2023 is almost upon us which means many people will be creating some New Year’s Resolutions. There are some who don’t quite “believe” in setting some resolutions for themselves. I don’t blame them. Estimates vary, with some statistics reporting that about only 75-80% of those who create resolutions for themselves are still committed to them two weeks into the New Year. As the year goes by, the rate continues to decrease with approximately less than half still striving for them six months later.
On the other hand, I am personally in favor of New Year’s Resolutions as I am a product of them myself. In 2016, I committed to myself and identified three New Year’s Resolutions: lose 25 pounds, complete the Spartan Beast (an obstacle course race) in Killington, Vermont, and get my first strict pull-up. It took me till July of that year to lose my 25th pound, I completed my race in August that year, and it took till the week between Christmas and New Year’s of 2017 to get that first strict pull-up. I also view 2016 as the year where my life/health made its biggest turnaround and therefore, I encourage others to establish goals for themselves too. However, HOW we set those goals is just as important WHAT goals we set.
A great framework to use is that of the SMART Goal. A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Let’s go through each step!
Specific. Be specific about your goal. For example, “I will be healthier in 2023.” Being “healthier” can really mean a lot of different things. Instead, consider, “I will lose on average 1-2 pounds per month” or, “I will start walking 10,000 steps per day”, or “I will eat a fruit or a vegetable each day.”
Measurable. Using the initial example of wanting to be healthier, it helps if there is some way to measure whether we have achieved our goal or not. You can measure that through weight loss, if that is your goal. You can measure that with accomplishing a step-count goal. You can also measure that by checking off “yes” each day when you confirm that you have eaten a fruit or a vegetable.
Attainable. In setting a goal, you want to create one that is attainable, yet still does require some additional effort on your part to achieve. However, not one soooo big that the chances are greater that you won’t. Depending where you are on your weight loss journey, losing 1-2 pounds per month is an attainable goal. Saying you will lose 10 pounds in the month of January, while perhaps attainable for some, likely involves a great deal of restriction and is probably not sustainable, meaning those 10 pounds will likely come back.
Relevant. Make sure the goal is relevant to you and what is important to YOU, not important to your family or someone else.
Time-based. Having a date in mind gives you something to focus on. Maybe you are striving to achieve a certain weight by a special event. Maybe you have a goal of increasing your number of steps each day till you are achieving your goal on the regular by July. Maybe you eat a fruit or vegetable 3 days/week in January, and increase it by one day each week until you accomplish your goal, let’s say 80-90% of the time in June.
Regardless of what goal you set for yourself, I also want you to keep some things in mind. The first is, you will not always see signs of progress and that doesn’t mean that you aren’t making any. With my weight loss goal, there was at least one month in there (and at that time I usually weighed about once a month), where the number on the scale didn’t move. If you experience the same with your goal, be patient and continue to put in the work and trust the process. Sometimes our breakthrough is just on the other side of such “plateaus”. Unfortunately, too many people give up or throw in the towel here…don’t be one of those people.
Next, you won’t always feel motivated to work towards your goal. Even I, one who enjoys exercising, do not ALWAYS feel like exercising. However, I have those goals off in the distance to help provide some motivation. For example when I had the goal of that obstacle course race, it motivated me to make sure I got to the gym to work on my fitness so I could have a successful race.
Lastly, be OK with it taking longer than you think. Too many times today people are expecting things to happen so fast and in many cases, that is unrealistic. For example, with my goal of a pull-up…for many, especially women, they can take a while to be able to develop the ability to do. To expect that I would accomplish that in 8 weeks or less would likely be very unrealistic. We don’t always have control over when the results will come, but we have control over the process that helps you achieve those results.
If you are feeling stuck on what would be an appropriate goal for yourself, or maybe you have a goal and don’t quite know how to break it down into small steps, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I am happy to help and provide some guidance.
Author: Dr. Candice Dutko
This article was featured by Panorama in their November issue.