Do you set resolutions every year, only to break them a few weeks later? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that more than 40% of Americans make resolutions for the New Year, while only 8% actually achieve them (1).
Even if you’re not one to set resolutions, smart goal setting can be beneficial for anyone trying to achieve something. Before I share some tips for setting and meeting goals, I want to mention the importance of setting realistic goals. ‘Lose 20 pounds in the next month’ is neither realistic nor recommended. ‘Exercise three days a week,’ on the other hand, is reasonable and attainable.
Here are some tips for setting (and meeting your goals):
(1) Set SMART goals:
- S- Specific
- M- Measurable
- A- Achievable
- R- Relevant
- T- Time-bound
- Here is a nice diagram that explains SMART goals a bit better (2):
- So, an example of a SMART goal might be: ‘I will eat at least four servings of vegetables or fruits every day of the week for the next six weeks.’
- If you’re having trouble writing SMART goals, you can google ‘SMART goal worksheets’ and find one that works for you. Here is one example.
- Once you’ve written one (or three) goals, I suggest putting them somewhere where you can see them often. The fridge, your desk, or wherever you like.
(2) Feel free to set goals with different time frames. For example, set one goal for the first day, a goal for the first week, another goal for the first month, a few more at your chosen intervals, and a final goal for the entire year.
(3) Think about your sources of motivation. Being able to have the energy to play with your kids, the strength to play with your grandkids, or reducing your risk of diabetes are much better motivators than fitting into a smaller jean size. Make a list of your reasons for getting healthier this year.
(4) Brainstorm some ways you have been successful at meeting goals in the past. What did you do to complete that project on time or successfully? By thinking of ways you’ve succeeded, you’ll be reminded of your strengths even when you’re feeling down.
(5) Find a buddy to join you. Talk to a close friend, spouse, partner, or colleague about holding each other accountable. They don’t even have to be doing the same things as you as long as you agree to check in with each other.
(6) Write a contract. Write down the specifics of what you want to accomplish. Have your buddy/accountability partner sign too.
(7) Worried about all those things that might get in the way? Aside from thinking of how you have been successful in the past, write down all the things that might interfere with your success and make an “if-then plan”. For example, let’s say you always find it hard to resist the sweets at your office. Think of a few ways you can avoid or conquer the barrier. One might be to bring healthy snacks that you really enjoy and keep them in your desk/office so you’re never hungry. Another might be to volunteer to bring a healthy snack to share one day. Another might be to set more specific limits if you’re good at that (some people aren’t great at the whole ‘moderation’ thing). To bring it all together, you might want to create some kind of chart telling you your options if something happens or it might just be one sentence: “If I don’t feel like working out then I will take a walk around the block to see how I feel.” or “If I go to happy hour with my colleagues then I will only have one glass of wine.” This type of thinking helps you foresee possible obstacles so they don’t surprise you.
Don’t stress about your goals too much. Not every single goal can have all of the elements of SMART goals setting. Just try your best and see what happens.
Some people need to share their goals with the public so they are “out there” and read by numerous people. If you want to do that, feel free to comment here or on Facebook or instagram (@crossroadhealth) with your SMART goals for the New Year.
In addition, to “practice what I preach”, in a few days I will be stepping out of my comfort zone and posting my goals for the New Year for all of you to read. I’m not even thinking about starting my goals until at least the second week of January when I’m finished with my travels, but I’ll post them early as an example.
So, what are your goals for the New Year?
(2) Chart Source