By Carole Van Holbeck, MSAN Mental Health Contributor
You know the drill. You start the New Year with the best of intentions. You weigh too much. You need to exercise more. Spend less money. Find a new career path. Change needs to happen.
Many of us spent the week after Christmas thinking about what was good and bad for us in 2015. If only we could change this or that, our lives would be better. So we try. We begin a diet. We start an exercise plan. We go back to school. We are not alone. The majority of people will make some type of New Year’s resolution. However, statistics show that after six months most of us who made resolutions fall back into our old habits. So why is change so hard?
Change is scary and uncertain. What we have now may not be working the best for us, but we know how to operate within its parameters. The present does not feel foreign or strange, even if it is dysfunctional.
In an effort to change in the New Year, we often:
- Make too many resolutions.
- Fail to set realistic goals for ourselves.
- Fail to track our progress.
- Set unrealistic time frames for accomplishment.
- Fall back into old habits.
- Believe we are not deserving of change.
Many times we set ourselves up to NOT succeed because we boldly jump in a new direction without creating a plan to facilitate true change. I love spontaneity, but change requires planning and work.
The first step in creating change happens with goal setting. I like the attributes of the SMART Goal model. A goal should be:
- S – Specific (Significant)
- M – Measurable (Meaningful)
- A – Attainable (Actionable)
- R – Relevant (Rewarding)
- T – Time bound (Trackable)
Goals are the stepping stones that will bring you to your final destination – change. Take me, for example. I am always on the perpetual diet train. I’m a big girl and have to work hard to stay at a size 14. Since cancer, diet has become more important to me and I realize that I must not just change what I eat, but how I eat. My resolution for 2016 is to eat healthier, and hopefully weight loss follows. So what does this goal look like?
“My goal for 2016 is to eat healthier by adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet, consume less sugar, and drink eight glasses of water each day.” Okay, I’ve written it down. It is simple and specific. You should always write down your goals. This serves as a visual reminder of what you want to change.
“Steps to eat healthier.” This could include things like writing out a daily menu, preparing shopping lists, eating vegetables at every meal, etc. Goals should be broken down into reasonable but specific tasks. Use these tasks to help measure the success of your goal.
“This starts today and will end in June.” Establish a timeline for your goal. For me, six months should be enough time to evaluate how these new choices make me feel about my own health. Notice my goal is not tied to weight, just health. For that “lose weight” resolution, too many people tie their weight loss to a time frame and become discouraged if results do not meet their expectations. Remember – reasonable goals. Be kind to yourself.
“It’s June. Have these changes benefited me?” A goal must have some kind of relevance for you personally, or why bother? Don’t make changes for someone else. My hope is that eating healthy food makes me feel better from the inside out and that consistently following the tasks within my goal helps me develop new habits. I guess I will find out in June!
I chose diet, but these principals can be applied to any self-improvement goal. The New Year is here! 2016 is a blank page waiting for you to write your story. Remember – those silly resolutions are wishful. Goals are purposeful. With some introspection and planning, you can reach your personal goals. Make this your best year yet!
Resources for You:
Personal Goal Setting: How to Set SMART Goals
7 Apps to Help You Achieve Your Goals and Build New Habits
5 Ways a Military OneSource Health and Wellness Coach Can Improve Your Life