Wellness Goal Setting – A New Year, A New Start!

what-i-learned-in-2018Hey everyone, welcome aboard!

As I sit down to write this, we are right at dawn of a new year…2019. If you’re anything like me, you almost physically cringe at the thought of being inundated by all of the new year marketing and clichés geared toward people’s pursuit of a new version of themselves for the upcoming year. I heard a speaker say just a week or so ago, that for all of our good intentions, we tend to be twice as good at breaking resolutions as we are at keeping them. The sad thing is that he was right; an article published by Forbes on New Year’s Day 2013, cited research done by Scranton University showing that only 8% of people that set resolutions actually follow through and keep them. I don’t have to explain how low of a number that is (for just about anything), but at the same time it’s not terribly surprising. For whatever reason, the majority of people just aren’t very good at following through.

As I sat and listened to him elaborate on his point, I began to wonder what the reason behind this might be. Is it that we don’t set goals about the right things? Is it time or money constraints?  Or is it simply a lack of motivation? There are a ton of different ways to try to explain this trend, but I think the way that has the most actionable solution is to look at the way we tend to set our goals for the new year. This is especially true when it comes to goals about health and fitness.

Think about how many times you’ve heard (or possibly said) something like this: ” This year, I want to lose some weight.” “This year, I want to look better/feel better about my body.” This year, I’m going to eat healthier.” All of these statements are great aspirations on their own sure, but they all have one major flaw in common: How do you really know when you’ve achieved them? How can you track or measure your progress? I want to introduce one of my favorite goal setting techniques and show you how you can use it to dramatically improve your chances of keeping your resolutions and meeting your goals for 2018. I’ll even share one of my personal goals so that you can have an idea of what it looks like in action.

One of the coolest goal-setting strategies is one called S.M.A.R.T. goals. Perhaps you’ve heard of this before and always wondered what it meant or what it really stood for? S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I know it seems like a lot, but when you put all of these different components into play, it makes it super easy to stay motivated, and to track your progress as well.

Being Specific is probably the part where the majority of people go wrong. Just like our example goals before, most folks will just say something like, “I want to be thinner this year.” Right away my brain is thinking, “Ok, but how much thinner?” To help navigate that answer and give yourself a solid starting point try to have these 6 things to make goal specific: 1. Who needs to be involved to help achieve the goal? (Could be just you…maybe you and a personal trainer.) 2. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? (Lose weight? Build muscle? Increase endurance?) 3. When do you want to have this goal accomplished by? (More about this in the Time-bound section) 4. Where do you need to go to accomplish this goal? (Maybe nowhere…maybe you can get everything you need done at home; some people greatly benefit from a change of scenery sometimes though.) 5. Which obstacles or requirements might be relevant? (If you have a goal to eat more home-cooked meals, but you’ve never cooked before, then that skill is something that you will need to address as you plan.) 6. Why is this goal important to you? (This may be one the most important components of this whole thing; if you can’t come up with a reason why achieving this goal is meaningful to you, you will struggle significantly in trying to keep up with it).

Having a Measurable goal is all about tangibility; the meaning of tangibility has its roots in being able to touch something. So in other words you can think of this part as “How can I make it easier to touch my goal?” “How will I be able to have concrete evidence that I am doing what I set out to do for myself this year? When you think of it like that, that making the goal measurable becomes less daunting. Sticking with our example goal of losing weight, making it measurable means adding a number. “I want to lose 30 pounds this year” is going to be much more attainable that just saying you want to lose some weight. Picking that goal number also helps the time-frame part immensely, because now you can add little milestones along the way to your overall goal that will help you stay motivated by kind of giving you things you can check-off and celebrate on a more regular basis.

When you start considering how Achievable your goal is, this is going to play a big time role in helping your motivation stay high and helping you avoid discouragement. Sometimes our good intentions and our desires to make major positive changes in our lives lead us to a “change it overnight” approach and many people end up biting off more than they can chew so-to-speak. The idea here is to pick something that you are both willing and able to work toward achieving. Too difficult and it kills your drive; too easy and you’re not challenging yourself. A good example would be something like losing 10% of your current body weight or increasing your calorie intake by 15% if your trying to build muscle.

Relevant goals are goals that remain important to the person setting them because they fit into where that person currently is in their life. If you aren’t truly interested in weight loss, then it would not be very helpful to set a goal centered around limiting calories. Likewise, if weight loss is important to you, then setting a goal that limits the amount of exercise you do every week probably isn’t going to get you very far. The other thing that setting a relevant goal does for us is help us determine what our working boundaries are for setting this goal. If you are a stay-at-home mom of four, then setting a goal to be in the gym for 2 hours a day/4 days a week is not going to match up to the other important obligations that you no doubt have in your life. Make sure you goal matches you.

Finally, the Time-bound quality of our goal ensures that we put a little good pressure on ourselves to achieve our final product in a timely fashion. Goals without this component sometimes can drag out so long that they slip away into the realm of failure. It also keeps us honest (no weekly restarting of the goal due to moments when we just couldn’t help ourselves). 😅 The time-frame has two important mini components: a deadline/finish-line, and smaller checkpoints. Maybe you set a goal to lose 40 pounds in the next 10 months, you should also have built-in victories that you can celebrate like losing 4-8 of those pounds by the end of the first month (healthy weight loss is the rate of about 1-2 pounds per week). In this case if you are able to check off your mini goal just 10 times you will have completed you overall big objective, and maybe surpassed it depending on what your individual months were like.

I know this is a lot of information to take in, but that’s because we broke it all the way down to its elemental parts for the sake of this post. I trust that this can be a really useful tool to help you set a great fitness goal for this upcoming year. And remember, this concept works for goals in any setting for any objective. Try it out, and let me know how it works for you! As promised here is an example of one of my personal goals for this upcoming year: I will gain 20 lbs. of muscle in six months by performing at least one hour of strength training for 5 days every week, and increasing my daily calorie intake to 2,500 calories every day. From here I will come up with some suitable and exciting mini goals to help keep my motivation alive, and keep me honest in my progress (maybe some related to inches of muscle on the various major muscle groups…😉)

If you have any questions at all, or maybe need a little help coming up with your own goal (weight loss, weight gain, muscle building, sports specific, functional strength, anything you can think of) please do not hesitate to reach out to me. We can work through it together!

Cheers to a successful 2019!

*Diamond, D. (2013, January 02). Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It. Retrieved January 08, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#188a03ed596b

What do you think?