2024: Lower your expectations

There’s no doubt it’s been a hard year for many of us. Looking ahead, we need to manage our 2024 expectations realistically. For the sake of our mental health if nothing else.

Why was 2023 so tough?

The cost-of-living crisis, coupled with ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, means that many of us didn’t have the year we expected.

The rising gap between inflation, price increases, and income has affected all of us. Between April 2021 and September 2023, prices rose 22% faster than wages. Higher interest rates also caused mortgage and rent costs to rise.

I know my household has certainly felt the pinch. Prices rising in the supermarket on an almost weekly basis, while our income remained the same, has led to some tough choices.

We’re still recovering from the collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us lost loved ones, contracted the virus, or found the restrictions needed to control the virus isolating.

If 2023 didn’t work out how you hoped then don’t be hard on yourself. You’re not the only one.

New Year’s resolutions? Set realistic goals instead.

30% of Brits will set themselves a New Year’s resolution. Yet only 9% of people complete their resolutions. Why?

Some resolutions set unrealistic expectations. We set the bar high because we feel that New Year’s resolutions should be big changes. Without thinking about the steps needed to achieve that goal.

Break those big goals into smaller, manageable steps.

Or we set a goal we feel we should choose without examining why. If we decide to go to the gym three times a week, yet we hate going to the gym, that resolution is certain to fail. Unless you scrutinise it properly.

Why are you going to the gym? Weight loss, six-pack abs, to feel fitter and stronger? If you know what you want to achieve, you can find more enjoyable routes to your end goal. Something you’re likely to stick to. Because a sense of reward is important.

James Clear spells this out in his book, Atomic Habits. All habits, good or bad, form when we explore a behaviour and experience a reward. We repeat the behaviour to receive the reward, creating habits. To achieve your goals for 2024, include an element of reward.

Tips to manage your 2024 expectations

  • Have realistic expectations. Don’t set yourself up to fail, think clearly about what you want to achieve and how to get there. Set goals you can reach.
  • Set SMART goals. Often used in business, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound.
  • Break large goals into smaller steps. Use those as milestones on the journey towards your goal.
  • Include the element of reward. Enjoying the process will help you stay on track.
  • Be flexible. No route to change runs smoothly. So be kind to yourself. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and set your feet back on the path to achieving your goal.
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