January is filled with good intentions. We’re hopeful, motivated, and resolute in our vision for a healthier future. Unfortunately, many of us will find it difficult to follow through. It’s so much simpler to keep doing things the way we always have, and frustrating when change doesn’t come easily.
The truth is that forging healthier habits requires a well-built strategy which includes organization, creativity and lots and lots of practice.
So it pays to be SMART when setting those New Year’s resolutions. It’s an acronym - and it works!
S - Specific M - Measurable A - Attainable R - Realistic T - Timely
For example: You want to eat better and get in shape. Great goals, right? Well... what are you actually going to DO? Let’s use our SMART skills to create steps that will really support change:
What SPECIFIC steps can you take?
Design personalized actions that work for YOU. Chop an apple into your morning oatmeal. Cook an extra vegetable with dinner. Keep your workout clothes in your car. Find one new healthy recipe online. The smaller and more precise the action, the better.
How can you make your goal MEASURABLE?
Either you did it, or not. How will you know? Keep a journal? Tell a friend? Check the scale? Use an app? You need to track your progress to see what worked... and what didn’t.
It should be ATTAINABLE.
Stretch your abilities while keeping your goals within reach. Be honest with yourself. I will run in my neighborhood every day at 6 am, sounds great... unless you’re not a morning person. Set yourself up for success by thinking things through. On the other hand, just because a goal is difficult doesn’t make it impossible – but plan on doing some extra trouble shooting.
Let’s be REALISTIC.
Is this a goal you are able and willing to work toward? A gym membership may be the perfect fit - for someone else. If you don’t like crowds, have physical limitations or lack reliable transportation then there may be a better option. Connecting goals to your lifestyle is vital and tapping into the environments and activities you already love is a good place to start.
Make your goals TIMELY.
Set deadlines. I will eat 2 fruits today. I’ll take a 20 minute walk every night after dinner. I will pack my lunch 3 days this week. Reassess on a regular basis so that you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done, or regroup and try again.
Let’s also add SUPPORT.
There will be plenty of obstacles ready to derail your best efforts. Look for a goal-setting partner. Someone who will add accountability and offer encouragement along the way. Family, friends, church groups, colleagues and health professionals are all great resources for building a social network to support change.
It may seem like becoming the best version of yourself is hard work, but don’t despair. Think about anything you’ve ever tried to accomplish - career, sports, hobbies, relationships – you didn’t learn how to do those things overnight. You practiced, made mistakes and then tried again. Good news... apply that same formula to your New Year’s resolutions and you’ll find yourself building healthy habits all year long.