HOW TO SET SUSTAINABILITY GOALS THAT STICK
Updated: Feb 14
Every year, millions of people embrace the idea that a new year, means new goals, new beginnings, new opportunities. And for many, so begins a roller coaster of false starts and ultimate frustrations with one's self for not achieving these goals. But what if you were able to take the time in setting goals which actually ensured you were successful? Able to achieve the resolutions you set for yourself in a way that's actually sustainable?
Well you can! In fact, if you take an extra hour or two to really set your goals strategically, you can ensure long term success well beyond this year. Allowing yourself to grow and develop in exactly the ways you want.
Below is the 4 step system I use every year to set my personal, financial and business goals - as well as what I use to re-evaluate which next steps I'll take in my own journey towards a more low waste and sustainable lifestyle. Try it out and I guarantee you'll see success, no matter what your next goals are.
STEP 1: Understand your own unique motivations
So you want to be more sustainable, but why? Have you seen climate change first hand, do you have children whose future you are wanting to protect, or do you just love nature and want to see it thrive? All of these are incredibly valid reasons, but they also don't necessarily apply to us all. But understanding what the core thing that motivates us into action allows us to really connect with that when we make decisions.
The first step before setting any goals whatsoever is identifying what it is that you're wanting to prevent - waste, destruction, mindlessness. What action do you think is required?
Then you need to dig deeper and think about why - why does that matter *to you*? Why do you want to lower your waste? Why do you want to lobby for political change? Or why do you want to protect animal species'? And don't just ask yourself once. After you've answered your first why, ask yourself why *that* answer is true? And then again? Keep going until you really believe you've gotten to the root cause of why you want to affect change in your life.
Now - label this as your why, and really sit with it for a few days to ensure it's right.
Knowing what drives your goals will ultimately allow you to put them at the root of all future actions and help you made decisions in line with those goals
STEP 2: Identify which areas you want to get started in first --> then build
It can be easy to get overwhelmed when looking at a lifestyle shift - there are no many places to you can start and areas you can tackle. Often there are so many areas of our lives where we can make incremental progress that we lose sight of the changes we make and feel overwhelmed with possibility.
So in order to avoid that, firstly you need to identify the things that you know will never change. If you know that right now changing your family diet to be more plant based is not an option, then release it from your mind. Actively agree that it's not on the table and don't think about it again. If auditing trash is not possible due to your home life situation, then don't beat yourself up about it thinking you need to get it done. Just release that from your mind. If you don't, you'll be overwhelmed with guilt thinking that it's something you need to change, and that guilt can prevent you from achieving other goals which actually are possible.
Instead, now shift your focus to what you *can* control and what you can change quickly. So think firstly about the different areas of sustainability. Do you want to lower your waste? Become more circular? Eliminate the footprint of your diet? Learn more? Take political action?
Trying to do them all at once will mean you don't achieve any. So prioritise them from most achievable to least achievable, and start on the easiest one first. Taking immediate, incremental action, will show you what's possible and motivate you to go further.
STEP 3: Set realistic & timely goals
Now that you know what area you want to focus on, I'm sure there are 101 (or more) ideas you have to get started. But you need to pick one to focus on first.
Start small - I'm talking, real small.
So say you chose wanting to lower your waste. And then you further refine that to wanting to have a zero waste kitchen. Well, you probably won't have a zero waste kitchen from day one, but you may be able to commit to zero waste coffee for 30 days or switching to plant based milk, and then build from there.
Research shows that it takes 30-66 days to form a habit. So make sure that you focus on one new goal per time period. If you know it's something super small, go for a 30 day minimum focus. But if it's a mindset shift or major overhaul, give yourself a full 66 days to really embed it into your life. And only once you feel that you can sustain that goal, in addition to another, should you set a new goal. Find yourself slipping? Go back a step.
As you get further in your journey, you can begin to stack habits and make them even larger. Like maybe eventually doing at home composting. But you need to start at what the most achievable next step is for you and get a win in there quickly. Meanwhile, refrain from setting future goals until after you've achieved this one. Stay present and focused on each goal as it comes, because your focus, desires and needs may shift throughout the year. Set yourself up for adaptability and change, not stringent constraint.
STEP 4: Practice daily action
Now this is probably the most important step, and often the most overlooked. In order to affect real change, it needs to become a habit. And habits are formed through persistent and consistent action.
The first time you perform this, it's going to feel unnatural. But as you get further and further into it, something powerful begins to take shape. And your belief in yourself and your commitment to action becomes unstoppable.
So every day, remind yourself of your current goal. Write it on a whiteboard, on your fridge, bathroom mirror, whatever will help you to physically see it and recite it every morning while you're practicing that goal. And as you're in this period of this goal, remind yourself of the goal every morning and night. Until you don't even need to see it anymore and it's in your mind. It becomes second nature.
If we go back to the zero waste coffee example, write down that objective on the coffee machine, the grocery list, and your bathroom mirror so you remember at any points in your day where you may forget. And as you go to throw away the coffee grinds, you'll be forced to think about what else you could do with them - maybe a face scrub, or find a community compost. And when you're at the grocery store and about to buy the pre-ground bag of beans for convenience, you'll actually stop yourself and go to the bulk store instead.
As you do this, each time you're faced with a decision that goes against your monthly goal think - will my decision help me to achieve my why from step 1? If yes, proceed. If no, re-evaluate either your decision or your motivations to see if they are true.
So, what's next?
Now if you can embed these four steps into any resolutions or goal setting that you do this year, I know that you'll achieve great success. But there's also one more really important piece to the puzzle, which I've saved for last.
And that's to celebrate your wins! Each and every one of them.
I'm serious. When you've made a new swap or embedded a new mindset into your family, do a little dance party. Share it with friends. Give yourself a pat on the back, because it was well deserved. We need to get in the habit of acknowledging the progress we're making every single day.
And just imagine if you make one swap per month for 12 months, you will have adopted 12 new habits with exponential impact. And I guarantee, smaller shifts will begin to happen as second nature. So good luck! Set those goals, set yourself up for success, and make them happen.