The new year is often thought of as a time to make new goals, start over on old goals, or work towards a different lifestyle or set of habits. While this is an admirable way to start the year, oftentimes the motivation to keep a resolution going ends after about a month when you experience the first major challenges in staying the course. But goal-making is still an impactful part of the wellness journey. We want to help you keep working towards your goals so that they can actually make a difference in your life, the way you want them to when you make them. Here are some tips to help you get going.
Focus On the Goal, Not the Calendar
One of the reasons making goals at the beginning of the year is so popular is timing. The new year creates a concrete opportunity to try something new, to start fresh in some way and make a resolution that “this year, things will be different”. But this can just as easily be a hindrance as it can be a benefit. As the year progresses, the vision may begin to fade. It becomes much easier to get distracted and discouraged and experience setbacks and relapses. It’s at this point that many people consider this opportunity ruined, and begin to wonder if the goal is even possible.
However, this is not the way a successful goal works, because when you begin reaching for a goal doesn’t really matter. Each day and each moment is a new opportunity to do something different, and if you are to truly meet your goals, you must begin by taking each step a day or a decision at a time, rather than expecting yourself to have an entire year of success.
Progress, Not Perfection
One reason people drop their goals after a while is that they are focusing more on being perfect in their pursuit of change than on progressing gradually over time. Making a habit change in life is messy and often inconvenient, but it’s worth it. Thinking about accomplishing a goal perfectly is not only unrealistic, it also holds you back. Focusing instead on making a little bit of progress a day or an hour at a time is much more productive and will give you far better results over the long term. It’s more important to focus on the “now” than the “then”, because the “now” is the only part you truly have any control over. And when you focus on the “now”, the “then” may seem far off, but it will arrive sooner than you realize.
Make A Plan
You may have heard the phrase “achievable goals” in your life at some point, because this phrase is the best way to go about making a lasting lifestyle change. Achievable goals means taking time to sit down and make a plan with concrete details, steps, and milestones that you can reach over time. Another way to look at this is the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.”:
- Specific: Make your plan detailed. It doesn’t matter what the details are, so long as you have a clear picture in mind of what you want to achieve.
- Measurable: In order to reach a goal, it has to have weight or size. This can be a specific amount of time during the day that you do something. It can also be a certain number of chapters in a book that you’re reading or an amount of weight lifted when exercising.
- Attainable: Another word for this can be “realistic”. Honestly evaluating your strengths and weaknesses and accounting for them in your plan is the best way to overcome the inevitable challenges of setting a goal. Don’t set a lofty goal that you don’t truly believe you can reach. You do need to challenge yourself, but you need to begin by challenging yourself to do something you believe is possible.
- Relevant: Make goals that make sense for your long-term plan. This will help you stay focused. For instance, if you’re training to run a race, don’t set a goal for the amount of water you need to drink or the amount of weight you need to lift. You can do both of these activities as part of regular exercise, but making goals like these will just distract you from the main goal of running.
- Time Bound: Progress occurs over time, and it’s much easier to measure progress and reach it when you have a specific time goal in mind. When you start the goal doesn’t matter, but keeping track of how much time you spend on the goal does. If your goal is to read or listen to more books, set a goal to get through one book per month, and hold yourself to it. If you discover that you can do more, set a goal the next month to read two books per month. If life gets crazy and you only read one book the next month, don’t worry about it—you still read one book. If you don’t read any books in one month, then just get started again and keep gunning for that goal.
Using SMART goals in this way, you may find yourself actually progressing faster than you expect. They will help you to not give up, even if you get discouraged.
Celebrate Success, Build Motivation
Setting goals like this also allows you to celebrate victories and see how far you’ve come. When you reach a goal, you can acknowledge it, reward yourself and gather the motivation to keep going and reach the next goal. Another important thing about plans is that they can account for setbacks. If and when you experience a setback or a hangup, you can use your pre-made plan to simply get back on track. Failure is part of the process, and the more you bounce back from it, the more you will learn to overcome challenges and experience victories.
In making a plan, however, you should remember that no plan is perfect because no person is perfect. You may need to modify the plan to make it more achievable, or you may realize that one of the things that was motivating you was misguided, and you need to try something else. You may find one particular step frustrating or hard to reach, in which case you may need to take a step back and keep focusing on a goal that’s much more manageable to reach. Eventually, you can take on larger goals, but you need to work the process through the smaller goals to build up your self-discipline and willpower.
One of the best ways to keep a goal going is to find someone who’s willing to walk the journey with you, with whom you can share your victories and failures. This person will be there to encourage you and to not let you give up. They can help you acknowledge each step of the process and give you reminders or new goals to work towards. Having accountability is like having a friend to go to the gym with. You both have goals, and you keep the motivation and momentum going by doing them together. Humans are social creatures, and when we have support, we’re far more likely to succeed.
We CAN Help!
Our goal is and has always been to help you reach your wellness goals. If something health-related is one of your goals for this year, talk to one of our physicians about how you can achieve it. We’re here to lend a hand. Contact us today with any questions!