Its that time again, the end of one year and the start of a new. New Year's is a natural milestone that prompts us to reflect, to plan and to aspire. If you're like the majority of lifestyle resolution makers, you started last year with the best of intentions to "lose weight" , "eat healthier" or "exercise more" but now find the results fall short of your aspirations. Surveys have indicated that over 50% of us make resolutions but only 10% keep them in part because the resolutions themselves weren't well thought out.
The first step to keeping your New Year's resolution is to set SMART goals.
The acronym SMART stands for:
Your resolution must be clear and unambiguous. Instead of resolving to "eat healthier" you might resolve to "eat a green leafy vegetable each day" or "switch to skim latte's with no sugar or whipped cream" .
While "I'm going to lose weight" or "lose 12 pounds" is measurable, its more effective to set short term milestones such as "I'm going to lose 2 lbs/month for next 6 months". Likewise setting a goal of "going to spin class twice a week" is also both specific and measurable.
Resolutions need to be realistic. Setting overly lofty goals like going to the gym every day is setting yourself up for failure, often for reasons beyond your control. Generally, losing 1-3 pounds per month for an "average" person is considered achievable (with work). With that knowledge, a goal of losing 5-10 pounds a week or month which is extremely difficult and requires lots of exercise and diet modification would likely be unattainable. A good goal is challenging but realistic for you. Which leads to relevance...
Take into consideration your schedule, resources, interests and abilities in setting your goal. For example, if its difficult for you to walk a mile today then resolving to run a marathon in 6 months might not be relevant to your fitness level.
Goals must include estimated timelines for completion with both short and long term milestones. For example, setting a goal of losing 2 lbs per month for 6 months is a SMARTer goal than just "lose 12 pounds".
The second step to keeping those resolutions is to have and monitor against a plan. You've set SMART goals but need to define how to get there. A resolution plan should include "process goals" such as:
- "do at least 20 min of cardio 3 times per week"
- "eat salads with some lean protein for lunch on work days"
- "cut out desserts except on weekends"
as well as "product goals" which are the results achieved like weight loss, running a faster time or lifting a heavier resistance, etc..
What ever your plan (which of course needs to be relevant to the goals), you should monitor and record your progress regularly (weekly and monthly). Congratulate yourself on achieving your process goals, they are victories in an of themselves.
A few more tips that may help you adhere to resolutions and achieve your goals:
- Don't go it alone: get a buddy to commit to the goals with you. According to success coach Amy Applebaum, including another person "creates accountability which is essential for success"
- Keep a log and celebrate the small successes along the way
- Be flexible: Work, family, weather, etc. can and will interfere with your plan. Be willing to modify your plan. You have a work project due so don't have time for a full hour workout today? Don's stress out. Maybe you can do 10 minutes today and make up for it another day.
- Mix up your workouts If you're a gym rat, try a hike or run or body weight workout outside or at home. Changing your routine not only staves off boredom and burn out, it also "shocks" your muscles with different movement improving results and helpign prevent workout plateaus.
- Don't punish yourself. If you get off track, forgive yourself, revisit the plan and move forward. You'll be more successful in keeping your resolutions if you perceive them as positive benefits for you not punishment.
You can do it! If you're SMART.
Have a Healthy New Year!
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