So how’s that New Year’s resolution coming?
I’ve noticed a trend at my gym the last several years. Come January 2nd, there’s no parking. None. And all the good machines are full, as are all the classes. Seems like everyone in town is working out. Then, by about March, back to normal. Plenty of spots in the parking lot, half as many people inside…
You can probably see where I’m going with this – people make a resolution, they show up to exercise (or whatever they decided to improve) for a few weeks, then life happens and it’s back to the old routine.
So how do we stick to that resolution to be healthier, whether it’s fitness or food or… anything? Or, better yet, how do we stick to any planned change throughout the year?
Step one is to make a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Reasonable, and Time-Bound.
Let’s break that down.
Specific: A lot of New Year’s resolutions are things like “I’m going to work out more” or “I’m going to eat healthier”. The problem with that is that it’s not a plan, so when it comes time to really do it, deciding whether you’re achieving your objective is confusing and overwhelming. Instead, try making it very detailed and specific: “I will work out at least 3 days per week for 45 minutes at the gym” or “I will eat vegetables with dinner 6 days a week.”
Measurable: Did you notice that I added numbers to the specific goals? If you give yourself something easy to measure or count, you’ll know pretty quickly if you’re slipping.
Achievable: Be real about what you’re willing to do. “I will work out 300 days in a row” is pretty unlikely if you’re new to the gym. “I will never eat sugar” is just setting yourself up to feel like a failure. Remember – you can revise your goals as you achieve them, so sustainable baby steps are more likely to lead to long term success.
Relevant/Reasonable: The R in SMART gets changed depending on who you ask, but I think these are both important. Does the goal matter to you? If you’re doing it because you should it won’t last – find a way to make this something you care about. And “reasonable” is about resources – “I will work out with a personal trainer 5 days a week” would be pretty expensive for a lot of people, for example. Be honest with yourself about what resources you can put into this.
Time-Bound: Set a deadline for meeting the goal and for checking on whether it’s time to improve it.
So, a SMART fitness goal might be “I will be working out at the gym for 45 minutes 3 days per week by the end of next month.” And once it’s achieved, see what the next step is.
The last thing about SMART goals, or any goal, is to think of them as a journey, not an all-or-nothing. If you have a week where you miss the mark, it’s not a failure. It’s an opportunity to figure out what went wrong – do you need to adjust your goal? Plan ahead more? Schedule things differently? No journey to health is without speed bumps – the trick is to keep moving forward.