With each new year, new beginnings bring hope, anticipation and expectations of better things. For many, this is specifically targeted toward health — healthy lifestyle, weight loss, changes in eating patterns, moving more. But what if this isn’t the first time the goal was made? Is it possible to make a health goal that you can really stick with all year? What is the recipe for success?
How do you begin, restart or refresh your plan to improve your health in 2020?
Start with acknowledging your accomplishments if you are restarting or refreshing your plan. The progress in both big and small ways is how an end goal is met. When tracking progress, the steps along the way may seem unimpactful, but when truly analyzed, they are the steps that continue to propel you forward.
Then, look at your “why.” What is the motivation behind the goal to develop a healthy lifestyle? If the goals that you have don’t truly motivate you, they will quickly fall by the wayside when something else comes up in your life. There is a lot of work that goes into making a goal happen from start to completion, then even more work if it is something that needs to be sustained. Making sure your goal motivates you and will continue to motivate you is key.
Once you have established a goal that motivates and inspires you, write it down. Then, build your plan around it.
The recipe for success is to make sure your goal is SMART.
5. Time Bound
When writing out your action plan that supports your goal, make sure your goal is specific. Your goal must be clear and well-defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide enough direction. Instead of “lose weight,” look at a healthy amount of weight that can be lost at a reasonable rate (usually 1-2 lbs per week for sustainable long-term weight loss).
The goal should be measurable. Include precise amounts and dates in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If the goal is to “Run Faster,” which is immeasurable, how will you know when you have successfully completed your goal? Instead, look at decreasing your mile time by 30 seconds in six weeks, one minute in three months, two minutes in six months.
An attainable goal is something that is within reach but still a challenge. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. On the other side, accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. Instead of “stop eating sugar,” look at healthy, balanced ways to decrease processed sugars in your nutrition. Swap out sugar cereals for oatmeal with fresh fruit. Swap out the afternoon cookie for apple and nut butter.
A goal that is relevant is in line with the direction you want your life to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll waste your own time. Instead of “work out more,” the time and type of training should align with the outcome you’ve established as your goal. This could be to take bootcamp three days per week because your sleep is better; walk one mile two days per week to decrease sciatica pain; incorporate a personal trainer twice a week to assist with increasing muscle tone.
The goal also needs to be time sensitive. Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases, and achievement will come that much quicker. Instead of “complete a marathon,” find a race in your area that is far enough out that you can train for it. Then, sign up. Your date is set, so now it is up to you to put in the work.
Now write down your goal with the recipe in mind. A written goal makes it real and tangible. Then post your goals where you will see them often: on your mirror, in your gym bag, next to your running shoes in your closet or by the refrigerator. This will act as a consistent reminder of what you are working toward.
Make an action plan with big and small steps. This will serve as your road map. With each step you can cross off, the feeling of accomplishment will be realized. Your progress will be visible and help propel you even when the goal feels a long way off.
Stick with it! Goal setting is an ongoing activity. Build time in your schedule to review your goals, your accomplishments and the steps that still need to be taken to accomplish your goal. If steps change, make notes and continue the journey.
There is no single way to make your dreams come true. Just work toward the goal set and change as necessary, then celebrate the successes.