Here it comes, a new year. Time to make-over your wallet, your waistline, clean out your closet, get back in touch with long-lost friends, mend relationships with family, find your true love, plan an amazing vacation and land your dream job, all while taking more time for yourself, reading more books and OF COURSE, going to the gym.
It’s completely normal when the clock strikes midnight to want to revamp everything in your life to make you a new and improved person. But how many times have you made those same resolutions to forget them all by February? How can you make THIS year, 2014, the year that you succeed?
It’s actually a lot easier than you think. Don’t make resolutions that suck. First of all, let’s not call them “resolutions,” let’s call them goals. Resolutions tend to have a negative context of deprivation or “cutting back”, which puts a bad taste in your mouth right off the bat.
Now let’s talk specifics. If one of your goals are like most everyone else, to get healthy, get in shape or get fit this year, then your goal sucks. Yes, I am a dietitian, and I’m telling you to throw your “get fit” goal out the window. This goal sucks because it’s not measurable. How do you achieve getting healthy or getting “in-shape?” Maybe you think getting healthy means having normal cholesterol numbers or getting down to a normal weight, or getting in-shape as being able to bench press 250 lbs ten times or run 5 miles without stopping– then THAT is your goal. To make a meaningful goal for 2014, define what it is for you that means getting fit or getting in shape, and make that your goal. Put a number on it, and put a time-frame on it. If getting in shape to you means being able to walk up the 4 flights of stairs to your office without huffing and puffing by March, then THAT is your goal. So, step one: make goals, not resolutions, and make them specific.
The second step to making sure your 2014 goals don’t suck is to make sure your goals mean something to you. Sounds easy enough, but it’s not. Many people make their resolutions because it’s what other people want them to do, or to be, or not to be. Your goals have to be for YOU, not for your significant other, not for your doctor, not for your family. If your spouse wants you to stop smoking, but you know deep down you’re not ready and it’s not truly what YOU want, then you can’t make that a goal for yourself. If your doctor wants you to lose 20 lbs but you could care less what the scale says, then that’s not a meaningful goal to you. If you really want to get into a 2 piece bathing suit and feel comfortable in your own skin by the time your summer cruise comes around, then that is your goal. If you want to be able to pick up your grandkids and push them on the swings without back pain or feeling out of breath, then THAT is your goal. Figure out what you truly want to accomplish, not what others tell you you should want to accomplish.
The third step to achieving your goals this year is to be realistic. If you didn’t step foot on a treadmill one time last year, please don’t make your goal to walk every single day for one hour per day. That’s just not realistic. If you’ve never cooked a meal at home and your goal is to cook dinner 7 nights a week, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A better goal would be to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes 4 days a week and cook dinner at home 3 days a week (making enough leftovers for 2 nights worth of meals) and leave one day open for eating out or ordering in. Also, if you absolutely hate walking on the treadmill in the garage, why are you making that a goal? The goal is not to inflict as much punishment on yourself as possible in 2014. Find something you love– go try a Zumba class or join an indoor soccer league and make those activities part of your goal. Being realistic also means not making 15 different goals all at once. Make 3 or 4 big ones and concentrate on those until you’ve achieved them. If May comes around and you’ve hit 3 of the 4, then you can start focusing on new goals or other areas of your life. Overwhelming yourself with too many goals or giving yourself unrealistic expectations is the number one reason for failure.
Step four: Write it down. Don’t just dream it up and forget it. Get an old-fashioned pen and paper, write it out and stick it on the fridge. Don’t hide your goals when you have friends over. Let them be known and hold yourself accountable. Keep track of your progress. Every time you get closer to achieving that goal, write it down on that piece of paper. Enlist a goal buddy or buddies. Share each others goals, keep in touch and give encouragement when needed. When you figure out what your big goals are, make smaller goals with a time-frame in mind to help you achieve your big goals. For example, if your goal for 2014 is to run a mile in 7 minutes (because that’s what you figured out being in shape means to you), your weekly goal to help you get there would be to run at least a mile 3 times per week. If your goal is to cut down on the clutter in your house, a weekly goal would be to throw away or donate 5 things you don’t use per week. Making weekly goals will force you to go back and look at your overall goals and keep them fresh in your mind.
The most important thing is to make goals that are going to make you feel good. Of course, eating healthfully and exercising automatically helps with that, but if resolving to cut down on your restaurant rendezvous with your girlfriends causes you more stress than happiness, turn it into a positive goal like finding a healthy cooking class to join with your friends or starting a Saturday morning run ritual with your best buds.
So tonight, keep these steps in mind as you’re thinking about your new goals and feel free to have a glass of champagne and a smile to toast to the amazing year that lies ahead.