By Jennifer Smith, Coordinator of Health Promotion Services
With 2011 right around the corner, many of us will soon be making New Year’s resolutions. How many of us actually keep those resolutions through January…February…even March? This year let’s use some time tested goal setting strategies to ring in the New Year!
When reading articles about goal setting, one of the first details the authors seem to share is that studies show the #1 predictor of success is the tendency to set goals! What are your resolutions? What do you want to accomplish? How will you carry out your plan?
Before we go any further, jot down your goals. Now look for negative words like stop, reduce, limit, quit, decrease, discontinue, no, not, never, etc. … Words are powerful. They can lead to success or failure. For example, if one of your goals is to stop eating chips, chocolate, or some other “junk” food than you’re focusing on what you can’t have rather than what you can. No one wants to feel deprived. Think about what you’d like to add to your life instead of what you’d like to take away. How about changing the goal to eating a certain number of servings of veggies a day instead? Many times making something off-limits causes it to be that much more desirable.
When setting your goals keep the S-M-A-R-T acronym in mind.
S - Specific: You want your goal to be clear cut and precise. Don’t deal in absolutes. Avoid the words, “some” and “more”, as in:
“I will get some exercise.” or “I will eat more fruits and veggies.”
It leaves you with too much leeway. Having too much flexibility or breathing space in the goals department isn’t a good thing. You want your goals to be crystal clear. Find a photo that represents your goal and keep it in sight. You could post it on your fridge or even as your screen saver.
M – Measurable: Goals should be assessable and quantifiable so you know whether you have met them or not. Put it on paper. Just as you strive for a grade in a class or a PR in a sport, you want to endeavor to achieve certain tasks all leading towards your goal. A written plan may encourage you to stay on track. I like to keep a running to-do list. It keeps me focused as to what I want to achieve.
A – Attainable: Start off with a goal that is within reach. Begin with baby steps. You want your goal to be achievable, realistic, and manageable so you can experience the thrills of success that much sooner. For example, your first goal might be to drink 8 cups of water a day. Once you’re in that habit then maybe your second goal will be to add 10-minutes of walking each day during lunch. Other examples could include:
- Pack a healthy lunch.
- Accumulate 10,000 steps on your pedometer daily.
- Get 8 hours of sleep each night (at least 7 if 8 is completely impossible).
- Eat mindfully. Make a pact with yourself not to eat while driving, watching TV, or working on the computer.
- Do 15 minutes of calisthenics while watching TV
- Eat breakfast.
- Carry around a stress-squeeze ball to use. It’ll strengthen your forearms and hands and can help you lose weight by replacing emotional eating with movement.
R - Relevant: Remind yourself of how the goal is significant to your life. Set goals that are truly important to you. Surround yourself with positive visual reminders of your goal to help further reinforce your resolve. Visualize your goals. Can you imagine how achieving your goal will affect your life? What will change? What strategies will you use to accomplish your goal? The plan you’re envisioning is your blueprint. If you can unmistakably visualize your goal, and realize that it’s within your reach; you’re that much closer to success.
R – Reward yourself. (I added this “R”). Positive reinforcement can really help. Maybe I’m strange but I always get excited when I have a cool new pair of kicks or a new gadget like my Nike IPOD tracker. I want to exercise that much more to try out my new purchase. Rewards don’t always have to cost money though. Think about something you enjoy doing but don’t always make time for and use that for your reward. How about sitting down to enjoy the lights on your Christmas tree while sipping hot mulled cider, taking a moment to listen to your favorite song, enjoying a relaxing bubble bath, or puttering around in your garage. (I included this last one for my husband.) It’s completely up to you. What is something you’d like to do and would anticipate?
T – Time-based. Create a timeline to help produce a sense of urgency. Don’t wait for “some day” to roll around. Setting your goal is the first step. Now it’s time to figure out strategies to achieve your goal. List your objectives. Don’t forget, deadlines turn wishes into goals. Let’s make 2011 a year of success!
Jennifer Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine with a concentration in nutrition and a minor in education, a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion and is a nationally certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and speed coach.