Setting and Keeping Goals

Achieving Goals: Make positive change a permanent habit in just 66 days

How many of your New Year’s Resolutions did you keep this year?

Sadly, the vast majority of resolutions are not kept beyond the first month,” says American Institute Toms River Campus President Tim Rodgers. “Instead of making resolutions, try setting realistic goals and making measurable efforts to achieve them.”

Research shows it takes 66 days to turn a new behavior into a habit. Once that happens, you don’t have to think about the change you want to make anymore. You just do it automatically. So, you really only have to work diligently toward your goal for a little over two months. Here are some tips:

  • Choose goals that are specific and measurable. “Measurement lets you visualize your progress,” says Mr Rodgers.
  • Aim for incremental progress, rather than overnight change. “You want to take ‘successive approximations’ or small steps that get you progressively closer to the ultimate outcome.”
  • Write down your goals and track your progress daily.

On January 1, 2017, Mr Rodgers pledged to “Start each day with a grateful heart, a positive attitude, and a one hour walk.” He posted his goal on the wall and adds a hash mark every day he achieves it. It sounds easy enough, but how do you stay motivated? A “Smarter Living” series in the New York Times recommends several ways to help sustain progress:

  • Create habits to keep you motivated by establishing cues to get you started and rewarding yourself once you’ve completed a task that supports your goal.
  • Find support systems such as friends who are working towards similar goals or technologies that help monitor your progress. FitBit is an example of a technology that has helped motivate many people to keep their fitness goals.

Forgive yourself when you slip up. Accept that you’re not perfect and start again tomorrow.

On the 66th day after you set your goal, assess your progress and treat yourself to a big reward if you feel you’ve earned it. Of course, the real reward will be realizing that positive change has become a habit.