Have SMART resolutions for 2017
Success rate higher with Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based goals
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
As we near the end of 2016 and look forward to the calendar turning to 2017, many people are starting to think about making some changes to their lives or even making a so-called New Year’s resolution. For some, it may be to quit smoking, while others may want to exercise more, eat healthier, lose weight or even work on getting their financial house in order.
Research shows that about 50 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, only about 10 percent of those actually achieve them.
There are multiple reasons for failure, including not developing a well thought out plan about how to achieve the goal or making goals that are too complex or too lofty for success.
Here are some tips to help you work toward achieving any goals that you might have for the new year, especially those that involve lifestyle changes.
Try starting with just one or two easily achievable goals and make them SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. The success rate for long-lasting change is much higher.
S = Specific. Make sure the goal addresses what needs to be accomplished, where the action will take place, when is it going to happen, and even what is needed for success. For example, “I will exercise more” is a very broad goal, whereas “I will walk on the school track four times a week for 30 minutes after work” is much more specific and directive for you.
M = Measurable. Make goals that you can easily measure and continue to monitor your progress. Measurable goals provide answers as to how much, how often and how you will know when the goal has been accomplished. Use a tracking app or website like supertracker.usda.gov, a fitness tracking device, or even a calendar to help with this.
A = Attainable. A lifestyle change goal should be something you can realistically achieve. Don’t set the bar too high and commit to eating five servings of vegetables daily when you previously have not been eating any. When you are just starting to focus on eating healthier, a goal like this may be unachievable and lead to failure over the long term. Make your goals small and doable so that you have success. Losing 60 pounds may be your ultimate long-term goal, but that large amount can seem out of reach initially. Break that down into smaller increments, such as “I will lose 10 pounds by the end of February.” When you reach that goal, celebrate your success and reset your goal again to keep moving forward.
R = Realistic. A realistic goal is one based on your current situation. How much time do you have to devote to it? Do you have everything you need to accomplish it? Is it flexible enough to allow for changes in your routine? Don’t commit to exercising an hour daily if you only have 20 minutes available. Trying to quit smoking when you are at a stressful point in your life may not be the best time, since for many, smoking is their primary stress management technique. Wait until you have developed and can rely on alternate stress management tools such as regular exercise or meditation; then move forward with quitting smoking.
T = Time-based. Goals should have starting and ending points with enough time in between to accomplish them. If you want to successfully lose that 10 pounds, know that this usually takes several weeks. Be patient but persistent. Also know that sidesteps can inevitably happen. Do not give up. Instead, take some time to examine what went wrong and fix that. Then reset your goal and get back on track.
Three tips to help you achieve success:
Do not leave thinking about setting goals for self-improvement to just one day out of the year, such as on New Year’s Day. This should be an ongoing process that you think about, spend time working toward, revising or resetting on most days throughout the year.
Be mindful and focus on the here and now and the new behaviors that you are trying to achieve. Don’t fret over what happened in the past or worry about what may or may not happen in the future. Think about the one or two things that you can do each day toward your goal.
Set up some accountability for yourself, if you think you need it. Have a workout buddy who exercises with you; join a weight loss support group online or in person; or use tracking devices. Make an appointment with a personal trainer or wellness coach. They are experts in coaching people toward success with fitness and wellness goals.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital has wellness education classes and groups beginning in January to assist you with meeting some of your new year lifestyle goals. These include classes that focus on learning to manage stress and stopping smoking, as well as small group coaching for weight management. In addition, LMH offers wellness coaching services for a fee. Visit lmh.org for more information, or call LMH Connect Care at 505-5800.
For more on successful goal setting for lifestyle changes, go to lmh.org/wellness/health-library.
— Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, MA, RN, is community education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.