Setting goals for the New Year: More than just a “resolution”

New years resolutions.jpg

The New year is upon us which means it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations, put away the holidays gifts and for many, make a new set of New Year’s resolutions.

For some, the idea of creating a new set of goals for the coming year can create stress due to memories of previous attempts at keeping a goal that may have failed. Despite our best efforts, keeping New Year’s resolutions can be very challenging if they are not created the right way. Many people fall into the habit of creating goals that are unrealistic and unknowingly set them up for failure. When this happens, it is common to want to give up and tell yourself you will try again next year. Sound familiar?

So, how do you break this vicious cycle? By following a few simple steps and viewing the goal from the right perspective, you can be sure to find success no matter what you are trying to achieve.

5 Steps to make your New Year’s resolutions stick:

1.       Be Realistic. The acronym “SMART” is a good tool to help this happen and stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific.  For example, instead of saying “I want to eat healthier this year”, a better goal would be “I will add a fruit or vegetable to each meal, at least 5 days out of the week”. The second goal is much more specific, is measurable, and is realistic as it allows for a couple days of the week for flexibility and without the pressure of having to achieve the goal 100% of the time.

2.       Modify your action plan. It can be easy to get caught up trying the same old methods to accomplish a goal that you may have previously struggled with. Instead, try approaching the goal with a new method. For example, if last year you tried to give up fast food in order to lose weight but still found yourself at the drive through each weekend, try other methods. For example, you might find that doing some meal prep over the weekends to make eating out less tempting or convenient might work for you. Whatever it is, don’t get stuck trying the same old things over and over again if they didn’t work for you in the past.

3.       Start small. Goals that are set too high are most likely to fail. Remember, you want to be realistic! If your goal is to increase your exercise, don’t tell yourself you’ll start going to the gym 4 days a week after work right off the bat. A smaller and more attainable goal might be to start going on a 15 minute walk on your lunch break at work, or to carve out 10 minutes in the morning for yoga or stretching. Don’t worry, you can gradually build upon this goal to make it more in line with your ultimate goal, but starting with small steps makes it MUCH less intimidating and easier to achieve. Better yet, when we achieve these smaller goals, we gain confidence in our ability to accomplish the larger ones! Win-win :)

4.       Create accountability. This can be with yourself by keeping a journal or calendar to document your progress, or involve other people to check in on you from time to time. The more accountability you have, the more likely you are to stick to the goal.

5.       Get rid of “all or nothing” thinking. We all are bound to fail at some point or another, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Remember to give yourself credit for whatever you DO accomplish, even if it wasn’t exactly meeting the original goal. Then, reevaluate your plan and try again!

The New Year is a perfect time to try to improve your health or create a new habit that will benefit your lifestyle. However, it is certainly not the only time of year that goals can be created or accomplished. When we view our goals as not just a short-term “resolution” but a long-term lifestyle change, we will be more likely to value and be committed to them.

Here’s to the start of a healthy and great year!