According to a Marist poll, 44 percent of Americans made a resolution for 2019. Were you one of them? If so, get ready for some good news. You’re probably succeeding. For the past couple years, most resolutions setters–68 percent–have reported sticking with their goals for at least part of the year. Popular intentions include focusing on health through diet, exercise, and self-care and improving our spending and saving habits.

(We’re pausing here just in case you want to join the ranks of the resolution setters. It’s not too late. Really.)  

Even if you’ve recently switched to the goal-setting team (woo hoo!), the fact remains that more than half of Americans weren’t really into making a resolution this year. We get it. Some of us avoid goals altogether because of the fear of failure, or because we convince ourselves that we’re too busy. Who needs the stress of hard-to-reach goals, right? Well, there’s another way to look at it.

A high school friend of mine is a health coach. She argues that a lack of goals actually contributes to your stress level. When we don’t take time for ourselves to focus on what is important and set clear intentions, it’s easier to become overwhelmed by the everyday challenges of life. On the other hand, defining what we want for ourselves, setting goals, and acting on those intentions, one day at a time, creates more space for creativity, growth, and joy.

My friend’s words really resonated with me. Here are three goals that do too.

1) Get outside in nature and open up space in the mind. We spend much of our time indoors “plugged in,” which makes it important to find ways to get outside in nature. Studies have found that walks outside–specifically in the forest–are linked to decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, restored mental energy, improved concentration, and sharper thinking.  Get outside and go for a hike. Take a walk in the woods, around your neighborhood, or in a local park. If time or access to nature is an issue, perhaps make a change by getting up from your desk at lunch, putting the to-do list down and getting some fresh air. Welcome the sunshine on your face. Here is a link to popular hikes in New England. I hope it inspires you to check out something new. The site allows you to filter by state or level of intensity.  

2) Be thankful for what you have in life instead of concentrating on what you do not have. This change in thinking is extremely powerful. Take a few minutes every day to focus on what you are grateful for and get it down on “paper” (a notebook, smartphone memo, Word doc). This is a wonderful way to begin and/or end your day that permeates all aspects of your life. Shawn Achor, a positivity researcher, says that if we focus on being more positive in the present, then our brains experience a happiness advantage. He contends that our brain at “positive” performs significantly better. Our intelligence, creativity, productivity, and energy levels increase when we have a positive outlook. Check out Shawn’s TED talk “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance” and shift your focus to the positive.

3) Ask for help with your money goals. Bob describes seeing firsthand how clients relax after working on their Financial Road Map, a process that assists them in the organizing of personal and financial goals and tasks. The feeling of “we’ve got this” is extremely powerful, and there is a dramatic shift in perception once you do feel that way. The ability to take a deep breath, let go of anxiety, and surge ahead is priceless. It frees us up to enjoy the other things in life that are important to us without worrying about money.

Another way to find help, if you are feeling stuck, is to get an accountability coach to keep you on track. You don’t have to hire a professional. Find a friend, colleague, or family member who will help keep you honest. Benjamin Hardy, a popular blogger on Medium, talks about the power of “success partners” here.

Oh, and one last thing. Be forgiving of yourself. Whether your goals involve working out more, eating healthier, getting more sleep, or saving for a dream vacation, keep in mind that no one is perfect. Don’t let a few mess-ups make you ditch your plan, avoid setting up new goals, or prevent you from asking for help. I recommend breaking down a large goal into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Setbacks might be signs that it’s a good time to re-evaluate your goals.

In the words of one of the most successful investors of all time, Warren Buffett: “The best investment you can make is in yourself.”