Here we go again. So what’s it gonna be this year? Eat less, exercise more, quit smoking, or spend more time with your family? My bet is that at least one of you will be saying one of those things, either to yourself or out loud in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with any of those. And I hope more than anything that if you do make one of those (or some other) resolution, you stick to it and reach your goals. But since history teaches us that’s not always the case, I have some simple advice for you.
Easy does it. Before you take the plunge, try rethinking your approach. Instead of making vague, sudden, and difficult-to-keep resolutions, but more like a work in progress. Think of it this way. If the thing your hoping to do is important enough for you to make a grand gesture at New Year’s, it’s probably something you’ll want to continue for a long time. So let’s start thinking about as lifestyle change and not something you just cross of a list, like “buy bananas” or “do laundry.”
Start small, with one goal at a time, and make a solid plan. Remember, small changes really do add up. According to the American Council on Exercise, one way to be more effective is to create SMART goals.
n Specific. State exactly what you want to accomplish. Make sure your goal is not hard to understand. Getting fit is not a specific goal. Being able to run a 5K under 30 minutes is. Write down exactly what you plan to do as well as when and how often. Post it where you’ll be sure to see it.
n Measurable. If a goal is measurable, you can evaluate your progress and know when you’ve succeeded. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you can check your body mass index (BMI) or see if you can get the zipper up on a smaller pair of pants.
n Attainable. Maybe you want to lose 50 pounds by your class reunion this summer. But is this realistic? Instead, have a conversation with your doctor about safe methods and rates of weight loss. Losing one or two pounds a week might be more reasonable. Or, maybe you’d like to quit smoking cold turkey, but you know that tapering off will make it easier for you. Set yourself up for success by setting goals that are truly attainable.
n Relevant. Is this really a goal you’re interested in? Or is it something a friend or family member has “pushed” upon you? Don’t think just because someone else does a particular thing to reach a goal similar to yours, that theirs is the only way to do it. You may both want to get fit, but they like to run, you don’t. So don’t try. Instead find another activity you do like.
n Timeline. It’s human nature to put things off. So remember to set specific deadlines. Try setting lots of shorter time-bound goals. This may make it easier to stay on track and reach your final destination.
You are also more likely to succeed if you are clear about why you want to make a particular change and know how it will benefit you. Also, identify your support system and ask for help when you need it. And come up with rewards for reaching specific goals. All these things can help you stay motivated. By the same token, remove things that will make it difficult. For example, if ice cream is your weakness, it won’t help to know that there’s a half gallon of mint chocolate chip in the freezer. But, remember, slip-ups happen, so don’t beat yourself up. Just put down the spoon and keep going.
I saw something posted on Facebook the other day and I thought it was perfect for this time of the year. It said, “Don’t wake up a year from now wishing you started something today.”
n Mike DeCinti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-827-2439.