As the new year dawned earlier this week, many of us used it as a time to reflect on 2018 and make resolutions for what we want to change in the coming year. Maybe we want to lose some holiday weight, get a better grip on our finances, improve ourselves by learning something new, or change our career/life path. Admittedly, all admirable aspirations (as demonstrated by the fact that these are a few of the most common resolutions…year after year). However, as the shininess of the new year starts to wear off and the doldrums of February start to set in, we lose motivation and nearly 80% of us that made resolutions will have given up, according to U.S. News and World Reports. Yep, 80% will have thrown in the towel by Valentine’s Day! Then why do we keep making New Year’s resolutions year after year and how can we be part of the 20% that makes it past the middle of February?
The connotation of the word resolution is negative to a lot of people, something to be solved or fix. Thus, how many of us are looking at our resolutions as a way of fixing something that we perceive is broken about us? Instead of highlighting the potential for growth and positive change we are starting out focusing on the negatives that we see in ourselves. Whereas the word goal has a much more positive connotation, it’s defined by Oxford’s dictionary as an aim or an object of person’s ambition or effort. A goal is something that we work towards, we aim to achieve unlike a resolution that is putting an end to a problem. Funny how our minds can differentiate subconsciously, and our reactions are influenced by the distinction. How can we make goals that we can stick with for longer than six weeks? Breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals that allow us to feel successful. That’s right, setting yourself up for success can be key to achieving your goals. Let’s break down one of the more common resolutions of “being healthier”.
Not too General- the goal needs to be specific, “being healthier” is rather vague and ambiguous. State your intent in more specific terms, “I want to be healthier by eating more vegetables.”
Objective- the goal needs to be measurable and trackable. In our example, the word “more” can be construed as subjective. More as compared to what exactly? We can refine the goal further to make it easier to quantify and measure, “5 servings of vegetables a day”.
Achievable- remember we are setting ourselves up for success with our goals, we want to meet them, so we must make sure we are setting reasonable expectations. What if you hate vegetables and never eat them outside of french fries? Is our goal of 5 servings of vegetables a day attainable? Maybe, maybe not. You can refine the goal even further to make it more manageable, “Eat 1 serving of vegetables with lunch and 2 servings with dinner.” Remember if you feel successful you are more likely to be motivated to continue expanding and working toward higher goals.
Lifetime/Lifestyle- is the goal something that you can continue doing indefinitely? Maybe for the rest of your life? Lasting change is about creating new processes of how we think, feel, and react to stimuli so if we have a “diet” mindset then we are constantly looking forward to being done with the “diet”.
By breaking down goals into manageable pieces we are telling ourselves that we want to be successful and that we can do the things that we set our minds to. Start 2019 by setting a goal to ditch the resolutions of the past and succeed in achieving your goals for the future. Happy goal setting!
Want To Make 2017 Totally Rock? Toss out those awful resolutions. Set Solid Goals Instead!
I find it absolutely crazy each year that we set resolutions. We do so with vigor and zest believing that this will actually result in success. We promise to do better than last year. We swear that we’ll lose weight. Be nicer to our co-worker. Stop being lazy or procrastinate. When we find that our New Year’s resolve failed miserably, we can feel like a failure.
Seeking Help! What Works in Setting Goals?
Research shows that many people who set New Year’s resolutions have bailed on them by February 1st. Many more waffle by March 1st. Wow! Terrible success rate. What actually works? I provide these 5 simple and very doable ways of making 2017 rock for you.
#1) Set Reachable Goals! Many people set Mount Everest type goals that are absolutely not going to happen. These goals include losing 30 pounds by March 1st, or getting a 30% raise before the end of the year. This just doesn’t work. I would suggest that rather than reaching for Mount Everest why not stretch for the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains? Once you’ve reached your doable goals at lower elevations, then you can set more challenging goals to build on. Something akin to reaching Mount Olympus east of Salt Lake City. The critical key is to make your goals doable. It actually makes a ton of sense and shockingly it works!
#2) Make Your New Year’s Goals Exciting! I find it shocking that we set goals that are boring. Mundane. Borderline dumb. And then wonder why we don’t want to do them. Surprise! Goals such as exercising. Becoming healthier. Or losing weight are laudable…yet pretty dang boring! Why not add some zest to your goals. For example, if you find going to the gym boring, don’t be surprised if you sabotage your goal right away. Yet if you like to hike and set a goal to hit the backcountry trails 2-3 days a week, don’t be surprised when you actually look forward to exercising. It actually makes so much sense.
#3) SetYour Goals For the Year! This may seem tough but it absolutely works. I’m not suggesting that each goal must go for a full year. Rather, break your goals into 3 to 6 month intervals. At the 6 month time frame, you simply fine tune or update your goal to prepare you for the next 3 to 6 months. This takes you out of feeling pressure to perform. Perform. And perform. At the 6 month mark, if you’re rocking one or two specific goals, continue the goals. If not, rethink your goals. Reset them. Make them work better for you. Believe me, it works!
#4) Stay Away From Resolutions! To reiterate my earlier key point, setting New Year’s resolutions absolutely doesn’t work. Consistency works. Goals work. Moving forward works. Finding a work out partner or buddy works. Get it? Please don’t buy into the “quick fixes” the infomercials often promise…and with very little effort. Buy into setting goals that will have you making steady improvement toward achieving your goals.
#5) Revisit Your Goals Regularly In reviewing your goals, build in reward(s) for reaching even the most basic of triumphs. In fact, make sure to absolutely celebrate your successes and often. If your goal is to visit the gym 3 times per week during February, awesome! However, if you manage 1-2 times per week celebrate the awesome success. Not the “I’m just too lazy and will never achieve my goals” vilification! That’s negative self-talk that will get you nowhere for sure…and the subject of another blog in the future.
Where Do I Go From Here?
You may actually be telling yourself, “that makes total sense Michael but I still feel overwhelmed with the idea of ongoing exercise.” Thank you for being honest! People often feel this way. Take a deep breath. Please try to keep a good and healthy perspective. Many of us have heard the wise advice to start small and gradually increase your workout energy effort. Exactly! Even more important could be finding a great workout partner to help motivate you. Get you over the hump of negativity.
Make sure and be extra kind to yourself in your quest to reach your 2017 goals. You’re going to blow it once in a while. Expect it. You’re human. That’s actually quite natural. What’s not natural is to simply bail on your goals because you’re not being perfect. Simply pick yourself up and move forward.
Remember! Consistency, excitement, and an awesome workout partner are all recipes for success. May you be your own great chef this year in your healthy recipe for success!!!
Michael Boman, LCSW is a relationship, marriage, and healing outdoors expert working at Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City, UT. He is accepting new clients who want to begin their journey of a healthier and happier lifestyle in 2017.