The sensible guide to New Year's resolutions in 2017

Looking for ways to feel happier and healthier this year? Grab a pen and paper – it’s time to set some goals. 

For many of us, setting goals for the new year is as much a part of the festive season as gift-giving and family get-togethers. It’s an energising process – and, according to psychologist and founder of The Happiness Institute  Dr Tim Sharp, it can trigger a range of positive emotions.

“Research clearly suggests that people who regularly set and work towards meaningful goals are far more likely to succeed and therefore to enjoy emotions such as pride, satisfaction and contentment,” says Sharp.

But repeatedly setting goals you don’t achieve can do more harm than good, he warns. When setting your resolutions for the year ahead, it’s worth bearing in mind four tips:

Tip one: Set goals that are relevant to you

“We’re all different, says Sharp, “so there aren’t really any goals that will work for everyone. It’s vitally important that goals are relevant to that individual.” 
He says most goals fall into six main categories:

- Health, wellbeing and self-care
- Professional and work-related aspirations
- Financial goals
- Relationships with family and friends
- Social and recreational pursuits
- Spirituality and religion

To ensure the goals you set are meaningful to you, Sharp suggests identifying a main category that you would like to work on before honing in on specific aspirations.

Tip two: Avoid vagueness 

According to life coach Nicole T Harcourt, clarity can help when setting goals. “I see it time and time again – when you have clear goals, you will achieve any vision of success you have for your life,” she says. Sharp agrees that goals should be specific . “It’s best to avoid setting goals that are vague or open-ended with regard to time,” he advises.

Harcourt, whose book A Divergent Path  focuses on individuals reaching their full potential, also emphasises the importance of being able to measure your progress as you go. “The goal must be measurable,” she says. “I can’t emphasise enough how important that is. If it can’t be measured, then it isn’t a goal.”

New Year's diary

Tip three: Imagine the future

Being pragmatic and figuring out how to reach your goal step by step is important. But Harcourt says a doses of daydreaming can be beneficial, too.

“Create the vision of what it will look like to achieve your goal,” she suggests. “Where are you living? What are you wearing? Who are the people around you?” Visualising your happier post-goal life in detail can help gives your brain a powerful incentive to succeed, she says.

Tip four: Believe in yourself

Both Harcourt and Sharp encourage goal-setters to approach the task with a positive attitude. The process of setting goals can itself provide immediate benefits, says Sharp. “Setting goals provides clarity, purpose and direction, all of which are contributors to positive mood,” he explains. “Setting goals can also generate hope and optimism by giving us things to look forward to.”
Setting goals is, fundamentally, about empowerment, says Harcourt. In today’s Australia, the multitude and complexity of the decisions we face can sometimes feel seem intimidating. “But, ultimately, we all have the power to choose our paths in life,” she says.

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