As the Christmas celebrations begin to die down, many of us now turn to the New Year for a fresh start. Any guilt or regrets are cleared from our slate with the prospect of a New Year dawning. It really is so nice to be able to put everything behind you and reset your life each year, making new commitments to be better and bolder than before.
More often than not, many of us create New Year resolutions revolving in some shape or form around our health. We vow to commit to better eating habits, lose weight, or even exercise more. And also more often than not, our motivation is so high at the beginning on the year that we are able to achieve our goals very well for the first week or so. Unfortunately, as the days go by and the reality of life sets back in, our motivation becomes depleted and we are left feeling disappointed and depressed.
But why does this same pattern occur year after year? Psychologists have attributed this behaviour to the fact that repeated failure ultimately kills our motivation. Once we fail to meet our goals a couple of times, it’s causes us to overestimate the difficulties of our goals and underestimate are abilities to achieve them. How does repeated failure occur? Well, by setting ourselves up with unrealistic, broad and undefined goals, and by offering ourselves little to no support system. Take a closer look…
Result vs. Action based goals:
The biggest problem I have seen over and over again is that goals are often set based on a result (Iose 30 lbs) rather than the action that is needed to get you to that goal (eat healthier). If you simply change your goal so that it’s based on an action, you will see that it’s all of a sudden a whole lot clearer exactly what it is you need to do.
Be as specific as possible when it comes to the details of your goals. Rather than saying “Get to a healthy weight”, say “I want to lose 10 lbs by March”. Notice how I added in exactly how much weight would need to be lost to for the person to consider themselves at a healthy weight, and included a timeline to achieve it by. In fact, take it up a notch and associate a reason or emotion with your goal. Think about exactly why you are setting this goal for yourself and what it will mean for you. An example would be “I want to lose 10 lbs by March so I can feel comfortable in my bikini when I go down south” or “I want to lose 10 lbs by March to get myself off my diabetes meds”. Think about how achieving your goal will make you feel and remind yourself of it from time to time.
Set mini goals as well as an overall goal:
I recommend setting multiple mini goals that will lead you to your overall goal. An example of an overall goal would be “Make 80% of my diet consistently clean and composed of real food only” while mini goals leading up to that could be “Eat only an real food diet 2 days per week for the first two weeks”, then “Eat only real food for 4 days a week for the next two weeks” and so on until you reach your overall goal. First off by doing this, it gives you an actionable plan that you can follow over time. Secondly, it gives your the opportunity to celebrate successes along the way! As you conquer one small goal, you feel motivated that you are succeeding and it gives you the confidence you need to tackle the next goal.
Make your goals measurable:
How will you measure out your goals? How will you know if you’re achieving what you set out to achieve? Measuring your progress along the way is key to visualizing your success and making sure what you’re doing is working. For example, if your resolution is to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume to 2 drinks per week, measuring this could be as simple as recording how many drinks you’ve had each night in a journal. If your resolution is to lose 10 lbs, perhaps you can take and record your body measurements or weight on a scale each week. Maybe you will test your progress periodically by trying on an old pair of jeans? You get the gist.
Make your goals attainable and realistic:
Ask yourself – is your goal something that is within reach? Can it realistically be achieved? How do you know? What can you do to ensure that you set yourself up to achieve it? These kinds of questions allow you ensure that you are not setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. Take baby steps and don’t assume a complete transformation can happen overnight. It takes years to develop a new habit and so setting the bar too high when it comes to new goals is only going to discourage you when you can’t achieve them.
Identify barriers to success:
Write out exactly what you need to get done to get to your goal, and perhaps what you need to change or eliminate in your life as well. Identify any and all barriers that might get in the way of achieving both your small and overall goals. For example, if your overall goal is that you will cook at home 5 nights per week, think about any possible situations that could come up to prevent you from doing so. An example could be that your schedule is sometimes so busy, that you don’t have time to cook when you get home. Or perhaps that you don’t always have the right ingredients on hand to prepare the meals you want. Or quite simply could be that you don’t enjoy your own cooking. By identifying in advance exactly what type of problems prevent you from getting to your goal, you can identify a game plan to find a solution and get past them. Perhaps if your problem is that you don’t have the time to prepare the meals you’d like, you can set a mini goal over the next month to simply learn how to meal prep or to purchase an organizer that will allow you to make time for cooking.
Set up a support system:
It has been shown time and time again that one of the most determining factors to succeeding is having someone to be accountable to. This can be a friend, family member, fitness trainer, dietitian, or even being part of a Facebook group that you can check in with, update on your progress and will provide you with words of encouragement (or a kick in the *ss) when needed! It such a simple concept and it’s so easy to assume that you can do it on your own – however trust me on this, success rates go WAY up and stay there for longer when you have a good support system.
Overall, new year resolutions can be extremely powerful and effective when done right, and can really serve as the push you need to make yourself better with each coming year. Follow these steps and reach out to me if you need help setting up a plan to achieve your resolutions.
In the meantime, happy new year and happy goal setting!