(Or How Not To Set a Goal You Won’t Stick To)
Pick one relationship. One.
Pick one thing. One.
So many people identify overwhelming, vague goals at the beginning of the year and unintentionally set themselves up for failure and frustration.
I want to challenge you to start the new year with the smallest goal possible. Think of one relationship in your life that is important to you – whether it’s going well or is challenging at times – friend, a family member, a partner, a child, a neighbor.
Next, focus on ONE SMALL POSITIVE behavior that you could increase.
Here are some examples to get you thinking:
I will give my child one sentence of encouragement each day.
I will resist the urge to criticize my partner and say something positive instead.
I will text my friend something positive every day.
I will do one task a day that will help my partner lighten their load.
Do this new behavior for one month. 30 days. Write your goal down and post it somewhere – your bathroom mirror, your car, an alert on your phone. Some people find it helpful to record their progress on a calendar or on their phone. Give yourself stickers – whatever it takes to continue your positive behaviors.
After 30 days, evaluate how you did. We know that it often takes many weeks of repetitive behavior to develop a new habit and make changes to your brain. If you did well, be proud of the changes you made and then add something else. If not, take a close look at your goal. What was standing in the way? What made this difficult to accomplish? What would make it more attainable? Was your goal too big?
Why is this important? First, as a marriage and family therapist, I know that one change in a system (relationship) can cause positive changes in the whole relationship. Second, this has the potential to cause a snowball effect and build momentum – the more you do and get a positive response, the more you will want to continue.
Strong relationships take a tremendous amount of work, but start with one step at a time.