Goal Setting – It’s Not Just for New Year’s Eve Anymore!

So, we’re just 11 days into the new year…how are those resolutions going? 2015 isn’t even two weeks old, so you’re probably still sticking to them. If so, congratulations! If not, don’t beat yourself up. I guarantee you are not alone – poll your friends, and I bet more than one person has already missed a planned workout, eaten a “never again” dessert or failed to put something back it its newly organized spot.

I mean, really, who hasn’t eaten a homemade chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven before you even knew it was in your mouth? Oh wait, that was me. But I mean, what are you gonna do when you come in the house and your sweet husband is baking with the 3 year old because it’s too cold to play outside, and the boy smiles up at you and says, “Mommy, I’m making you a cookie.”???

Well, whether you’re still kicking some resolution booty or you fell off the wagon a bit, working toward those long-term objectives is hard.

Never fear, we have a plan!

And that’s just it. Resolutions are great, but they don’t provide a plan to use along the way. They often aren’t realistic (I’m giving up all sweets this year!), they don’t have steps to help you get where you want to be (Yes! I’ll avoid all desserts through sheer willpower!), and they definitely don’t provide a back-up plan when faced with a challenge – like a cute kid who will be devastated if you don’t scarf down his offer (“I’ll share two cookies with you,” he says).

Instead of the regular yearly resolutions that quickly go by the wayside, what we need are well-thought-out goals that include action items, back-up plans and accountability.

So, here we go – building goals that can really get us where we want to be in 2015!

Make ‘em SMART – Many of you already know about SMART goals. It’s not a new idea, but it works. As a review, SMART breaks down like this:

Specific – Goals should be clear and unambiguous, stating specifically what should be accomplished. Goals that are too general (e.g., “to lose weight”) are unfocused and are less likely to be achieved. Specify exactly what you want to accomplish (lose 10 pounds; fit into the pants in my closet; jog for 15 minutes without stopping, etc.)smart-goals

Measurable – Is there a way to measure your progress? This can be done objectively or subjectively. It will help you stay on track and determine if you are moving toward your goal (timing your runs; trying on the tight pants, etc.).

Attainable – Goals should be realistically achievable, but not too easy. If you set unattainable goals, you set yourself up for disappointment, but easy goals won’t motivate you. Start small and build as you progress.

Relevant – Goals should be relevant to your particular interests, needs, and abilities. Does your goal make sense for you at this time? Are you setting your goals for the right reasons?

Time-bound – Goals must contain estimated timelines for completion. Some goals may be short-term (the next 30 days); other goals may take longer to achieve (6 months, a year, etc.). It is important to work at a smart pace. This helps build and ingrain healthy habits as you meet your goals.

Focus on the Process – Most resolutions and many goals are “product-” or “outcome-oriented.” That’s not a bad thing. You need to keep the end in mind, as they say. It’s good to have an overall goal you are striving toward, whether it’s to lose 15 pounds or to eat healthier (both goals defined in a SMART way, of course) or whatever. But you need to add some “process-oriented” goals too.

Process goals provide the action items; they give you the steps along the way to get to that overall outcome you want – the finish line and success.

So let’s say that 15-pound goal is yours. You’ve defined it in a SMART way – “I will lose 15 pounds in the next three months.” Healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, so this is a realistic deadline for the amount you’d like to lose.

Now add some process goals, the actions that will help you get there. “I will fill half my plate with vegetables at dinner 5 days a week,” and “I will walk/jog 30 minutes, 5 times a week,” and “I will drink water instead of soda every day this week.” These are the steps that will help you achieve your weight loss – you’ll improve your nutrition and cut calories by upping the vegetables in your meals; you’ll burn calories (and increase your metabolism) through exercise; and you’ll cut serious calories when you cut out that soda. These smaller goals are more manageable, easier to focus on and less overwhelming than the overall goal, but if you do them every day, they add up to big things! And before you know it, you’ve achieved your larger goal.

Another great thing about process goals is that they give you the opportunity for success even if you can’t see progress toward your final goal. So maybe the scale didn’t move this week on your way to that 15-pound loss. Instead of getting discouraged – and maybe even giving up – you can focus on the fact that you exercised every day and ate a ton of veggies! That is success in itself, and the scale will follow because you stay motivated and keep working hard.

Back it up – Having a back-up plan is critical – it’s a way to stay on track when life throws curveballs your way, and in the way of your progress.

So you’ve made your goals and you’ve got your action items (a.k.a. process goals). And you’re doing great! Then your kid gets sick or you have to go out of town or work gets absolutely crazy or it rains every day for a week. What now? You can’t get outside to jog, you don’t have time to go to the grocery store, much less prep healthy meals, and you’re so stressed all you can think about is downing a giant Coke. With fries. Lots and lots of fries. And maybe a brownie. Yeah….

If you don’t have a back-up plan, you just have to tough it out, hope willpower can overcome your cravings and wait for things to settle down. Then you’ve lost maybe an entire week!

Make a back-up plan ahead of time, and there’s no guessing, no rushing around to make it work. For example, think about what you’ll do if you can’t go jogging because of a time crunch or weather. Will you hit the treadmill in the basement? Go to the gym? Put in a workout DVD? Jump rope in the garage?

When you make your process goal, “I will walk/jog 30 minutes, 5 times a week,” you also need to make a back-up plan at the same time. “If I cannot walk/jog due to extenuating circumstances, I will….” That way, you don’t even have to think about it when it comes up – and it will. Life happens. But when you are prepared, you just go directly to your back-up plan and keep on rolling toward your goals.

Add Accountability and Motivation – It’s all well and good to make your goals. But how are you going to follow through and stay accountable to yourself for getting there? Some people are great at this; most need a little help. There are a few things you can do to integrate accountability in your goals.

Find a support system. Tell important people what you are doing – friends, family members, etc. While they are not responsible for holding you accountable per se, making your goals “public” helps you stick to them. These are the folks who will support you and maybe even join you in your journey to be healthier. Plus, when your bestie asks how it’s going, you will want to be able to say, “Great!”

Identify your motivation. Ask yourself why you have made these particular goals. Do you want to have more energy to play with your kids? Do you dream of running a marathon? Even if these are not your specific goals right now, they may be the motivation behind your current goals. Once you acknowledge that motivation and its importance to you, it can be a very powerful tool to keep you on track. It may be helpful to post pictures or quotes about your motivation in places you see every day – your bathroom mirror, your computer, etc. This is why you are doing what you’re doing!

Reward yourself. Whatever your goal, getting there is hard work. Recognize your progress and achievements with something that is meaningful to you – making a small purchase, going to dinner, getting a massage, etc.

Get help. If you find that you need a little outside help with accountability, consider a coach. We’re here to help keep you focused, motivated and moving toward your goals!

Once your goals are SMART and set and you’ve got back-up plans and accountability in place, you will really be on the way to achieving that healthier life you wanted when you resolved to “do better” this year.

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