The New Year has arrived and with it, a time for new beginnings, fresh starts and lots of resolutions. This is the time of year when we reflect on the past year and what we have achieved while looking ahead to the new year before us and determining what our new goals will be. For many of us, the goals we set tend to be around health and wellness. This is the year I will . . . lose that 50 pounds, run my first marathon, start eating better . . .
Many of us tend to set lofty goals for ourselves in January and tackle them with a vengeance only to fall off the track within the first couple of months. What are the keys to setting ourselves up for success in 2015? There are a few steps that we can follow to ensure we stay on track with our wellness goals and ensure our success not only in the coming weeks but also in the months to come. If you are ready to make changes in 2015, follow these simple steps to set your self up for success!
1. Set SMART Goals – Often times we dive in to a new program or plan with very high expectations that are often unrealistic. For example, you may have a goal to lose 50 pounds. Whether or not this is an appropriate goal for you depends on many factors and you need to determine whether this is in fact a “SMART” goal for you. The “S” in SMART stands for specific – have you clearly defined the goal. In this case, you have a specific number of 50 pounds in mind so this is goal meets the first criteria.
The second criteria is “measurable”. Can you actually measure the goal you have set for yourself? Again in this case, that is possible as you will determine if you are reaching your goal by weighing yourself to determine each week how close you are getting to your goal. Often times we set goals that are not specific or measurable. For example, “I want to get stronger” – what does this mean to you? How will you measure this and track your progress? A more appropriate goal would be, I want to increase my overall strength by 10%. This is specific and also measurable through fitness testing.
Next we look at whether or not the goal is “attainable”. Is it something that you can actually achieve? This factor is largely based on the other four parts of the equation and is dependent on many factors including the length of time you have given yourself to achieve the goal, whether or not it is actually something that is possible for your body type, age, health status, etc.
Is the goal you have set “realistic”? Again, you will need to ask yourself important questions. Going back to the example of the plan to lose 50 pounds, this can most definitely be a realistic goal for many people, however, if you do not realistically have 50 pounds to lose, it is definitely not a sensible goal. Or, if you have set a goal to lose 50 pounds in two months, again, this is not a realistic and healthy expectation. By using the SMART goal setting formula, you can ensure that you set goals that are both attainable and realistic for your current situation.
The final portion of this process is “timely”. Have you set a realistic timeline for your goal? Whether or not a goal is SMART is very much dependent upon the time you set to achieve it. Back to our example of losing 50 pounds, a realistic timeline for this goal would be 6-12 months as a one to two pound weight loss per week is a sensible healthy way to lose weight.
By following the SMART formula and breaking down not only what you wish to accomplish but how you plan to achieve it, you will set yourself up for success. If you are not sure what is realistic for the goal you have set out, consider seeking the advice of a professional to offer you guidance (ie. dietitian, personal trainer, physician, etc.)
2. Ask Yourself Why – When setting goals for yourself, it is very important to take a moment to ask yourself why this particular goal is important to you. Do you want to achieve this particular goal for yourself or are you succumbing to pressure from a family member or friend. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon in 2015, have you decided to do this because you have always had a burning desire to see yourself achieve this accomplishment, or because your best friend wants to run a marathon and thinks it would be a great thing for you to do together? Make sure the goals you set are important to you and in line with your own personal vision for yourself and not something you aspire to do to please someone else.
3. Visualize – Once you have set your goal (or goals), visualize how you will feel once you have achieved it.
How will you feel? What will be different about your life? By taking the time to really think about how achieving this goal will change you and what it will mean for your life, you will become that much more focused on achieving it. You can even use pictures and other visual reminders to keep you focused and on track. For example, if your goal is to lose 50 pounds, pulling out some photos of yourself back when you were at that ideal weight and having them in a place that you will see them often will serve as a reminder to yourself of why this is something that is important to you. Is the reason you want to get healthier so you can live a longer life, so you can avoid developing a chronic illness that plagued a family member, so you can be more active to keep up with your children or grandchildren . . The reasons can be endless but the more focused you become on why you want to get there, the more likely you will be to stay on track when times get tough or motivation is lacking.
4. Reward Yourself – It takes a great deal of dedication and hard work to reach a goal. We often spend a lot of time beating ourselves up when we do not reach our goals but how often do we reward ourselves for our achievements? Come up with a way to reward yourself and not just when you reach your final goal but when you reach milestones and small successes along the way. Have you just achieved a long training run as part of your marathon training program that you thought would be unattainable? Reward yourself with a new winter running toque. Made it halfway to your weight loss goal? Treat yourself to a new piece of clothing or a spa treatment. It is important to celebrate our successes and milestones so that we feel the benefits of our hard work. Be kind to yourself and do not be afraid to treat yourself once in a while!
By setting goals that are realistic, remaining focused, and celebrating your successes, you will be surprised at how much you want to stay on track and reach the goals you have set for yourself. When you have days that you get off track, don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember that tomorrow is a new day. Focus back on your “whys” and get back on track. By taking things one step at a time and being kind to yourself, you will get there and you will be so glad that you did!