Written by: Valerie Middleton, FNP
As we welcome in another new year many of us like to look at ourselves and decide on new directions and new resolutions. Maybe we have tried before and lost steam. Maybe we thought about trying but just never followed through. Maybe we have been successful with some goals and less so with others. But why are we so bad at keeping our resolutions? What is the key to sticking to a goal we have set for ourselves? How can this year be different?
There are three key factors in determining goal success that seem to be reiterated over and over in the literature. Make goals attainable, keep track/be accountable and most importantly make it fun and or positive.
1. Make goals attainable
"A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true." - Greg S. Reid
Let’s take one of the most common goals, to exercise more, for example. It’s important to know why you want to reach a goal to stay motivated in the long term. You then need to break the goal down in to attainable pieces. For example I want to exercise five days a week thirty minutes a day is the recommendation of most major health advocates but starting here from nothing can be daunting and overwhelming. Breaking the goal into smaller more manageable pieces such as: I will work out three days a week this month. Next month I will increase to four days, eventually working up to the five.
2. Keep Track / Be accountable
Today’s technology lends itself well to being accountable to many of our goals. Staying engaged in the goal achieving process continually predicts positive outcomes. Creating visual calendars, chat groups with friends, fit bit apps, journaling and getting others involved and aware of your goals will increase your odds of success. At my husband’s work they put their names on a board with their workouts and times. Not only is this a way for these highly competitive folks to keep track of their progress but they keep each other accountable. For this particular population, the competition serves them well. For others the process may be more personal but the tracking is still important. As one tracks and becomes more accountable to self and or others a habit can be formed. Habits become unconscious movements we go through each day. It is the unconscious exerciser, that is one that does not think about whether to go or not go that continues to exercise day in and day out.
3. Make it Fun!!
There was a very recent study done that enjoyment predicts long term persistence of a goal. It was studied that even when a goal is seen as extremely important to us persistence to change is best predicted by immediate gratification of enjoyment. So if exercise is your goal, make it fun and you are much more likely to persist in your goal. If you only enjoy walking or biking but hate pumping iron than gear your strategies towards what you enjoy so you will persist.
"There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on." - Zayn Malik