It is again this time of the year that we will sit with ourselves to set the goals for the New Year.  Some of these goals are: to start eating healthier, to lose weight, to start exercising, to quit smoking, to spend money wisely, to reduce stress, to spend more time outdoor or with our kids, to learn a foreign language, etc.

However, seeing all the statistics I wonder why we go into so much trouble every year, when it is only a 12% that manages to achieve their goals at the end? I believe that the answer lies in the innate wish of the man for evolution.  The wish to improve oneself and live a better life now and in the future, whatever this may mean for each one of us.

But if we start with so much “appetite” and optimism, what is it that goes wrong and by February we have already quit trying to achieve our goals?  There are two main reasons for this. First, because we are not yet ready to change our habits, and second, because we neither know how to set our goals nor how to achieve them.  We confuse the dream with the target.  A target can start from a dream, but a dream is not a target. A target has specific characteristics and ways to be achieved and often demands changing our habits or getting out of our comfort zone to achieve it. But why do we choose the New Year to do this?  Because the word “New” alone represents the change and makes people want to act and take a few steps towards that way.  But how many of us are ready for a change?  In reality, we may not be ready to change our habits and our way of life, but we use New Year’s Resolutions as a way of motivation.  The author of "The Power of Habit" Charles Duhigg, says that the main reason that we fail to be true to our New Year’s promises is that we plan them the wrong way.  Instead, we should make a list of actions that we will take, and we should think seriously how to structure these behaviors- actions so they can become deeply rooted habits. Moreover, he mentions that “building a new habit is an investment for the next decade, not for a few months later”.  Professor of Psychology Peter Herman has discovered what he calls “false hope syndrome”, which means that these decisions are usually not realistic and are not aligned with the inner picture that we have for ourselves.  They are something like affirmations.  When we make an affirmation to ourselves that we do not really believe in, this affirmation not only does not work positively, but it can also be harmful to our self-esteem and make us fall back into old habits. Moreover, one more common mistake that we make is that we want to change many habits at the same time, or that we want to achieve many goals simultaneously. But to change one small amount of a habit demands a lot of motivation.  So, it is better not to set too many goals at the same time, or too hard to achieve.  It is important to be patient and to follow our plan step by step.

What can we do differently this year that will bring us closer to our goals?

Here are some tips that can help you find happiness:

  1. Start by finding the “why” of your goals.  Ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal, why it is important, what it will offer you and how much value it has for you.  Knowing the motive behind your target is maybe the biggest secret of happiness.  Not knowing our “why” does now let us see clearly our “whats” and “hows”.  The driving force for someone to set a goal, to change habits, to overcome the obstacles on his way and to finally succeed, is knowing his “why”.
  2. Remove the word “must” from your vocabulary.  This word is often connected to a feeling of obligation, guilt, shame, lack of decision & responsibility.  Moreover, it implies that what you plan is a possibility, not a reality. In other words, you give yourself an excuse by saying that you “must” do something, instead of doing something.
  3. Choose goals that are realistic, specific and measurable. Before you begin make sure that you are ready for changes and that you are willing to dedicate time and energy. For example, a realistic, specific and measurable goal would be that “I want to lose 10 kilos in 4 months” and not I want to lose weight in 2019”. Or that “I will exercise one hour twice per week” and not “In 2019, I want to exercise more”.  Remember that your goals should be aligned with your overall lifestyle to be more achievable.
  4. Create a detailed plan as well as a back-up plan. It might sound complicated, but you should do a lot of research about what you want to do or change.  For example, if you choose to quit smoking, you will need to look for a lot of advice and information to prepare yourself.  Use books or ask a doctor about the necessary steps you should follow and include them in your plan.  Information will help you achieve the change.  Moreover, an even more important plan is the back-up plan. Perhaps many issues will come up, which you will have to predict and find the best way to confront.  Do not forget to write down what you learned so far, as well as your achievements.
  5. Do not wait for New Year’s Eve to decide on the changes you want to make. You might not be ready to make changes during this specific period, and this alone could sabotage your efforts.  You should start whenever you feel ready, and this change could be a procedure that will evolve daily.
  6. Set reminders that will be helpful to you.  Throughout your busy routine it is possible to forget some steps towards the achievement of your goal.  Write notes on post-its and stick them on the fridge, in your car, in your office or on your mobile to remind you what you have to do each day. 
  7. Share your plan with your loved ones. Tell your plan to your best friends or to your family and they will be there to support you at improving yourself or your health.  The best scenario is to find a friend who has a similar plan, so you can motivate each other.
  8. Reward yourself for achieving small steps towards your goal.  You don’t need to wait until you complete your goal in order to celebrate.  Reward yourself once a week or once a month with something you will anticipate with enthusiasm.  Recognize your effort and motivate yourself to do it even better.
  9. Accept failure without negative criticism.  It is very important to be punctual, patient and compassionate to yourself. The difficulties along the way towards the achievement of a goal might be a lot.  If you fail and finally smoke a cigarette, or if you don’t go to the gym one day, or if you eat a sweet, or if you yell at your child in the morning before school, do not hate yourself for that and do not start punishing yourself.  Write down what it was that initiated this setback and see what lesson it wants to give you.


I wish 2019 will be the year that you will fulfill most of your goals, but above all you that will love and take care of yourself a little more.

Good luck!

Anita Zachou

Certified Holistic Life & Wellness Coach