Making New Year’s resolutions that stick!

Approximately 40 percent of American make a New Year’s resolution. In the hopes of maintaining long-lasting change, it is common for people to empty their pantries of tempting foods, lace up their jogging shoes, buy a yearly planner or trade sugary drinks for big bottles of water.

These commonly followed steps to reach those resolutions also are commonly forgotten come February. Some of the reasons for NOT achieving our goals are:

– The resolution was not important to you.

– There was not a plan or strategy.

– The steps to reach the goal were too big to be attained.

– Progress was not tracked.

– One failure led to tossing in the towel.

– Accountability was not built into the plan.

What can you do differently to adhere to and maintain those January goals? How can you turn a “I want to change” into a “I am changing” scenario? One approach you can try is creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. If you are serious about achieving your health and wellness goals in the New Year, make them S.M.A.R.T.!

The “S” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific.

When you make your goals specific, you have a greater chance of accomplishing them.

Tips for Making Your Goals Specific

– Identify what you want to accomplish.

– Decide who will be involved/support you with your goal.

– Choose the best place for you to achieve your goal.

– Establish a time frame for the completion of your goal.

– Think about why you want to make this change and what are the benefits of reaching your goal.

Example: I want to join a fitness class a health club so I can feel better and have more energy.

The “M” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Measurable.

Measuring your progress helps you stay on track and helps you reach your target date.

In order to know if a goal is measurable, ask yourself: How much? How many times? How will I know when I have achieved my goal?

For instance, based on our original goal of joining a fitness class, identify how many times per week you will attend classes. By adding the measurable potion, the goal becomes “I will participate in three health club fitness classes per week so I can feel better and have more energy.”

The “A” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Achievable.

Consider how you can achieve your goal. Do you have the resources to achieve your goal? Is your goal a reasonable stretch for you? It’s important that your goal isn’t too easy or too difficult. If you take the time to plan your goals, you are setting yourself up for success and taking steps that will bring you closer to achieving your goals. In our example of attending fitness classes, if you set a goal to attend fitness classes five times a week but you’re not already physically active, your goal may be too difficult. On the other hand, if you set goal of attending only one class a week, it may be too easy to accomplish and you may not feel motivated to achieve it.

The “R” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Relevant.

It is important to make sure your goal is meaningful and relevant to you and not something that someone else thinks you should do. Your goal should be something that is worth working hard to accomplish. If you really dislike the gym environment and prefer to exercise outdoors, the goal of attending fitness classes might not be relevant to you. It also may deter you from achieving your goals. When setting your goals, consider what will work best for your life. Find ways to include things you enjoy in your goal-setting plan.

The “T” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Time-bound.

Your goal should identify a date to start taking action and a deadline for reaching your goal. By identifying when you want to start and end, you have a specific timeframe to focus on instead of a general plan of “getting in shape someday.” We all know those “somedays” never seem to arrive.

By applying all of the S.M.A.R.T. goal principles, a final goal may look something like this: I will be participating in three fitness classes per week from Jan. 1 to March 30 so I can feel better and have more energy.

The S.M.A.R.T. goal setting process is a checklist to help you summarize and meet your goals. It is not meant to be a rigid set of rules. Test what works and what doesn’t. Feel free to adjust your goals as necessary. If you experience a setback or lapse in reaching your goal, give yourself a break. Those lapses can help you see how you can adjust your goal to be more effective for you. The key is to get back to your goal as soon as possible and don’t give up on yourself or your goals!

What steps can you take to ensure you meet your health and wellness goals for the New Year?

Develop S.M.A.R.T. goals and make sure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. These basic goal planning steps can help you with all types of goals, not just health and wellness goals. So the next time you have a goal in mind, make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal!

Adapted from an article by Angie Frost and Arin Weidner, 4-H Extension specialists with Purdue Extension.


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