So here we are. Today is January 25, 2016. We are 25 days into the new year. It is the time in January when all of the newness is starting to wear off. The holidays are over, work and school routines are back to normal.
I personally love January. New Year’s Day brings with it a sense of hope, of change, of starting over. It gives us a metaphorical finish line. The end of one year, the beginning of the next. It is a time when massive amounts of people are all feeling motivated together. This is the year that they are going to quit smoking, lose the weight, fix their relationship, pay off the debt, or organize the closets. You can almost feel the electricity in the air, the collective motivation and positive thinking of hundreds of thousands of people at the same time. In January gym memberships rise, DIY books fly off the shelves, and everyone at work brings a salad for lunch.
But we have a problem. We have the motivation, the determination, the drive- but most of us have not been taught the tools to create goals and resolutions that are geared toward long-term success. Do you have a resolution that fizzed out a week ago? Or are you still working on it, but kind of half-heartedly? Do you find yourself feeling guilty, beating yourself up, or getting frustrated because you keep “slipping up?”
I have a secret. It’s not because you’re not motivated enough. It’s not because you don’t care. It’s not because there is something wrong with you. You just need to tweak your resolution a bit and get into the mindset of long-term change.
Here’s a few things you can do to revive that withering resolution.
For the following tips, I’m going to use, as an example, a very common resolution I hear- “I’m going to lose 30 pounds.”
First things first, write it down. This is absolutely crucial. Way too often we find ourselves making a promise at the new year and we shout it into the air or promise ourselves quietly that this time we mean it. But we never write it down. Why? We think that it’s so important to us that we don’t need to write it down. But, I’m telling you that’s wrong. You need to write it down. In fact, go get a 3×5 index card or a piece of paper and a pen right now. Write down your goal. Do it, I’ll wait. I mean it. Done? Ok, now we are going to rework it a bit with our SMART acronym.
- Make it Specific. Who says our goal has to be a one-liner? Who told you that you can only use 5 words when stating your resolution? Let’s get crafty here and give it a lot of detail. Our sample goal, “I’m going to lose 30 pounds” is a good start. It has a number, 30, but we can add some more details to this. How much do you weigh right now? 165? Great. Why do you want to lose 30 pounds? To look great for your friend’s wedding? To get your blood pressure down? To fit in those expensive jeans you bought? To be a good role model for your daughter? What is your reason for the weight loss?
If your goal is about creating a habit, like “eating healthier” what does that look like? Are you following a paleo diet? Are you eliminating some foods? Are you eating less calories?
- Make it Measurable. Our example above is fairly easy to measure as long as we know what weight we started at and then subtract 30. A different goal like “quit smoking” is harder to quantify, but you need to put in the time to do so. What will it look like when you have quit? How will I know you have quit? How many days or weeks will have passed without a nicotine product? Does that include the patch or gum?
- Make it Achievable. If you are 165 pounds and your goal is to lose 30 pounds, that is an achievable goal. At the end you would weigh 135 pounds and depending on your height and bone structure that is probably achievable at some point. However, if you are 6 feet tall and you currently weigh 135 pounds, then a 30 pound weight loss is probably not achievable (or safe!). When you are writing your goal, make sure it is something that you and your body are capable of. I don’t mean don’t challenge yourself. By all means, if becoming a black belt is your goal, go for it. Just know that there are certain restrictions on how quickly you can test for some of the belts. To say you want to be a black belt this year if you have just started is not achievable.
- Make it Realistic. You’ve determined that it’s physically possible to lose 30 pounds, but to plan on losing it in a month is not realistic. There will be commercials for detox and weight loss programs that will tell you otherwise, but they are pushing you to rush. If you read any reputable article or book on weight loss, they will tell you that slow weight loss is healthier. It means that you are picking up specific tools and habits and that will help you have long-lasting results. You might see some pounds drop off if you starve yourself or follow some lemon water and hot sauce detox program, but that is not sustainable. Make your goal realistic. 1 pound a week is realistic. 2 pounds a week could be realistic if you’re working hard.
- Make it Time-specific. If you plan on losing 1 pound a week until you have lost 30 pounds, that is 30 weeks. That is 7.5 months. If you plan on pushing yourself hard to reach your goal, that is just under 4 months away. So take today’s date and count out 4 months. If today is January 24, then 4 months from now is May 24.
- Finally, how are you going to do it? Are you going to stop eating dessert, replace soda with water, exercise three times a week, join a karate team?
Now that we have laid out the details we can take all of that information and we rewrite our goal.
“I’m going to lose 30 pounds.”
“I am going to lose 30 pounds because that should put me into that size 8 dress that I bought for my friend’s wedding in June and I want to feel sexy and gorgeous. On May 24, 2016 at 5pm when I step on the scale, it will read 135 pounds or less. In order to do this I am going to add fruits or vegetables to every meal, limit my alcoholic beverages to one time a week, and do a yoga workout at my favorite yoga studio three times a week. When I have the chance to walk around the block with my husband I will do that. When I am having a difficult week I will call my best friend to talk to her about it. For work I will pack a lunch every day and I will make tea instead of my usual 2pm soda. I will weigh myself one time a week and write it down in my journal to assess if I am on track.”
Go ahead and rewrite your goal on your card or your piece of paper. Go. Do it right now. If you are serious about it, you will write it down.
You are not done yet, there is one more important tip! And this is really, really important! Put that piece of paper or that 3×5 card somewhere that you will see it every single day. Put it on your bathroom mirror or in front of the toilet or in the shower. Put it on your ceiling above your bed or on your nightstand. Put it where you can see it and every time you see it, read it. This will make a major difference. If you really want to make changes, you will follow this advice. Don’t be shy about it.
Now that your resolution has been rewritten and passes the SMART goal test, stay posted for my next post that will help you put some life, motivation, and excitement back into it.