally have the mo­ti­va­tion to achieve. You're un­likely to suc­ceed if you're just do­ing it be­cause every­one else is this time of year."

2. Why do I actually want to do it?

"We're more likely to achieve our goals if we un­der­stand what we seek to gain by putting the time and ef­fort into them," says Al­ice. "If it's to find a new job, for ex­am­ple, what will the pos­i­tives be? Iden­tify as many spe­cific ben­e­fits as pos­si­ble."
This is where it could be ben­e­fi­cial to write lists about every­thing you want to achieve, and what you stand to gain. Ty­ing in to who it's re­ally for, it could help you es­tab­lish whether your res­o­lu­tion will bring you joy, or whether you're buy­ing into some­thing you're ac­tu­ally not that fussed about.

3. How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal?

"Make the way you mea­sure your suc­cess as spe­cific as pos­si­ble,' says Al­ice, "Break your goals down into smaller ones to keep you on track week by week. Set your­self a mas­sive goal to achieve over a whole year with in­terim tar­gets to hit."
Set­ting your­self res­o­lu­tions with­out goals in mind is al­most ask­ing for guilt-in­duced feel­ings of fail­ure. If you know you want a pro­mo­tion by the end of the year, have a re-group each quar­ter ei­ther on your own or with your boss to fig­ure out what you're ac­tu­ally do­ing to achieve that goal.

4. Could I start doing something rather than give something up?

"It's not much fun, or very mo­ti­vat­ing, to feel like you're de­priv­ing your­self of some­thing for a whole year," says Al­ice. "Rather than set­ting a goal based on de­pri­va­tion, set one based on the pro­mo­tion of a new, pos­i­tive be­hav­iour in­stead. For ex­am­ple, 'I'm go­ing to stop crit­i­cis­ing my­self" would be bet­ter framed as 'I'm go­ing to be kinder to my­self'."
This is where pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tions can be a life-saver. In­stead of counteract­ing neg­a­tive thoughts every time you think them (which as women, tends to be more than we re­alise), set aside time to com­pli­ment your­self and who you are. The more you do it, the more you'll no­tice when you're pick­ing your­self apart and re­solve to stop.

5. How will I stick to my goal in times of weakness?

"We are so eas­ily per­suaded by our­selves, and oth­ers. It can only take a sec­ond to think 'oh sod it' and, be­fore you know it, you've bro­ken your New Year's resolu­tion,' says Al­ice."Have a plan be­fore you start as to what you will say, or do, when the temp­ta­tion to give up hits.'
For ex­am­ple, if you want to drink less, or eat less meat, maybe have a few ex­cuses lined up your head when friends try and en­cour­age you away from your new res­o­lu­tion. You should­n't have to, of course, but if it makes you feel more com­fort­able and it be­comes sec­ond na­ture, what can you lose?

6. Can I buddy up with someone to do it?

"We're more likely to stick to our goals if we com­mit to them with a friend," says Al­ice. "Agree to help keep each other on track, and help sup­port each other in times of weak­ness!"
This can be par­tic­u­larly help­ful if your goal is ex­er­cise-based. Maybe you want to con­quer the male-dom­i­nated weights sec­tion of the gym, or go to a spe­cific class you think looks fun. For the less con­fi­dent of us, these things can be ter­ri­fy­ing to do alone, and tak­ing a friend along is a good way to ease away from exercise anx­i­ety.

7. Is it worth the effort?

"It needs to be to­tally worth the time and ef­fort that may be re­quired," says Al­ice. "Giv­ing up some­thing triv­ial with­out good rea­son is des­tined to fail. Only set your­self a goal that you're truly de­ter­mined to change."

8. Can I actually do it?

"Set a goal that you stand a chance of achiev­ing," says Al­ice. "If you have a sneaky feel­ing it's go­ing to be too hard, or too big an ask, then set a res­o­lu­tion that's more re­al­is­tic for you, bear­ing in mind the curve balls that life of­ten throws us."
For ex­am­ple, if you're try­ing to save a big chunk of money, you have to al­low room for fail­ure. Un­ex­pected bills, household appliances breaking, changes in our jobs, they're all un­con­trol­lable and un­der­stand­ing that you may not be able to reach your goal is a good fail-safe way to pre­vent guilt or blam­ing your­self too heav­ily for some­thing that's not your fault.

9. Should I keep it a secret?

"For some, it's help­ful to tell lots of peo­ple what their res­o­lu­tion is so that they feel com­pelled to suc­ceed, and can be held ac­count­able for their progress," says Al­ice. "How­ever, for oth­ers it's more help­ful to only tell a hand­ful of peo­ple what their new goal is. That way, the val­i­da­tion and com­mit­ment is in­ter­nal, leav­ing them less likely to be in­flu­enced by so­cial pres­sures and ex­pec­ta­tions. Work out which strat­egy is best for you."

10. What will my reward be?

"Af­ter a tough year of stick­ing to your New Year's res­o­lu­tion, and reap­ing the ben­e­fits, choose a mean­ing­ful and sub­stan­tial re­ward to con­grat­u­late your­self for all your hard work over the year," says Al­ice.
Now this is one we can def­i­nitely get on ­board with. Make Jan­u­ary 2020 your month of reward!
Via Grazia