January has come to an end and your New Year’s resolution may seem like a distant memory. Not to worry! It’s never too late to refresh your resolution or set a new goal if making a change to your lifestyle is still something that is important to you. Roadblocks are part of the journey. Be kind and compassionate towards yourself and look at setbacks as a way to learn and grow. Then, when you’re ready, try again!
The New Year is often tied to feelings of a new beginning, which makes it a common time to set new goals. But did you know that the feeling of a fresh start can happen more than just once a year? In fact, research suggests that people experience increased motivation to reach their goals when they begin on a “temporal landmark” (i.e. start of the year, start of the new week/month, start of a new job, etc.). This is called the “Fresh Start Effect” and it can be very powerful! So, if you have been wanting to recommit to your health-related goals, such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, reducing or avoiding alcohol, getting a good night’s sleep and/or managing stress, consider “resetting” on a day you feel more motivated.
If you are not sure where to begin when it comes to setting new goals, your healthcare team can help! We understand that making lifestyle changes and sticking to them is not always easy, so we have listed five goal setting steps that can help set you up for success and encourage you to make lasting positive lifestyle changes.
- Set goals that motivate you
The first step is to choose a goal that is important to you. You also want to make sure that your goal aligns with who you are and what your values are. If you have little interest in the outcome, chances are that you won’t be as motivated to put in the work required to achieve the goal. Thinking of the rewards or the benefits of accomplishing your goal is also a great motivator!
- Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals
When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to achieve?, When will I do it? and Why do I want to do it? Before you know it, you will have a well detailed plan that clearly outlines what you want to achieve.
Make your goal measurable. Breaking down your goal into measurable elements will help you know when you have reached it. You can measure your progress by using different units of measurement (e.g. number of minutes, number of times per week, etc.). For example, when you have walked three times for 30 minutes in one week, you will know you achieved your goal. Establishing tangible criteria is helpful because it allows you to measure your progress along the way.
Is your goal attainable? It’s important to set a goal that is not too difficult in order to avoid getting discouraged. Instead, you want to set a goal that is reasonably challenging, while feeling confident that you have the necessary knowledge, resources and support to reach your goal.
Ensure that your goal is relevant. This ties in to the first step, which is to focus on a goal that matters to you.
Lastly, give yourself a time limit. This will help keep you motivated and it will give you a target to work towards. For example, you can start by trying out your new goal for 4 weeks or a few months. After your chosen time period has passed, you can reassess your goal and modify it if necessary. Once you have reached your goal, you can decide to move on and set a new goal.
- Write down your goals
Writing down your clearly defined goal is important because it helps remind you of what you are trying to achieve. It’s also a way of bringing your vision into reality. If you are focused on something, it’s easier to direct your time, energy, and concentration toward it. Finally, writing down your goals can be used as a way to track your progress. Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.
- Make an action plan
Making an action plan will encourage you to set goals that are based on actions – not results – and to focus on goals that are within your control. Focusing on the result can lead to forgetting to plan the steps (actions) that should be taken along the way to help you reach your goal. For example, you may need to prepare in advance, use special equipment or change your schedule. By writing out the individual steps and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal.
- Stick with it!
Sticking with your goal is not always easy. To help keep you on track, consider thinking about strategies you can use to keep yourself motivated, such as telling a family member or a friend about your goal to keep you accountable; tracking your goal using a calendar, tracking sheet or an app on your smartphone; or coming up with a healthy reward you can allow yourself when you have reached your goal.
For additional support, consider contacting the Marathon Family Health Team by calling 807-229-3243 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a SMART goal setting appointment.