So, the holidays, also known as the ‘eating season,’ have come and gone. Now it’s back to reality, time to ‘climb back on the wagon’ and revisit our health promotion or disease prevention efforts. Some of us will plan to start a new gym membership, and some will vow to use the paid membership they had for a while. Others may resolve to cut out red meat or even become vegetarians. Whatever you decide, the start of a new year gives each of us the opportunity for new beginnings. We can discontinue old unhealthy habits and replace them with new ones. Most of us know what we would like to change and feel strongly about it, but the challenge, however, lies in sustaining the change. So, how exactly do we prevent our resolutions from falling by the wayside before Valentine’s Day? Is there a secret to staying motivated all year long?
Resolutions are typically broad statements or declarations with no specific directions for completion. For example, I remember declaring that I would lose 20 pounds one January. It never happened. Making the resolution or declaration is only the first step and must be followed by the transition into a SMART goal. Your resolution is a goal; it just needs to be made SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
How to set a SMART goal
Creating SMART goals sets you up for success. For example, a statement such as I will lose 20 pounds now becomes, I will do moderate to high-intensity cardio exercises for 30 minutes, five days per week. By doing this, I will achieve a two-pound per month weight loss, and after ten months, I will lose the desired 20 pounds. Creating SMART goals removes the vagueness from resolutions. It ensures that they are realistic and achievable in the expected time frame.
The other challenge lies in remaining motivated to stick to our goals. How do we prevent ourselves from falling off the wagon, and most importantly, how do we convince ourselves to climb back up? This should be the natural part since motivation is intrinsically generated, and the goals we make are for our benefit. If losing those 20 pounds will improve our chances of preventing diabetes or lowering blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol, then it should be enough to keep us going. The trick is to keep our eyes on the prize and distinguish between where we are now and where we would like to be. Envision your new, improved self with all the benefits from achieving your goal. If your goal is health-related, know your biological markers (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) and how to measure the improvements that occur in increments. The changes to our health profile will motivate us to keep us going. At the end of month 1, the 2-pound weight loss signals that we are doing something right and acts as a motivator to see the goal through. So, at the beginning of this New Year, let us seize the opportunity to make our resolutions SMART and set ourselves up for the success we all need.
Photo Credit: The 3AM Teacher Design