I used to say “New Year’s Resolutions are made to be broken”. I never used to set them until I changed my view and the term “resolutions” and called them “behavioral goals”. I think that it is helpful to set goals to work towards. My mother use to tell me “As long as you have a goal to work towards, you have a direction to move towards. A new year is like a clean chalkboard, a new beginning and it can provide us opportunities. One thing that gets in the way of us succeeding to reach our goals, is too many and being unrealistic in what we can accomplish. For most of us, many of us set a goal of self improvement. For many of us this may be staying better organized, losing weight, increasing exercise, eating more vegetarian meals or buying more local food. Some of us may feel that we have to be 100% on target to achieve success and a few may include deprivation and suffering in order to meet our goals. We set the bar so high that it can impossible to reach. If we do reach that perfect resolution, we get there only to stay there for a short time and feel so frustrated that we may go back to our old habits and reprimand ourselves for being a failure. This can certainly make us feel overwhelmed!
This year, try setting more realistic goals one at a time that focus on a single behavior change. A smart goal is short for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time oriented. Here is what I mean by these:
- Specific: What exact behavior are we talking about that we want to change? If I say “I need to get more exercise” that is a little loose and non-specific but if I say to myself “I want to got to zumba class, hike or walk” that is more specific.
- Measurable: How can I measure “I am going to go to zumba more”. A way to make this measurable would be ” I am going to exercise at least 3-4 times a week by doing either zumba, walk or hike”.
- Attainable: If I say I am going to exercise two hours a day all seven days a week or else” that may not be attainable and I may not be able to sustain this over time. What would be more attainable or achievable for you?
- Relevant: Is your goal getting at where you want to go? Sometimes the goal that we set will not get us there. For example, if I said that I would eat a salad everyday so I could lose weight and it was a high calorie salad, maybe there would be a better goal that I could set to get me there. Plus, I might get sick of eating salad.
- Time: How long am I going to do this? For my exercise 3-4 times a week maybe it would be 30 minutes or an hour each time.
Here is an example for setting a goal: “I want to lose 20 pounds”, does not include a strategy to succeed and for many people it may not be a reasonable goal, The goal needs to be a little deeper. What if someone finds that they skip lunch and this leads to overeating later on in the day? A smart goal might be: Currently skipping lunch 7 days a week and will begin eating lunch at least 3-4 times a week.
Smart goals that are achieved and maintained that make a big difference over the long haul. If you reach your smart goal and it can part of your every day life and you can set another one to work on. After several months, you can have several new healthy habits that you actually enjoy and can see results over time.
The great thing also is you can set a goal to almost any behavior that you would like to change whether it be a getting healthier, improving relationships or keeping a cleaner house. Think of your new behavioral smart goals as your plan or road map! What I also love about this way of thinking is that there is more than one way to get there! Think of it as permanent and flexible behavior change.
Some of us can use a little help and encouragement to work on these smart goals. It can be beneficial to bounce off a few ideas with someone. As a registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville, I have had years of experience working with clients helping them improve their health while they enjoy making behavior changes. I would love to be part of your team. You can find out more about me here!
You might also want to check out Vine Ripe’s New Year’s Fresh and Healthy Start!