Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that you look back on 2014 with joy and happiness and can look forward to 2015 with excitement and anticipation. I always love New Year’s; it offers an opportunity for self-reflection, goal setting, and self improvement. As you look forward to the new year and contemplate some of the goals you wish to accomplish, I wanted to share a few tips to make your New Year’s resolutions completely successful this year. These were principles that I was taught in graduate school, have applied throughout my life, and can witness that they are without-a-doubt effective. Try them this year and turn your resolutions into actual results!
First of all, let’s talk about how to write a bad goal. Losing weight/getting fit is the most commonly-made fitness goal. However, this is the problem that most of us make. We set up our goals to be the final outcome, in this case “losing weight,” but neglect to mention anything about our plan to get there. This is why most goals and resolutions fail – people get frustrated after 1-2 weeks because the pounds aren’t flying off – they are not “losing weight.” Essentially they feel they are failing at their goal. Let’s see if we can take this really bad goal of “losing weight,” apply some of these essential steps to proper goal setting, and make the outcome more successful.
1. Set a realistic timeframe
One of the most common mistakes when setting goals is that they’re arbitrary about their completion. With no sense of deadline there’s really no sense of progression or urgency about achieving the goal. “Losing weight” is a long-term goal; you need to give yourself a long-term time frame in order to achieve it. Let’s take our goal of “losing weight” and give it a deadline…
“In 12 weeks I will lose weight.”
Keep in mind, it takes about four weeks for you to notice a change in your self, eight weeks for friends and family to notice a change, and about 12 weeks for everyone else to see the difference.
2. Quantify your goals
Giving your goals a specific quantity is vital. It’s an objective way to exactly measure your progress. Instead of “lose weight” come up with an exact number of pounds that you wish to shed. This will help you to stay motivated with a number in mind for the goal you’re trying to accomplish. Keep in mind – realistic weight loss is about one pound per week.
So now let’s apply a quantity to our bad goal. What once was “lose weight” now becomes…
“Lose 10 pounds over the next 12 weeks.”
Make it even more realistic by giving yourself a deadline; assuming we start on January 1 our goal is now “lose 10 pounds by April 1.”
This makes for an excellent long-term goal. You want to lose about 10 pounds over the next 12 weeks. An integral yet often overlooked part of goal making is setting realistic short-term goals. Short-term goals serve as an outline of steps that you are going to take to achieve your long-term goals. Let’s follow the same steps we just took and come up with some good short-term goals to help us achieve our long-term outcome.
Short-term goals have a duration of 1-2 weeks. Again, these are the steps you’re going to take to make your long-term goals successful. For our long-term goal of “lose 10 pounds by April 1” a good short-term goal would be…
“Lose 1 pound this week.”
If you were to drop 1 pound per week over the next 12 weeks you would meet your goal and even exceeded by 2 pounds! However, short-term goals are a lot more effective if they focus on process rather than outcome. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where we are actually going to set some specific actions into plan to make our goal attainable.
“Lose 1 pound this week” is a great goal, but let’s improve it by adding some concrete, measurable actions we’re going to take to help us to lose 1 pound this week. I’m going to add three bullet points under my short-term goal that will make up my action plan to ultimately achieve my short-term goal.
“Lose 1 pound this week.”
- Exercise for 30 minutes three days this week.
- Skip dessert three nights this week.
- Instead of watching TV I will do something active for 1 hour this week (ideas – cleaning, playing with the kids, walking the dog, etc).
Now we have three vital actions to making our goal a success. We have an ultimate outcome (Long-term goal: “Lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks”), a step in place to get us closer to our outcome (Short-term goal: “Lose one pound this week.”) and a very specific plan of actual, concrete, measurable steps that we can take to make our short-term goal happen (action list). This eliminates feelings of being overwhelmed by breaking the ultimate goal down into manageable steps. This eliminates feelings of inadequacy because there are very specific actions outlined for you to follow. And finally it eliminates frustration because you have established very real and very attainable goals as well as a plan to realize them.
I usually like to come up with 2-3 short-term goals that are all going to help me as steps to achieve the long-term goal. Another example of a short-term goal for our ultimate weight-loss goal might be:
“I will decrease my calorie intake by 100 calories per day this week.”
- Eat 1 more serving of fruit and 1 more serving of vegetables each day this week.
- Eliminate my between-meal snacking.
- Drink only water instead of juice or soda.
These are accurate, measurable steps (you either ate a snack or you didn’t; it’s that simple) that will help you fulfill your short-term goal and ultimately assist you in advancing towards your long-term goal.
So to summarize… We’ve taken the poor goal:
And made it into the following:
By April 1, 2014 I will lose ten pounds. This week I will…
1. Lose one pound by
- Exercising for 30 minutes three days this week.
- Skipping dessert three nights this week.
- Instead of watching TV I will do something active for 1 hour this week (ideas: cleaning, playing with the kids, walking the dog, etc).
2. Decrease my calorie intake by 100 calories per day by
- Eating 1 more serving of fruit and 1 more serving of vegetables each day this week.
- Eliminating my between-meal snacking.
- Drinking only water instead of juice or soda.
TRY IT OUT!!! If you incorporate these principles into making your fitness goals this year I GUARANTEE that you will find success. Resolutions won’t be expired by February. Goals won’t be dreams in 3 weeks. This will be your year to not only dream and want and wish, but to actually make it happen.
Make it happen,