Upgrade Your Resolutions
January 1st: “This is my year, no more take-out food. I’m going to be super healthy – just you wait!”
January 3rd: “Want to get take-out for dinner tonight?”
If so, don’t be too hard on yourself - you’re certainly not the only one. In fact, most people don’t keep their resolutions past January 12 – with it now dubbed “quitter’s day” thanks to data analysed by the fitness platform Strava. In fact, when they analysed data from more than 822 million online global activities in 2019, they found the date they've dubbed "Quitter's Day", was even worse than the year prior, coming barely a fortnight into the year, falling on Saturday January 12. So why is it that everyone struggles to last the distance? What can you do to maintain your goals?
A Goal without a Plan Is Just a Wish
Despite being set with the best of intentions, New Year’s resolutions seldom produce long-lasting results. Once the festive dust from Christmas and New Year settles, the reality of taking action toward achieving your lofty resolutions is where the struggle begins, momentum stalls, and these once exciting goals remain unrealised for another year.
It is a very human trait to sometimes set unrealistic expectations on what ‘should’ be achieved, desire fast results, force yourself to do things you don’t like (e.g. certain types of exercise, long work hours or restrictive diets) in the name of progress, and/or struggle to find the self-belief that you can actually achieve your desires.
While those dreams and goals are certainly there, creating an achievable, actionable and realistic plan is vital to helping you hit the ground running, and bring your resolutions into reality.
To start, take some time to reflect, not just dream:
- What are you proud of achieving in the year that recently passed?
- Was there anything unexpected that was a roadblock to your success?
- Are there any areas of your life you would like to adjust or improve?
- What positive changes can you make in the next year to help you reach your goals?
Get SMART about goal setting for 2019
Next, think of a New Year’s resolution you would like to reach.
- What are the reasons and motivations for embarking on this change?
- Why do you want to change?
- How do you feel now, and how will you feel once you achieve your goal?
Tapping into why you want to achieve your goal and how you want you feel when you achieve it are imperative – these will reveal core motivating drivers and feelings that you can draw on when the going gets tough.
For example, you may want to boost your weight loss post-surgery, so you can age healthily and have more energy to be active with your kids. When you achieve this you may feel proud, confident, energised and joyful – these are some powerful motivators! Or perhaps, you want to join a team sport now that you don’t have those extra kilograms slowing you down, so that you can make new friends.
Once you have decided what you want to achieve, you can use the S.M.A.R.T goal actinium to create a concrete plan toward your outcome. To make it simple and uncomplicated, each letter of S.M.A.R.T refers to an element aimed to help you to develop a plan to reach your specific outcome.
- Goals ought to be clear and precise.
- While ‘lose weight’ is a goal, it’s not a specific one!
- Instead, consider: how much weight? In what time frame? Using what methods?
- Determine a measure that indicates when the goal has been achieved.
- For example, aiming to lose 5 kg with a healthful diet, and 4 x 45 minute exercise sessions per week.
- Set a goal that is realistic for you to achieve. Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself or on the outcome is a sure-fire way for it to stay a goal, and not a reality.
- Fitting into a size 6 pair of jeans by Easter may be unrealistic for someone. Alternatively, aiming to lose enough weight to feel comfortable in your current wardrobe is attainable and will make you feel great when you achieve it!
- Running a marathon tomorrow might be unattainable, but increasing your distance by 500m every two weeks, makes it much more manageable and more likely to end up at your desired destination.
- Craft a goal that is relevant to your lifestyle, capacities and deeper desires.
- Boosting weight loss via fasting or strict calorie control may result in weight loss, but isn’t relevant to you if you are already tracking along at a healthy trajectory. Maybe you are better off crafting a coal of becoming more physically active – this will still help boost your weight loss but also give you much broader benefits for health.
- Assign your goal a time frame, this will help to make it specific and also make yourself accountable for achieving it.
- For example, wanting to lose 10 kg in the first three months of the year. Or wanting to run 1 kilometre without stopping within 6 weeks. If you’ve never run before, you aren’t going to be able to run a marathon tomorrow. Likewise, if you don’t give yourself a deadline you might be less inclined to push yourself when the going gets tough with every run that you do.
This SMART process then transforms a resolution to ‘lose weight’ into a goal of: I will lose 10 kg in the first three months of the year using a ketogenic, calorie restricted diet, while completing 4 x 45 minute exercise sessions per week.
- Santos I, Sniehotta FF, Marques MM, Carraça EV, Teixeira PJ. Prevalence of personal weight control attempts in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2017 Jan;18(1):32-50. doi: 10.1111/obr.12466.