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How to renew your goals this fall

Did you create New Year’s resolutions back in January? They may seem like a distant memory now, but fall is an excellent time to check in with your goals and renew your commitments.

“Whenever you have a change in seasons, that’s a good time to reset,” says Mark Flanagan, LMSW, MPH, MA, a social worker at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. The cooler weather of fall, as well as routine shifts like heading back to school, make it a great moment to see where you stand.  

“It’s kind of a wake-up call that the end of the year is approaching,” he says. “It’s a signal that we should take stock of our surroundings.”

Think it’s too late to achieve your goals? Think again. Here’s how to revisit those aspirations and make meaningful progress toward them.

Review your goals and decide what’s important

If you happened to write down New Year’s resolutions, Flanagan says, dig up the list and reread it. Or, just think back to what your general hopes were.

What’s still important to you? What matters less? Narrow your goals down to just one or two, Flanagan says, because focusing on key items will make the work seem less overwhelming.

“When someone’s overwhelmed with something, they tend to do nothing,” he points out.

If none of your earlier goals resonate with you now, it’s OK to start over and make new ones. The important thing is choosing tasks you’ll be motivated enough to accomplish.

Take small steps toward achievement

“Very small, very tangible goals are best at this point in the year,” Flanagan says.

If one of your resolutions was to meditate more often, for example, set time aside each week to practice for a few minutes. You may not be spending full days in quiet contemplation, but you’ll grow more comfortable with a consistent routine.

If you wanted to eat healthier, make easy changes instead of overhauling your entire diet at once. Cutting out sodas and other sugary drinks could be a useful place to start.

Flanagan refers to small objectives like these as “SMART goals: Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive.” They’re quantitative in nature and simple to achieve, and once you experience small successes, you’ll feel empowered to keep going.

Build momentum

“The idea is that you get up and do something,” Flanagan says, “and by the very act of you getting up and doing something, you can find more motivation.”

After all, the hardest part of a new undertaking is sometimes just getting started. Once you build momentum, you can set bigger milestones for yourself.

When you accomplish something – even something small – your brain releases neurotransmitters that make it pleasurable to continue down that road, Flanagan explains.

Conversely, setting larger goals and then failing to make progress can be demoralizing. So stick with modest steps to move toward a larger aim.

Apply your new mindset to future goals

Success breeds success, Flanagan says. Reaching your goals can change your mood and alter the way you’ll look at intentions in the future.

Planning to make New Year’s resolutions again next year? This time, you may want to break a large goal into smaller, more manageable ones from the outset. If you’re hoping to get a new job, for example, start by revising your resume or researching employers.

Don’t be afraid to involve your partner or family, too. As long as everyone is committed to the same goals, you can be successful as a team.

“It’s important to have a meeting with folks in your family or group so that you’re all on the same page,” Flanagan says.

Whether you’re working as a team or devising new goals for yourself, Flanagan adds that it’s never too late to start. Just remember that the small steps matter more than you may think.

“Each day’s new,” he says, “and each day you can accomplish at least something small.”

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