From Dr. Frank Lipman, Be Well
Many of us tend to make sweeping New Year’s resolutions — Lose 40 pounds! Get to the gym every day! Eat only whole foods! — without really thinking about what it takes to make good on our goals. The intention behind these goals is admirable, but intention alone does little to move you on the path to true change.
Because we don’t come up with a detailed plan of attack, many of us stumble and lose hope. January may see some progress based on sheer willpower alone, but as the year rolls on, our best intentions often fade and old habits take over.
So, what’s a well-meaning person to do? We’ve come up with a list of seven tips that will help you take your resolutions all the way. After all, a goal without a plan is really nothing more than a wish! Follow these suggestions, and you will be on the road to a healthier you.
SET S.M.A.R.T. GOALS
Goal setting is a powerful tool to inspire change and stay motivated. But, it’s critical to make sure the goals are S.M.A.R.T. in order to set yourself up for success. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:
- SPECIFIC: In other words, write a detailed goal instead of a broad one. Example: “I will learn a kettlebell routine” versus “I will exercise.”
- MEASURABLE: Include an accountable element to keep track of progress. Example: “I will eat five veggies a day” versus “I will eat more veggies.”
- ATTAINABLE: Choose goals that are challenging but also within reach of your abilities. Break up long-term goals into short-term ones to to make them more manageable.
- REALISTIC: Write a goal that is relevant to you, inspires you, and is practical for your lifestyle.
- TIMELY: Setting deadlines is essential — otherwise your well-thought out goals might float around for years. Set a date you wish to achieve the goal, and do your best to stick to it. Example: “I will be able to do 5 pull-ups by June 15th.”
THINK ABOUT YOUR VALUES
Before crafting your goals, quiet your mind and think hard about what values are important to you. Also, think about any obstacles to living those values as well as where you are “stuck,” Zen Buddhism meditation teacher Cheri Huber says. It’s important, though, to focus on being aware and observing your thoughts rather than being self-critical or judgmental, she adds.
DITCH NEGATIVE THINKING
Want to make good on your goals? Replace the “I can’t” thinking with “I can!” affirmations. Debbie Downer thoughts pop into everyone’s mind at some point — learn to swiftly switch out the negative for the positive. For example, instead of “I will never get the body I want,” try shifting to “I will continue to make healthy lifestyle choices and work towards having a healthier body.” Some tips for staying positive:
Before getting out of bed in the morning, visualize your day and how you want it to go.
Before going to bed, write down three things you are grateful for in a gratitude journal.
Keep positive quotes and fun pictures of yourself on the refrigerator.
It’s key to draw boundaries between yourself and anybody who might not support your success. Unfortunately, many of our friends and family can unknowingly (or knowingly!) sabotage our goals to lose weight, for example, or improve ourselves in any way. It’s also important to set boundaries around your own time and energy. Many people, especially women, tend to sacrifice self-care because they are constantly doing for others.
USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM
On a practical level, you’re more likely to achieve your goal of working out three times a week, for example, when you partner up with a friend. But, you can also us the buddy system by reporting into a friend every week about the progress you’ve made on your various resolutions.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall off the wagon. Sometimes life gets in the way of our goals. A sprained ankle, a work trip, a sick kid – you get the idea. Allow for flexibility within your goals, as you may need to extend the date of the goal or get back on track after a lapse.
LEARN FROM MISTAKES
Lastly, try to view mistakes or so-called “failures” as learning opportunities. For example, if you resolved to give up sugar but then had to have that peanut-butter cookie, think about why you made that choice: Were you stressed out? Maybe you need to think about a better self-care plan. Were you seeking comfort? Maybe you can find comforting options that don’t involve food. Rather than focusing on the goal itself, try to see the resolutions process as a journey that will help you become more aware and in tune with yourself.