Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for pushing yourself and aiming high - but sometimes, you have to be realistic. If you've never run in your life, aiming to run a marathon in March is probably in this category. If you're on a minimum-wage job in London, with no savings and no sudden windfalls, aiming to buy a house within a year is definitely in this category.
Instead: Think about what is realistically achievable; think about where you're at now, what you can afford to dedicate to your goal (in terms of time and energy as well as cold, hard cash!) and try to set a more realistic target - say, running a 5km Park Run in March, or putting a portion of your income aside each month to save for a deposit.
Taking On Too Much.
"This year I'm going to lose five stone AND save £5000 AND visit every continent AND join a netball team AND learn Italian AND read 100 books AND cook from scratch every day AND take up swimming AND..."
This kind of fits in with the above, but come on - you're one person, there's a limit to how much you can do! If you're trying to change everything about your life, I'd suggest there's something deeper that you need to think about - because even if you succeeded in every one of those goals, I suspect you still wouldn't be happy.
Instead: Again, think about what is realistically achievable. Think about what's most important to you, and prioritise. Sure, make a list of longer-term goals if that's your thing - maybe this year you'll take up swimming and start learning Italian, but spread out your continent-hopping over a little bit longer?
[Photo Credit: Turquoise & Palm.]An 'All-Or-Nothing' Mindset.
This is the problem with resolutions such as "Give up chocolate" or "Go vegan"; sure, they're great goals, and they work for some people, but the black-and-white thinking can be very limiting, and I do think there needs to be some flexibility in there. Say you give up chocolate, but then on a bad day you eat a box of Maltesers - have you failed? If you decide you may as well go back to your old ways and then, will you feel you've achieved anything? Or will it just be another resolution that you've not kept?
Instead: Allow yourself to make mistakes - you're only human, after all! A box of Maltesers today doesn't mean you can't get back on the wagon tomorrow and have another go. Or what about stepping the goal back a little, and allowing yourself a small chocolatey treat one day per week, or starting off with one vegan day per week? Small changes can add up to big differences overtime, with less risk of overwhelming yourself!
Not Planning For Set-Backs.
We're all filled with New Year Optimism and planning to go to the gym every day seems like a great idea at the time - but what happens if you're ill, or have a family emergency? What happens if you don't have time or just don't feel like it one day? Having no back-up plan is a major pitfall for a lot of people; life happens, and it's helpful to have an idea of how you'll deal with it when it does.
Instead: Well, what if you can't make it to the gym one day? Could you go for a run instead? Do you have a workout DVD you can do? If you're just too tired, ill or busy - give yourself permission to take a few days' breathing space before you get back into it! Having a plan for what you'll do when things don't, well, go to plan, can be the difference between quitting when the going gets tough, or sticking with it.
Not Breaking Goals Down.
A year is a long time and you can achieve a lot in that amount of time, but a goal which is perfectly reasonable for a year won't achieve itself. Let's take saving £5000 - that's a lot of money, however you look at it! But let's say it's an achievable goal for the year. Where do we start!? Sadly, a lot of people would set this goal with the best of intentions and then find, this time next year, that they're no nearer their goal.
Instead: Think about your big goal, and then break it down into manageable chunks. £5000 over a year works out at just under £417 per month, or around £97 per week - and doesn't £97 sound a lot more manageable than £5000!? You can then set up your standing order for each payday, or think about where you're going to save that £97 each week. Maybe your goal is running a marathon - 26 miles is a long way. By starting small and slowly building up your fitness, though, it's totally achievable! Programs like the C25K are a brilliant place to start with goals like this.
[Photo credit: #CGSCreative.]Doing It For Other People.
At the end of the day, if you're expecting yourself to work at something for a whole year, it kind of needs to be something you want to do! If you've decided to lose a couple of stone because your partner said you should, or save up to buy a house because your Auntie Susan thinks your rented flat is too small - you'll probably find you struggle to motivate yourself (aside from the fact it's none of their bloomin' business!)
Instead: Pick something that matters to you. If you want to lose weight for your own health, fitness or self-confidence then brilliant, go for it! If you want to move house then fantastic, get saving! But when it gets tough, it's much easier to stick with it if it's something you wanted to achieve in the first place.
Have you ever fallen into any of these traps with your New Year's Resolutions? Are there any you'd add to the list? Do you have any secrets to achieving your goals?