Do you remember your New Year resolutions? Did you promise yourself that you would be healthier this year?
Well, it’s been 6 weeks since the new year started. Were you able to make some changes that have you feeling better? Are you full of energy? Are you feeling fitter than ever before? Congratulations to those you have made some changes and are reaping the benefits. However, some of us might be wondering why it seems so difficult to change when we promise ourselves, year after year, that this time we really will make an effort to be healthier.
Many people have difficulty changing because their goals are too vague, as in ‘I want to be healthy’…where would you start with such a broad goal? Some other people are overly ambitious, as in ‘I want to run a marathon in April’…when they haven’t owned a pair of running shoes for 10 years.
The secret to making permanent changes is to make very small, specific changes that you can easily maintain over time.
Set SMART goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time specific
Set Specific goals
Your goal must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are not achievable because they don’t provide sufficient direction. For example, instead of ‘I will be more active’ you could decide to ‘walk for 20 minutes every day’ or ‘go swimming once a week’.
Set Measurable goals
Decide on precise amounts or times so that you can measure your degree of success. For example, rather than ‘eat more fruit’ you could ‘eat 2 portions of fruit a day’. If you have a way to measure your success then you can celebrate your achievements.
Set Attainable goals
Make sure it is possible to meet the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving (like ‘I’ll run a marathon this year’) you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. By setting realistic yet challenging goals you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that need you to “raise the bar” and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.
Set Relevant goals
Goals should be relevant to you. If you want to lower your cholesterol you might have different goals to someone who wants to lower their blood pressure. Also, choose goals that are suitable for you – eg: don’t promise to give up chocolate if you know you rarely eat chocolate, or don’t set a goal to ‘cycle more’ if you don’t have a bicycle
Set Time Specific goals
Goals must have a deadline. When you are working to a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker, plus you will know when to review your goal and when to celebrate your success – eg: I’ll walk for 20 mins a day for the rest of this month, then consider increasing the time spent walking for next month
Steps to success…
Making a few relatively small changes at a time will make it easier to maintain those changes. Change does take time, so don’t be over-ambitious. It is important that you continue to make small changes which will add up to a larger benefit to your health.
Some people like to have something to work towards, so think about rewarding yourself for all your effort when you reach your goal (perhaps a book, CD, DVD or a day out).