Patrikas Balsys,
Full Stack Developer
Get smart on goal-setting
Sometimes pushing ourselves requires some brain trickery

We're approaching the end of February, and there's a relatively high chance that if you had a new year's resolution, it's already been abandoned. Why do we set resolutions in the first place? It seems people have a desire to improve continually, but achieving it might not be that easy, depending on how strict we are with ourselves.

Now, I'm not here to shame anyone for not keeping to their goals, and in fact, I would argue that goals can be rephrased to improve your chances of success. I'll be discussing two philosophies on reaching your goals, and neither of them is necessarily right. Remember, people are different, and a technique that works for one might not work for the other. But, without further ado, let's get into the first principle: SMART.

SMART is an acronym that most commonly stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There are other variations, where A stands for Accountable and R for Realistic. Either way, it's an effective way of defining your goals, so it's easier to succeed. Let's delve a bit deeper into these points:

  • Specific  make the goal clear. If you want to be more healthy, think of specific ways of doing that, such as replacing your usual snacks with fruit.
  • Measurable - make sure you can measure how well you're doing. If you're trying to lose weight (that's not too difficult) but for other goals, try to specify a number — say, at least seven apples per week.
  • Attainable  if you set a goal that's way beyond your scope of possibility, it might as well just be a dream. Be true to yourself and find something that works for you. If you don't like apples, find an alternative. There's plenty of fruit in the sea.
  • Relevant  make sure that the goal is something you genuinely care about. If you want to learn to express yourself creatively, eating healthy might not be the best way to achieve that.
  • Time-bound  if there's no deadline, most people don't have the motivation to start. With a new year's resolution, the deadline might seem far away, so split your goal into smaller chunks. If you start late, it might be challenging to eat 366 apples before the end of the year.
"The phrasing of themes makes them impossible to fail. Therefore, you should never lose motivation to continue."

You might have heard of those before, and you tried it out, but it just didn't work. If that's the case, try tricking your brain with a different strategy: themes. In some ways, it's the total opposite  turn your goal into a theme and make it vague. An example of this would be a year of health. Try to actively think every day of the little decisions that you could do to influence your health positively. The phrasing of themes makes them impossible to fail. Therefore, you should never lose motivation to continue. If your general trend of health is going upwards, that means you're improving overall. Themes are flexible and could change over time  perhaps you'll exercise more during summer, and eat healthier during the winter. If you find this concept interesting and feel like trying it out, I recommend watching this video.

Regardless of what path you choose, write it down. Having a journal is an excellent way to reflect on your progress. Speaking of which, my personal "goal" this year was to start a journal. I felt like I wanted to organise my life a bit by offloading the constantly incoming tasks on paper, but I had to make sure that the format was flexible. Bullet journaling is a helpful basis, but knowing myself, I knew I wouldn't sit down to write every day, so I made it into a weekly list instead. It also gives me a chance to write down anything else — random thoughts, memories, or the progress of any other goals that I have or might come up with in the future.

I wish you good luck with your goals and remember — the new year is just another day, so if a goal is worth achieving, you can always start today.