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Goodbye New Year’s Resolutions – Setting Goals You Can Achieve

by LaToya Gilbert

We are now well into the New Year. Are you still working on your New Year’s resolutions? Probably not. Why not? We never really define New Year’s resolutions – it’s usually tied to a fad diet, general feeling of needing/wanting to do something different in the next year, or social pressure.

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It is very easy to say I’m going to work out more, save more, spend more time with family. But what does more really mean, and how do you really make it count? It is hard to work towards a goal without understanding what the goal really is.
I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART goals, if not, it means Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Timely. You must be sure that you clearly understand what the goal is – Simple. You must be clear on how you will hold yourself accountable for reaching the goal – Measurable. You must clearly understand what it means to reach the goal – what is the end point – Attainable. You must understand what good looks like – again if it’s attainable, what does it produce – Results-oriented. You have to have a clear timeline for reaching your goal – Timely.

So as you’re thinking about what the goal looks like, you must think with the end in mind. What is the end goal? If you understand the end goal, you’ll know what you have to do to accomplish that goal. You will effectively be able to create milestones to get there.

Creating milestones allows you to track your progress. Tracking your progress is extremely important. At each milestone, you can re-evaluate your progress. Are you on target? Is there something you need to do differently to based on the progress you’ve made. Are you progressing faster than possible, and are ready to push yourself harder. Are you behind schedule, and need to push yourself more?

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Another important component to ensuring your progress is implementing consequences and incentives. How are you going to hold yourself accountable for sticking to your goals? If there are no clear consequences or incentives for reaching your goals, it is very easy to just stop working on it, or cheat.

So now that we know what to do, how do we do it? For example, is your goal to get in the gym more? If so, think about what going to the gym more really means.

You want to go to the gym more. You’re looking to do something specific here: lose weight, improve your general health, or get more active.

How much do you go to the gym now? None. Ok, start with deciding how many days can you commit to going to the gym. Next create a calendar. Check off each day that you actually go to the gym. This will create a visual source of accountability. You will be able to clearly see how you are adhering to your own commitment, or where you have opportunities for improvement.

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What does it cost to go to the gym? Can you afford it? If you really want to commit to going to the gym, you have to be able to pay the fees in order to maintain your membership. You must incorporate the fees into your regular budget, to ensure you do not create an easy excuse for not going. Make it a part of your new normal. You could probably afford the cost, by eliminating some of the “cheat” items from your grocery visit, or by reducing the amount that you are eating out. Of course this also contributes to your actual goal – to get fit. Something else for you to think about here – is going to the gym is the right solution for you? Would you be more effective by walking on the track at the local high school, creating a regular workout routine at home, connecting with an online group, or working with a personal trainer?

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So what results are you looking for? What is the indicator that lets you know that you have accomplished what you set out to do? Is it pounds, change in energy level, the check mark on the calendar (mentioned earlier)? You have to be clear on what you’re looking for in order to effectively define what good looks like, to measure whether you have achieved your results.

And finally, what is your timeline for meeting your goal? What is your new schedule, that incorporates the gym? How long do you have to regularly go to the gym to define whether you have achieved more? Keep in mind that it takes time to affect change. If you only go to the gym for a month, you are likely to stop going if you do not continue. It may be a great time to take a look at your plan, to re-evaluate, especially if you’re on the verge of giving up. However, if you continue for 3 months or more, you are likely going to continue the pace, and create a habit. It’s all about change management – the repetition of integrating the gym into your larger life plan – sometimes it is helpful to use life events as additional milestones (vacations, reunions, anniversaries, etc.).

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It’s really all about getting clear about what your goal is. Ask yourself questions to define what the goal really means to you (and conversely what it does not mean to you). Once you know what the goal is, you can easily create a plan for how you will get to it and stick to it! 

If it is a plan that is specific to your needs and wants, it is more likely that you will reach your goal, because it is something that you can identify with,  and commit to.  Set your goals, and hold yourself accountable!

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