The Month of January – Friend or Foe?

The start of a new year can bring a sense of renewal, hope and a promise. Maybe it is a particular goal or resolution we are sure we’ll honour. January, like the two-faced god Janus it represents, can send us mixed messages. This first month of the year may also be one of the gloomiest months of the year. In fact, the third Monday of January is commonly known as Blue Monday. It is the day that is said to be the most depressing. Given it is already weeks beyond the season of festivities and merry-making in December, that in itself can be a depressing thought. When you throw in credit card bills that come due and inclement weather, well, these things add up. They contribute to the perfect storm that makes keeping a goal more challenging. Rest easy, there are ways to make goals you can keep.

Make Goals You Can Keep

Excuses are the Culprit.

Before we dive into setting goals you can keep, let’s step back and look at what stops us in our tracks — excuses we make. Excuses erode our confidence. When we allow ourselves to believe our excuses, we fall prey to fear and doubt. Knowing that excuses get in our way allows us to course correct. What are excuses you make? Can you think of any now? Sometimes they feel buried in our subconscious and only surface when we’re faced with challenges or obstacles.

Why Do We Make Excuses?

There are many reasons we make excuses.

  • Not being motivated for the right reasons. Maybe it isn’t our goal. Perhaps we made the goal to please someone else.
  • In order to protect ourselves from shame, anxiety, guilt, embarrassment, discomfort or fear.
  • Rather than acknowledge a deep fear, we shift our focus from what is deeply personal to something that is lighter and more general. It is easier to say to ourselves or others, “I really didn’t want to pursue that goal” or “I am not feeling well” or “I’m just too tired”.
  • A limiting belief stops us. We already think we won’t keep the goal.
  • We aren’t clear about the goal and what it takes to make it happen.

How to make goals you will keep

Practice Self Awareness

Knowing that excuses exist is an important step. When you predict what might get in your way, you can dig deeper to get at the underlying cause or fear. Take a moment to connect with what you’re feeling as you think about this concept. What do you feel when you think about the real reason for the excuse? You don’t need to share this thought with anyone, but it is important to be honest with yourself.

Think about the impact of your excuse. Will it stop you from achieving the goal or will it delay it? Is anyone else relying on you to complete the goal? Have you used this excuse before? Does it make you less credible or trustworthy? How does it affect your brand?

Change the Excuse Pattern

Ask yourself the real reason for the goal you’ve set and why you truly want it. Next, start small. Break down your goal into baby steps. I’m a fan of James Clear and his book, Atomic Habits. James Clear is a habit researcher who recommends we break down our goals into tiny habits that are:

  • Obvious – on display, front and centre.
  • Attractive – something that doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable
  • Easy – so we don’t face any obstacles before we get started
  • Satisfying – so we feel good about it as soon as we’ve done it.

Read more in my post Build Positive Habits You Will Keep.

“This one step — choosing a goal and sticking to it — changes everything.” Scott Reed

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

Now, onto setting goals. If you’re not already familiar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, they are an acronym to remind us to make goals that are:

  • S = Smart
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Attainable
  • R = Relevant
  • T = Realistic

“A goal without a plan is only a dream.”

For more on S.M.A.R.T. goals, check out this YouTube video.

As a quick recap, making a goal you will keep involves self awareness and honesty. Examine the excuses that might get in your way. Have a plan to combat them. Make positive tiny changes and set S.M.A.R.T goals for yourself. Set yourself up for success. A goal to please someone else isn’t your goal. Find the reason why you’ve made the goal and give yourself a fighting chance to accomplish it. It is your life and no one can live it but you. Own your goals, own your excuses, and own your year!

Susan Cranston is a certified professional coach and business consultant focused on helping small to mid enterprise clients achieve great results. She loves helping people navigate ways they can monetize their passion into a side hustle or start up.