New Year’s Eve is a time notorious for setting resolutions. Often, your excitement turns into apprehension that later becomes inaction. Revising the strategy you use can alter the results you see. The common issues that arise when setting New Year’s resolutions are that your goals may be too vague, unrealistic or a plan to achieve that goal is not established.
Utilizing SMART goals can help revamp the way we approach our New Year’s resolutions and improve outcomes. SMART is an acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
Specific- Start by creating a clear goal to keep in mind. It is often helpful to create a “mission statement.” Using the 5 “W” questions can help formulate your goal.
·Who will be involved in the goal?
·What do you want to accomplish?
·Where will this goal be accomplished?
·When will this goal be achieved?
·Why do you want to achieve this goal?
With this in mind, you can change the goal, “I am going to exercise more” to “I hope to decrease my fasting blood sugar and A1C levels for my next doctor’s appointment by purchasing a gym membership at ___ and going 3 times a week for 40 minutes”.
Measurable- Adding numbers to your goal allows you to form a quantitative measure of how successful you are being in pursuit of your end-goal. In our example above, adding that you are going to go to the gym 3 times a week for 40 minutes creates an objective measure of how frequent and how long you hope to go to the gym. The progress and success can now be easily measured.
Achievable- Accomplishing goals can be very empowering. However, if you set lofty, unattainable goals and are unsuccessful, it can cause you to lose motivation to follow through with future goals. Making smaller, more achievable goals increases self-efficacy. Once the goal is achieved, we feel more confident and a new, more challenging goal can be set in place. Allowing for small wins creates gradual progress. This also creates habits which are pivotal for long-term success.
Relevant- Creating a goal that resonates with your values makes it more likely that you will strive towards this goal. If the goal was set by someone else and doesn’t reflect your values, you will be less inclined to work towards the goal. This step addresses the “Why?” of what prompted you to pursue this goal. Once this is identified, it helps solidify the bigger picture in accomplishing the goal.
Timely- Having a goal stretch into infinity is often a recipe for failure. You want to avoid having a vague, arbitrary goal. Including a deadline or time frame will help motivate you and expedite progress.
Once you become familiar and comfortable with the SMART goals method, you can begin to apply this to many aspects and goals in our life.
One common New Year’s resolution goal you may have is “I want to eat healthier”. Now that you are more familiar with the framework of SMART goals, you can revamp this common goal to create more success.
The SMART version of this goal can be revised to, “This month I plan to prep meals including vegetables and fruit to take to work on Sundays and Wednesdays to reduce the calorically dense and high-sodium foods I would otherwise consume.” This goal is specific in that it translates “eating healthier” into incorporating more fruits and vegetables. It is measureable because it specifies the days of the week you are to do this meal prep. It is achievable because it only necessitates two days out of the week to prepare meals for the following days. It is relevant because it removes the unhealthy options for more nutritious ones. And lastly, this goal is timely because it includes when this goal is to be achieved: for the entire month.
Tips for achieving some common goals
Cooking balanced and nutritious meals at home
·Purchase produce on sale. This allows you to save money and eat a greater variety of fruits and vegetables. In addition, produce on sale is also typically in season and often contain higher nutrient content due to shorter transportation times from farm to store.
· Keep healthy foods readily available. Setting days where you prep veggies, fruits and protein sources to have on hand is a great start. After work, all you need to do is put the components on a pan or in the microwave and you have a meal ready in 5-10 minutes. This also allows for customizing meals the day of so you do not get bored of eating the same meals every day.
·Eat the rainbow. Including fruits and vegetables of different colors helps optimize your nutrient consumption as produce of the same color often contain similar nutrients, e.g green produce is high in vitamin K and folate and red/orange produce is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C.
·Plan the meals for the week ahead. This takes out guess work out of deciding on what’s for dinner each night. Indecision can lead you to resort to old habits such as ordering takeout instead. Remember, old habits take time to change!
Incorporating more physical activity
·Take short breaks in between tasks for a brisk walk. This can help energize you and research shows that regular breaks raise workers’ level of engagement and productivity.
·Try to find an “active” hobby. Ideas to consider include bike riding, dancing, joining a local recreational sports league, creating and participating in a scavenger hunt or jumping rope.
·Bring a friend, colleague or family member along with you. This can help increase adherence and hold you accountable. It also allows time to socialize and makes the time go by faster.
·Multi-task. Go for a walk while making/returning phone calls. Or listen to your favorite playlist or podcast. This can be an easy way to accomplish tasks on your to-do list or do activities you would do otherwise while getting some movement.
New Plan, New You!
Once you get familiar with the concepts of the SMART goal framework and can apply it to your goals, change this New Year is imminent. Achieving goals builds self-efficacy and better habits. This can make creating and succeeding in future goals much easier. While you may not have experienced long-term success in your New Year’s resolutions in the past, this is a new year where you can reassess your plan to achieve more favorable outcomes. If you happen to fall short of a goal you put in place it may be in your best interests to reevaluate each category. Perhaps this goal was not yet achievable. Or maybe the time frame you issued yourself was too short or long. Modifying these simple factors can easily put you back on track and set you up for success this New Year!
-Magda Ogorek, SPU intern
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