However long ago you graduated, September always has a ‘back-to-school’ feel. However, as summer comes to a close and the busy social and vacation period with it, this time of year is one of organization, planning, and fresh starts.
Naturally, it’s an ideal point to reassess how you’re doing and create some new goals. You don’t need to wait until January to set those resolutions. So grab your new notebook and get dreaming…
Why set September resolutions?
While traditional resolutions are set in January, it isn’t always the easiest time to set them. “There’s a lot of pressure around setting goals in January, and to make it even harder, people’s finances are never great due to overspending during the holidays, all of which impacts your mood and motivation,” says Anji McGrandles.
Hopefully, post-summer, you are feeling refreshed, relaxed, and energized after some time away or downtime at home. This puts you in a great position to set goals. “In September, the weather is generally more pleasant, and the days are longer. If you are returning from a holiday, you have a renewed sense of energy and motivation, making it the perfect time for getting into good habits before the shorter days draw in,” McGrandles explained. “A break can allow you to stop and re-evaluate your goals and what’s important,” says McGrandles.
How to set September goals
Here are some ways to set yourself up for success.
Keep it realistic
While it’s good to dream big, it’s also important to reign it in and be realistic about what you can achieve. “For example, don’t set a goal of saving $500 each month if your outgoings mean this is unachievable,” says McGrandles. Remember, you are the only one controlling your goals, so choose what you genuinely want to do and achieve, and don’t be swayed by others or what you feel you ‘should’ be doing. “Otherwise, you’ll be more likely to lose interest and give up early,” McGrandles says
Choose what to prioritize
It’s hard to spin lots of plates, and many resolutions don’t seem to pan out because you’re trying to tackle everything at once — a recipe for failure. There is limited time, so you can’t be simultaneously focusing on goals across all areas of your life. Think of it more like there are seasons for different things. Some months may focus more on work, others on family, and others on fitness. Try to think of these overarching themes that people commonly gravitate toward when it comes to improvement:
- Physical well-being and making healthier choices (diet, exercise, sleep habits)
- Financial goals (becoming more independent, learning how to budget/save, figuring out your future)
- Mental health (mindfulness, religion, faith, meditation)
- Relationships (reconnecting with your partner, family, and friends)
- Personal enrichment (learning a new skill/hobby, becoming more culturally aware, traveling)
“It’s okay to have more than one goal. Often, they feed into one another but prioritize your goals in order of importance,” McGrandles says.
Break goals down
After you settle on what you want to prioritize, goals will seem more manageable when divided into digestible chunks. McGrandles also highlights how breaking down one larger goal into smaller goals keeps you more motivated. “The brain doesn’t know the difference between a small or a large goal, so completing a small goal within our goal will release that feel-good hormone and keep us motivated to keep going. Next, measure your progress by putting a timeline against each of the smaller goals and tick off each achievement as you go,” she says. So, if your focus area is mental health, perhaps this means finally taking steps to reach out to therapists and blocking off time on your work calendar for your sessions.
Make goals visible
The more you’re reminded of your goals, the more you’re likely to work toward them. “When goals are at the top of your mind, the more your subconscious mind will work to reach them,” McGrandles says. So whether you create a vision board for your at-home office, change your phone screensaver or stick your goals on your bathroom mirror, having your goals visible is powerful. “This says to your brain, ‘This is important, and as a result, you will tune in and be more aware of the opportunities in your environment and actively seek them out and act on them,” McGrandles says.
Part of the goal planning process is measuring progress so remember to regularly check in at each stage to see whether you’re on track to hit your targets. Check in with yourself in two months to see how far you’ve come. For the mental health goal above, how many sessions have you been to? Is there a specific situation your therapist was able to help you work through?
If you know you’re likely to skip measuring your goals, you might benefit from an accountability partner. “Share your plan with a friend, partner, or colleague to hold you accountable,” McGrandles says.
Note the challenges
You will likely face obstacles, whether you had a setback at work that ate up your free time or realize a few weeks into your resolutions that you set the bar too high. Writing down the challenges will help you rejigger your game plan and be more prepared for how to tackle future setbacks.
Be gentle with yourself
Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself. Goal setting should be a positive process that helps you align with your values and work towards your goals. Setting those resolutions now will put you in great stead to have a happy and fruitful end of the year and set you on a good path for the next one.
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