New Year’s is a great time to make a fresh start. People often make grand resolutions at New Year’s Eve parties. Most of these include health or fitness in some way. Most are lofty and unrealistic, and unfortunately, most will be failures because they were not well thought (or planned) out.
As I think back on this subject I am reminded of an episode of “Friends.” Ross made a New Year’s Resolution to do something different every day. It, of course, got him into a lot of comical hot water but the point is he wanted to learn and do and experience things that he never had before in order to broaden his life. A resolution, by definition, is simply “a course of action determined or decided on,” in other words, a goal.
When to Begin
Generally speaking, I don’t like to take on a goal according to a day or date on a calendar. I think the best time to start a goal is right now, when you have the idea and am most fired up about it. It shouldn’t matter if that moment falls on a Wednesday at 2:24 in the afternoon in some meaningless month.
However, the first of the new year is a good time to make a fresh start. The New Year is a good place to mark time – out with the old, in with the new. It is an obvious time of year to make big plans and proclamations of self-improvement, also known as resolutions.
Properties of a Good Goal
A goal, or resolution, if it’s going to have a chance at being successful should be:
I suggest keeping a “Goal Journal.” This could be a small notebook to record your goals. It’s kind of like a road map for your life. Occasionally, I’ll feel like I’m drifting aimlessly in life and don’t know why, then I realize that I haven’t looked in my goal book in a while.
Once you create your goal book, it is easily forgotten. Set a date on your calendar ahead of time to remind yourself to look at it and perhaps take some notes on your progress and challenges. When I do this, I am reminded of where I’ve been, where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I find this very helpful.
An simple analogy for this would be following a road map to find a building in a new city. Maps, or a list of directions are imperative to help you get there in the most efficient way possible. Like a map, a series of small goals can lead you in the right direction. There are a lot of distractions in this world and ways to get lost. If you plan your path and look at it occasionally, it may keep you from becoming lost.
Where to Begin
Before planning your future, look at your past. What was your New Year’s resolution (or any goals you made) last year? Were you successful? Why or why not?
Next, re-evaluate to see if you want to work on one of these goals more, or create a fresh one.
Now, look at the areas in your life you want to improve. You could choose a goal from any or all of the following categories:
After evaluating your past year of successes and struggles, and choosing which category your goal will fall into, move on with claiming your goal.
1. Make it Objective
Ideally your goal will be objective enough that a stranger could look at some evidence and see that you accomplished what you set out to, or see how far you’ve come. As an example, if a person were to quit smoking, it would be pretty evident over the course of a few days if they smoke or not.
In contrast, a goal of “I want to get fitter” is subjective and a stranger would not be able to know if you are any “fitter” than you once were.
2. Be Specific
You may think it goes without saying, but the above example “I want to get fitter” is not very specific, yet it is the most common goal I hear from people. What would be a specific goal relating to improving your fitness? How about:
“I want to lose 10 lbs,” “I want to run a mile,” or “I want to do my age in pushups.”
These are all example of objective and specific goals.
3. Why Is This Goal Meaningful to You?
After you write down all your goals, write down why it is important to you. This may seem silly, because you think you know why it’s important to you, but see how easy it is to write it down. Then say it out loud. Do you still like it? If so, keep it. I find writing it down by hand helps ingrain it in my brain.
I’ve met a lot of people who have a great distance to go before they are in a condition they would call physically fit. They may have 100 lbs to lose before reaching their healthy, ideal weight. This is a daunting figure. Ignoring it will not help. But, what will is focusing on the task in small, bite-sized pieces (no pun intended)
If a person has 100 lbs to lose, focusing on 10 lbs is a very good place to start. Only focus on those 10 lbs.
Time is another factor. Losing 100 lbs will be difficult. It will require a change in lifestyle and probably several behaviors. It can be done, but not quickly, and setting a goal to lose 100 lbs in less than 10 – 12 months is probably not going to be successful. As this reality becomes clear to that person, their motivation will wane.
5. Have a Plan
Every goal needs a plan, it is is likely to not to be reached. The map analogy from above is perfect here. Yet, some goals are so large they have to be achieved in sections. Consider this, you are driving from the West Coast to the East on back roads, only. That is a daunting distance. You will certainly need directions for this trip. But, you will also have to hop from town to town to eat, fuel up and sleep. Considering each night’s destination a goal for the day is a good way to break up your trip into manageable sections. Think of your other goals in this way: weight loss, strength gain, better eating, smoking cessation, etc.
When to Evaluate
In a month or so look at your goal book to remind yourself of what, how and why you are doing it. Then, evaluate your progress. Are you progressing like you think you should be? make notes in your book of: Progress, challenges, obstacles and victories. This will help you see the big picture. Often times when we are in the middle of something we can’t see how far we’ve come or how close we are to success. Chart your progress and find ways to have little wins.
Should You Change Your Goal?
It’s important to be open to change – for the right reasons. Evaluating your goals is an important way to not only track your progress, but all determine if you still want this goal, or if it should be altered. Avoid emotional decisions as times of difficulty could easily result in throwing all your hard work away. This is another reason the goal journal is important.
Change your goals after a couple months if you believe a change will be beneficial. Please avoid changing them simply because your task is difficult. Anything worth having is worth working for – but don’t waste your time on a meaningless goal if your priorities have changed.
My Daughter’s Goals
Her goals for 2015 are:
- To be more responsible
- To be less shy
- To be more healthy
She has agreed to come back on the show on her birthday, in April, to update us on her progress.
My Goals for 2015
- Spiritual. I decided that meditation would be a good way to balance my soul. I will use podcasts and audio books to learn and improve my technique and I will practice at least once a week, preferably daily, for the next year.
- Social. I need to be more outgoing and friendly to strangers. I am a bit shy and introverted so I don’t always come across as friendly – even though I mean to be. I will find a person who has this ability and will model myself after them. Maybe take them on as a mentor (any suggestions?).
- Physical. I want to give Crossfit a solid effort. This means, to me, doing a Crossfit workout for at least four weeks next year. These weeks do not have to be consecutively.
- Professional. I will continue to improve my knowledge for health coaching to improve my ability to help people find fitness and good health. This goal is not as specific as I would like it to be, but I could write a whole article on the specific things I want to do professionally. I’m not going to do that because it would be daunting and not helpful at this point. I will probably create specific goals as the year progresses.
To make smart resolutions begin with: 1) Having a smart plan, 2) following your plan, and 3) Evaluating frequently. Keep your goal in your mind. Think on it often. Come April or June it’s easy to forget about a plan you made in December if you don’t keep it important in your mind. Put it on your calendar, tell a friend, and make it public (like I did here), but most of all don’t neglect it. Change is difficult, but with attention, your fresh start will be you path to success.
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