Do you have a New Year’s resolution? Many people make goals each year. But, by definition, the word “resolution” means to find a solution, frequently to a conflict or problem, which already sets a negative tone for something positive you hope to achieve.
When you make a true lifestyle change, it should be something you want to do — something you look forward to changing. Not merely surrendering to resolve a problem.
I ask people to change the word “resolve” to “commit.” We commit to our families, our faith and all things that are meaningful to us, and we take pride in doing it. Why not commit to making positive changes for you?
Start by asking: What is my motivation for change? And, am I making this change for myself or someone else?
The motivation needs to come from your sincere desire to work towards a healthier lifestyle for yourself. This is an opportunity for you to be excited about changing your life in a positive way, rather than punishing yourself for past behaviors. Those who are motivated because they want to change to benefit themselves, and not to please someone else, are more successful at achieving their goals.
Here are a few tips to help you get SMARTER at setting – and achieving – goals:
S – Specific. Focus on one behavior change goal at a time. People may say that they need to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, quit smoking and go to church every Sunday. Break down these daunting tasks and commit to one small daily or weekly goal to help you see immediate results and give you a sense of accomplishment. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, commit to keeping a food journal. After you have achieved your, add another to it.
M – Measurable. Give your goal a number — number of calories, number of days, times spent, etc. If your plan is to meditate, are you going to meditate two days a week or two times a day? Giving it a number allows you to see where you need to make adjustments. This becomes your plan.
A – Attainable. Think “comfort — stretch — stress." Real change requires you to get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself as you accomplish change with new or renewed behaviors. But it is important to ask yourself if the goal is realistic so that you are less likely to set yourself up for failure. For example, can you really give up all desserts during a month when four of your family members have birthdays?
R – Relevant. This brings us back to motivation. Is this goal something that is important for you to accomplish? Why? Will it help you move better, decrease medications, reduce stress, connect with your more spiritual side, look better? A question I always ask is, “what one thing would you take pride in and like to brag about one year from today?”
T – Timetable. Give yourself a deadline. My favorite example is, “I want to earn a degree.” Some students with this goal may stay in college for 10 years. Define the goal as, “I want to earn a degree in four years.” By giving yourself a timetable, you allow room for adjustments sooner, rather than later. If your plan is to lose five pounds in a month and you lost just two, confronting it now, rather than 12 months from now, will improve your chances of ultimately achieving your total weight loss goal.
ER - Evaluate and Revise (Rejoice or Repent). Take the time to evaluate your goals and reassess what needs to be revised to stay on track. If you don’t find joy and experience real changes, long-term success will elude you. This will help you navigate roadblocks, reward yourself as you hit milestones and refocus on your commitment to yourself.
Last but not least, partner up with an accountability ally. Phone a friend or get a coach. No one on any successful journey should journey alone.