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So many of us repeatedly set a list of New Years Resolutions with the full intention of truly making a change to reach them, yet come February, 80% of us fail at them!
Why is that? Why can we not stick to something we promise ourselves? Something that will take us closer to our goals? Is it because you didn’t set up the right plan? Maybe it’s not what you really wanted? Perhaps it was just too different from what you’re used to?
Goals are not supposed to be easy, that is why it is called a goal. It takes work, planning, practice, learning, asking questions, and support. You need to plan how to get started, how to take tiny steps forward, plan what to do if something doesn’t go as planned and how to get progress moving again.
So how do we pick a goal to work towards that you can achieve and feel good about?
Step 1 - Start by reflecting.
Get out a pen and paper and think back on the past year. What did you achieve last year, what did you learn, what are you grateful for, and what do you want to improve on. This is to help you figure out where you improved and what you accomplished and what area you feel you could improve further. Now is this area of improvement truly important to you? If so you may have found a New Year’s Resolution, if not keep thinking!
Step 2 - Transition your area of improvement into a S.M.A.R.T. goal checklist
A Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-limited goal and checklist. This is to make sure you can actually get this done!
- Specific: The goals must have specific details. You may say you want to start going to the gym, but that does not hold you to a specific goal. Instead try saying you will go to the gym 3 days a week before work for 1 hour and will do 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weights. Here you are clearly stating what you will do, how long you will do it, and when you will do it.
- Measurable: You should be able to objectively measure the goal to see how successful you are at meeting it. If you are only going to the gym 2 out of the 3 days you promised yourself than you are following the goal about 67% of the way. Then you can reassess and see what you can do or change to improve upon that.
- Attainable: Make sure your goal is attainable, meaning you have enough time and resources to achieve it. For example, if you know your daily schedule does not allow you to go to the gym everyday after work. Then plan ahead. Say you will go to the gym 2 days before or after work and on Saturday. Don’t say you are going to go for a 3 mile run 3 days a week, if you have never even ran a mile, don’t have access to a track or treadmill, and you know when it gets cold outside you won’t workout outside. You need to be realistic with yourself and what you are actually capable of doing with your time and resources.
- Relevant : Make sure the goal is something you want. That is is meaningful to you, will make a difference in your life or how you feel. If it is not truly important to you and you are just doing it to please someone else it will be much harder to stick to a plan, no matter how good it is, because you are not fully committed to it.
- Time-limited : Set a deadline! This will help keep you focused on the daily steps you need to take to make sure you hit the goal by that time. Keep in mind, some of your goals may be long term and some may be short term. Some of your short-term goals may help you get to your long term goals!
Step 3 - Long term versus short term goals.
Long term goals are great to help you look at the bigger picture. They can be hard to stick to though if you do not pull out the small goals on the way which you should notice and celebrate. You need to pull out the stepping stones to the larger goal and see what smaller goals will help you reach the bigger picture. If you plan to lose 20 pounds in 5 months… then maybe instead of dwelling on the larger 20 pounds and a long 5 months, you break it down. Say the first month you want to lose 6 pounds, then 5 pounds for month 2, and 3 pounds for the last 3. This helps incorporate small wins as well as a goal to help you keep going, since weight loss is typically (not always) harder as you go on. Then you incorporate goals for actions that help you lose the few pounds. Such as a calorie goal, the number of steps per day, cardio per week, and so on! Then you know you are making a change for long term success!
Step 4 - Plan for setbacks
Everyone has setbacks and it is best to expect them and plan what to do when they happen rather than allow them to hold you back!
For example, upcoming holiday parties, events, vacation, unexpected late nights and busy weeks at work. If you know there may be a few days you do not have time for meal prep or to have all your meals, always keep healthy snacks in your car, bags, and desk. From high protein low calorie bars, 100 calorie packs of nuts, beef jerky, etc. Make sure you have a go-to healthy take out spot for when you can not make healthy meals at home. You need to eat no matter what, the challenge is to make the healthiest choice you can. You may not be able to go to the gym for your full workout, but anything helps! Even if it is a 5-15 minute walk a few times a day.
Do what you can and then get back on track as soon as you can!
Step 5 - Lastly be prepared to change your goals.
As you get closer to your larger goal you may be able to take on larger more challenging tasks to keep the progress going. From running 2 miles in 30 minutes all of a sudden you need to make the goal 3 miles in 30 minutes. You might even find that you need to adjust your goals to better fit your new lifestyle.
Stay open minded and true to you wants and needs. Assess your progress and always make sure your next steps are leading you towards your larger goals.
For personalized goal guidance, email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with one of our coaches for free advice!