We have all done the New Year’s resolution dance. We swear that this year will be different, that we will stay resolute and lose weight, exercise more, or learn a new skill. We give it a red hot go for about a week or two, but without fail we gradually lose motivation and by the end of January we have all but forgotten about our resolutions. Break free of the resolution dance by goal setting instead this year.
You may be asking yourself; ‘aren’t goals and resolutions the same thing?’. A resolution is a decision you make, something you resolve to do, such as ‘lose weight’ or ‘learn French’. Once you make the resolution, that’s all there is to it. Goal setting involves a little more work. The idea is to set specific, measurable goals, and having a plan as to how you can make and track progress, making it much more likely that you achieve those goals.
Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution to ‘get fit’? This is a pretty common resolution people make, but we bet our bottom dollar it’s also one of the most failed resolutions. Why? A big reason could be because it isn’t specific enough.
To set a goal, you need to be specific about what success looks like – can you visualise it and break it down into specifics of what you want to achieve? If your goal is to “get fit”, don’t just leave it at that. Decide exactly what that means to you. Is it about being able to walk up Mount Coot-tha? Or having a stronger body so that you no longer have lower back pain? Or being able to fit into your old clothes and feel more confident in your body? Or getting into a regular exercise routine where you exercise 5 out of 7 days a week? Or doing your first triathlon?
Also, choose a realistic time period in which you would like to achieve your goal. Most goals around health and wellness will take a while to achieve and commitment to create permanent changes to your lifestyle, so give yourself a realistic timeframe to get the results you desire.
By being more specific you will have a set destination instead of a vague path to follow, which is much more motivating.
Once you have chosen the ‘what’ part of your specific goal, it’s time to focus on the ‘how’. Break bigger goals down into smaller goals so that you know on a day to day, week to week basis what you need to do to keep on track. Say your goal is to be able to run 5km in three months. For many people, this is a realistic goal, but if you just blindly go for runs every now and again you won’t achieve the results you want.
Focusing on ‘how’ means making a plan. Coming up with a training plan and structure including identifying the days & times in your week when you will fit in that exercise. (For example, for the first month, do 3 x 30-minute walk/jog sessions and 1-2 strength sessions each week. And then the next month increase to 45 minutes with less walking, more jogging). Having structure will make it more likely that you will stick to your goals and form new habits. It also helps if you can find a training buddy to share the journey with you!
The next step is to track your progress so that you know exactly when you have achieved your goal. Seeing your progress can be a great motivational tool. When you are focused on achieving something, it can be difficult to see the big picture of how far you’ve already come. By tracking your progress you can remind yourself that you’re on the right path.
The most important step when creating your new year goals is to be realistic and kind to yourself. So often we make goals and resolutions from a place of negativity. For example wanting to lose weight because we don’t like how we look, rather than because it will make us healthier and happier. This can influence us to make unrealistic and unkind goals to lose too much weight too quickly, or we jump into unsustainable exercise routines.
This type of goal setting is unhealthy, ineffective, and unfair to you and your body. You may get results in the short term but if it’s unsustainable then the results will be temporary. Remember – the aim of the game is to improve lifestyle habits for a lifetime. Make small, sustainable changes and build on that, being kind to yourself as you work to achieve it.
Remember that, while the new year can be a great time for fresh starts and motivation, change doesn’t happen by itself. It will take some will-power and commitment and hard work. Which is why it’s important to have a plan about how to go about achieving those goals.
For more helpful blogs on health, fitness, and wellbeing including other strategies to help you achieve your goals, click here.