Promises promises

7 strategies for setting goals you can actually accomplish

The substance of your objectives — and your approach — can determine your success.

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It’s that time of year: Everyone’s making New Year's resolutions ... and abandoning them.

One study found that after six months, only 40 percent of people actually kept their resolutions.

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What sets goal-achievers and goal-abandoners apart?

The substance of a goal has a lot to do with how easily it can be achieved.

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Some techniques for reaching your goals are a lot more productive than others.

Here are 7 strategies for setting goals you can actually accomplish:

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7. Build small habits

It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. Research shows breaking big ambitions down can help.

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If a goal seems daunting, try building smaller habits within your grasp right now.

Over time, these tiny tune-ups can lead to lasting change.

6. Get specific

Simply saying you want to eat healthier can be too vague. It may also mean you don’t have a strong sense of what you’re trying to accomplish.

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Taking tangible baby steps — like eating two more servings of veggies per day — can solidify the changes you want to make.

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5. Challenge your definition of failure

You might not reach your goal on the first try. That’s perfectly fine.

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It’s easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset, but mistakes happen.

Thankfully, there’s one type of goal-setting to challenge this approach.

5. Set open goals

These types of goals are less specific and more exploratory. They focus on how much you can get done over a certain time period.

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Instead of telling yourself to walk 10,000 steps per day, you say, “let’s see how many steps I can walk today.”

One study suggests setting open goals can be more beneficial to athletes than setting specific ones.

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4. Focus on acceptance

It pays off to treat yourself kindly when you’re embarking on a journey of self-improvement.

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Research shows people who are harsh on themselves for small failures tend to be less successful at reaching their goals in the long run.

Work on your own schedule

If you lack the preparation, self-confidence, or environmental conditions to make lasting change, chances are your goals may fall to the wayside.

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Try setting goals when you feel prepared to tackle them, and not just when everyone else is doing it — like during the first few months of the new year.

Try a test run

Giving yourself time to practice a new habit before you commit can take the pressure off. Plus, you’ll be able to see if your new goal is realistic.

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If you fail during practice, you can make adjustments for the real deal — and even keep reassessing your strategy as you get closer to reaching your goal.