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New Month, New Goals: Building on Incremental Success

New Month, New Goals: Building on Incremental Success

In two days, it will be December, and for me, a new month means new goals. I know that most people create New Year’s resolutions in January. They look at the rolling calendar as a chance for a fresh start, but I’m not waiting for the new year to change.

Starting December 1st, I’m altering my approach to goal setting. Instead of setting one big goal at the start of the year, I’m setting new goals one month at a time.

A New Approach to Goal Setting

Every year I view my New Year’s resolution as a quiet wish to the universe. It’s a promise to my future self—a commitment to be healthier, happier, and kinder. 

But New Year’s resolutions don’t always work. By mid-February, I often break my vows and fail to meet the expectations I set for myself.

This January, I’m skipping the age-old tradition of creating New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I’m taking a new approach. Rather than setting one aspiration for the entire year, I’m setting monthly goals on the first of each month.

New Month New Goals

Many New Year’s resolutions involve HUGE goals, but setting one goal for the entire year feels immensely difficult with all that’s going on in my life.

Rather than viewing the new year as the only new beginning, I’m refocusing my energy on creating a fresh start each month. 

What’s wrong with yearly objectives? Why does a new month need a new goal? 

It’s a game of mathematical gymnastics. By breaking down my goals, I make them easier to achieve. 

Let’s say I want to exercise more often. If I create a New Year’s resolution, I face fifty-two grueling weeks of physical training. If I set a monthly goal, I only need to hit the gym for four weeks.

Once I exercise for a month, my clothes fit better, and my stamina increases. The success of accomplishing four weeks of physical activity propels me to continue climbing onto that elliptical machine. As the weeks wear on, I can feel myself making progress.

At that point, I’ve just tricked myself into exercising for another four weeks. The success of my prior accomplishments drives me to create ever-expanding goals.

But what if I fail? What if I don’t exercise for four weeks? That’s okay too. If I fail, I don’t need to wait a year to reboot. I can relax and start over when a new month comes. At most, I’ll wait another twenty days or so to recommence my training.

New Goals New Mindset

Small achievements create greater success and happiness than larger goals we complete less frequently. By breaking our goals into smaller chunks, we celebrate recurring victories rather than waiting for a win in the far-distant future. This fosters a growth mindset.

By focusing on monthly milestones, we feel the joy and accomplishment of repeated success. Working towards smaller new goals is more manageable than attempting to complete a mammoth one.

Why dwell on a goal that looms a year away when each small achievement can propel our forward progress? It’s so much easier to stay motivated when you can see continuing improvement.

Imagine I set a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day. It might be hard to reach that goal on day one, so instead, I create smaller ones. Setting a small goal each week allows me to improve incrementally. If I fail to walk, I simply reset the bar and try again.

Beginning of the Month Motivation

The best thing about monthly goals is that you can easily change them. I don’t know about you, but I find it challenging to decide what I want to accomplish for the entire year.

What if my objectives change? What if life throws curveballs that make my initial dream impossible?

My new month, new goals technique allows me to throw out old ideas and replace them with new aspirations. Each month, I can ask, “What do I want to accomplish and why?” Then I can set new monthly goals and work to achieve them.

Setting Goals Each Month

Let’s face it. It’s easier to create small goals once a month than one big goal for the whole year. It’s also easier to stay focused for thirty days than three-hundred and sixty-five. The key is to set specific objectives.

Let’s say you want to improve your relationship with your partner. What steps can you take now?

If I made a New Year’s resolution, I might say, “spend more time with my partner,” but that goal is too general. Instead, let’s break it down into specific activities.

Here are a few examples:

One month, I might want to introduce spontaneity into my relationship. I can roll a dice to pick a restaurant, spin a wheel to choose a new activity, or close my eyes and pick a place on a map where I want to go.

The following month, I might focus on sharing joyful experiences. I can plan a vacation, take day trips in my area, and go on double dates with friends.

After that, I can concentrate on reducing stress as a couple. Maybe we can learn to meditate beside one another, take naps on the weekends, or try a couple’s massage.

As time passes and our relationship strengthens, I can dig deeper into topics like the role of money in our partnership. I can host a family financial meeting. Talk about financial dishonesty and inequality or discuss big money goals like becoming a stay-at-home mom or quitting my high-paying job.

If I fail to achieve my relationship goals, I can revisit my objectives. I can create an entirely different plan on the first of the following month or try again.

New Month Motivation

Allow the rolling calendar to motivate you. On the first of each month, brainstorm activities to improve your life. What’s something new that you’d like to accomplish?

If you want to improve your finances, create a list of money management steps. One month you can track all of your expenses. Next, you call service providers to lower your bill. By the third month, you might choose to sell unwanted items on eBay or rent a room in your home for additional income.

If you want to lose weight, you might spend the first month reducing your calorie consumption, the second month cutting out soda, and the third doing push-ups while watching commercials. Each time you complete a task, you move on to the next one. 

By the end of the year, you might never miss your Friday night Zumba class. But if you are struggling, don’t give up hope. Create a smaller goal the next month and try again.

New Month Quotes

Does this all sound like a lot of work? It is! No doubt about it, but you can’t achieve goals by sitting on the couch doing nothing.

If we want to accomplish the good stuff in life, we must work for it. We must narrow our focus and strive to make one thing better at a time. 

Update your vision board with motivational quotes and pictures to inspire you.

Add new beginning quotes like Oprah Winfrey’s, “Cheers to a new month and another chance for us to get it right.”

Or Carl Bard’s famous words, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now.”

New Month Goals

Think of each new month as a new beginning and ring it in like January 1st. Shout Happy New Month like you would shout Happy New Year’s.

Every new month, you can set a new goal. Your goal can connect to the previous month’s objective or focus on something completely unrelated.

Every thirty days, you can define an entirely new goal or build off the previous month, but choose SMART goals when thinking through your options. That means your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

One month you might want to cut back on eating out, so you meal plan and shop with a grocery list. The next month, you might want to reconnect with old friends, so you set a date for backyard barbecues and zoom calls. Maybe you want to declutter your home so you don’t wind up with too much stuff and not enough space for the things you love.

Your objectives don’t have to be related.

After choosing a goal, create a vision board to solidify your new intentions and spark your new beginning. What joy can a new month bring?

Use Your Calendar to Accomplish New Goals

If you’re like me, you get super pumped up but don’t always follow through. You set your sights on accomplishing a task, and then bam, you get sidetracked by something.

Maybe your kids’ sporting events took more time than expected, or you stumbled across a few roadblocks while managing your elderly parent’s finances. Perhaps you couldn’t go to the gym because you weren’t feeling well or took a few days off to focus on a project.

Most of us don’t have unlimited time freedom. If we want to meet our objectives, we must schedule a time to complete them.

Be Realistic About Your Monthly Plans

But first, we must account for all other time constraints. That includes upcoming birthdays, project deadlines, doctor appointments, school activities for your kids, and sporting events. At the start of every month, write down all time-consuming events.

Then ask yourself what each event requires. For example, do you need to buy party favors for your kid’s birthday party or gifts for someone else’s? Do you need to buy poster boards for an upcoming class project or buy new basketballs before the first practice? 

Add time for picking up the things you’ll need. Then account for everyday activities like grocery shopping and making dinner. Look over your calendar in detail and be honest about how much time you have left to meet your goals.

A birthday party might be a two-hour event, but it takes an additional three to four hours of prep time. You’ll need to purchase supplies, decorate the house, buy gifts, create goody bags and bake a cake.

The same goes for every other activity on your list. It’s easy to get down on ourselves for not accomplishing our goals, but we must be realistic about how much time we have to achieve them.

Don’t feel bad or guilty if you fail to meet your objective.

Each New Month Schedule Your New Goal

When a new month comes around, document all of your time constraints. Add them to Google calendar or whatever system you use. After listing all of the events, find time to pencil in your new goals.

Set up a Google Meet so you can see your friends. Schedule time to go to the gym so you can feel stronger and healthier. If you want to forge a better relationship with your spouse, schedule time to go on walks, prepare dinner together or snuggle on the couch after the kids go to bed. 

Your calendar provides the key to meeting your goals. Add chunks of time to write, learn a new skill, cook a new recipe, or call your friends. Add the event and set an alert for when to begin.

Whatever goal you set for yourself, create a daily, weekly, or monthly reminder to achieve it! Use the power of technology to remind you of your objectives.

Review Your Monthly Success

At the end of each month, reflect on your success. Did you make progress or complete the goal you set for yourself? If not, why? Did you run out of time to complete it? Did the objective no longer excite you? 

What went well, and what could you have done better? Moving forward what should you change? Are there things you would like to continue next month or things you want to drop from your calendar?

Did accomplishing your goal make you happy? Do you feel more fulfilled in your relationships? Did you learn a new skill that excites you?

What would you change if you could go back to the first of last month? What would you redo?

Do you want to continue pursuing this mission, or is it time to throw in the towel? Have your priorities changed? Do you want to begin striving towards a new goal?

What New Goal Should You Aspire to This Month?

If you aren’t sure what goal to focus on, ask yourself what matters most. Do you care most about your relationships, health, or financial well-being?

Think about the things that worry you before falling asleep or the things that bring you the most joy at the end of the day. Both may be areas worth improving and expanding.

Focus on Success

Be realistic with yourself too. You can’t run a marathon after two trips to the gym. You might not accomplish everything you want this month, but you can take steps in the right direction.

Be prepared to fail, so you can pull yourself back up again when it happens. One week you will grab a bag of chips rather than an apple from the fridge. One week you might argue with your spouse rather than strengthen your relationship.

That’s okay—the goal is to keep forging ahead. Don’t allow a few days or weeks of bad behavior to distract you from your objectives.

The goal is not to stop trying once you fail. It’s to keep going despite that failure. Many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions because they stumble for a week or two. Don’t let a few days or even weeks of imperfect behavior stop you from making progress.

Remember to focus less on failure and more on success. Did you go to the gym more this month than last month? Did you eat healthier, read more books, or spend time with the ones you love?

If life doesn’t go as planned, don’t feel guilty. Revisit your goals and change them. Set smaller goals that are easier to accomplish or pivot and change direction. The goal is not to be perfect. It’s simply to improve.

New Month New Intentions

If you feel stuck, set a new goal and start something new. What do you really want? The sky is the limit.

Take a class, try new recipes, exercise more often, read more books, lift weights during commercials. But remember, your goal ideas don’t have to be life-changing. 

Maybe you want to put the dishes away before you sleep each night or meditate for five minutes each morning. Perhaps you want to call your parents once a week or do the laundry before it’s overflowing.

Start with one new goal each month and build upon it. Then relish in the success of your incremental changes. Let those small changes build upon one another, then continue improving and growing.

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? What do you think about my new goals strategy?

Good Things Friday (145) and Link Love « A Gai Shan Life

Friday 3rd of December 2021

[…] over for a couple weeks before committing, this has to happen before Christmas!) I like OFG’s New Month, New Goals: Building on Incremental Success, it reminds me I can choose to set goals any which way that works best for me. I might try […]

She's FIRE'd

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

What a good idea! I always enjoy your posts!

One Frugal Girl

Friday 10th of December 2021

Thank you for leaving comments. They always make my day.

AZ Joe

Monday 29th of November 2021

Great plan, and it makes sense to me. You might consider reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. He had some interesting thoughts on a similar process in his life. Best of luck.

One Frugal Girl

Friday 10th of December 2021

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check out the autobiography.

revanche @ a gai shan life

Monday 29th of November 2021

I like the philosophy here. I might try some quarterly goals in 2022 for similar reasons, monthly is too frequently for me to figure out a new goal but one each quarter that rolls into the next as desired might work. Tailored for the current chaos of life!

Hope your dad is doing ok.

One Frugal Girl

Friday 10th of December 2021

Let me know how it works. In the middle of chaos it's easier to change course with monthly goals. Trying one goal for the whole year never works for me! Thank you for your kind words about my dad. Unfortunately, it appears his cancer is growing.