Most of us make a list of New Year’s Resolutions, but only one in ten of us will achieve our goals. Health-related resolutions (like losing weight, quitting smoking or drinking less) are on the list of Top 4 New Year’s Resolutions. However, they are also in the list of commonly broken New Year’s Resolutions!
The problem with the above resolutions or similar ones is that they are not specific and lack an end-point. If your goal is to lose weight, how will you know when you have accomplished it? If you want to be more active, how will you tell if you’re on track?
Another problem with resolutions is that you may have a negative association with them. New Year’s Resolutions became the lists that we make every New Year’s Eve only to have forgotten them several weeks into the year.
If you really want to change your behaviour and achieve more in 2016, here are the better ways to make sure you will succeed.
1. SET GOALS NOT RESOLUTIONS
Without a plan a resolution soon feels like a mountain to climb. Relying on willpower will not be helpful either. Goals have a higher chance of success than resolutions. The goal can be specific and measurable and time-based. There’s no way to be unclear when the goal is “walk half an hour a day”, while “being more active”, or “exercise more” both are ambiguous and quite useless resolutions. Make a list of all that you want to achieve in 2016. Make them specific, measurable and time- bounded.
2. CHOOSE ONE NOT MANY
If you are working on multiple competing goals, the chance that you achieve them will be less. The likelihood of success will be greater if you channel your energy into one change. Focus on one goal at a time that will either have the most significant impact on your health or simply is the one with the biggest chance of success.
3. SET MILESTONES
Psychologists have found we are more likely to succeed if we break our goals into smaller goals that are specific, measurable and time-based. Don’t only focus on the big endpoint result. Include benchmarks for your success by breaking up your goal to several milestones, so you can feel progress in the smaller wins. If the goal feels too far to reach, for example if you want to lose 4 stones (25kg) in weight, you may feel overwhelmed. By breaking it into small sub-goals (like losing 10 pounds or 5 kilogrammes in 12 weeks) you will feel more confident of achieving it.
4. COMMIT TO GOAL-DIRECTED ACTIONS
The next step after setting your end-point goal and sub-goals is to make a list of necessary actions for each sub-goal. For example, if the goal is to develop a habit of eating five portions of fruits and vegetables a day in the next 12 weeks, the followings can be the action steps:
- Make sure the favourite fruits and vegetables are on the weekly shopping list and buy them!
- Take a fruit to work every day
- Include at least one vegetable for lunch and dinner
- Always have a bowl of fruit at home
- Always have cut vegetables in the fridge for snacking
5. HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THOSE ACTIONS
Having someone who you can report your weekly progress and achievements to is an excellent way to keep you accountable. You can ask a family member or a friend to be your accountability buddy. Making your goals social also, will push you to keep your word and take action.
6. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
When you make your goals measurable, it is easier to monitor your success. Recognise your progress by keeping a journal. There are different apps and devices that can be useful to monitor health-related goals like eating habits, physical activity levels or sleep patterns.
7. CELEBRATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment when you make progress or reach a milestone. Celebrate each target and reward yourself accordingly. Focus on your wins to build confidence.
8. REVIEW AND ADOPT
Goals are not set in stone. As you progress, you may find that you need to adjust or completely change action steps or goals. Your circumstances and obligations may change over time, and therefore, your goals need to be changed.
9. EXPECT ROAD BLOCKS AND SETBACKS
You may revert to the old habits from time to time or face an unexpected challenge. Don’t let setbacks derail your momentum. Treat any failure as a temporary setback and a chance to learn from your mistakes rather than a reason to give up altogether. Know your limitations. Don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations like “stop eating chocolate”.
10. REGULARLY REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR “WHY”
Remind yourself of the benefits of achieving your goals on a regular basis. Create a checklist of how your life would be better once you obtain your goal. Remembering your “why” will motivate you to push through the hard times.