As New Year’s Day approaches, I am sure many of you are considering what your “New Year’s Resolution” is going to be or you are at least considering what you would like your next year to look like. Although New Year’s Resolutions are well intended, we often find them to be a source of disappointment or guilt in our lives when we find ourselves unable to fulfill them. This is not to say that New Year’s Resolutions are a meaningless effort – it is always worth the time to consider how you might live a happier, healthier, and fuller life.
I am going to suggest a few steps that will hopefully guide you towards making more achievable and meaningful goals for yourself.
Step 1: What would make your life more meaningful or rich?
It is important to pick a goal that is meaningful to you. What pursuit would bring joy into your life? When we make a goal, it is important not only to state WHAT you want to do but also to state WHY you want to do it. For example:
Try a yoga class
Eat a more plant-based diet
Give up drinking soda
The “WHAT” is an important first step but the “WHY” may be even more important and helps you identify the motivating force.
Try a yoga class…to relieve my aches and pains and deal with stress.
Eat a more plant-based diet…for my heart health and the environment.
Give up drinking soda…because it is bad for my health and makes me feel terrible.
Lose weight…to relieve joint pain, lower my dependence on insulin, or lower my risk of heart attack.
Now assess if your “WHY” is of value to you. If you don’t find your “WHY” to be sufficiently motivating, then the goal is likely not worthwhile.
Step 2: What are the actions you are going to take to achieve the goal?
Now that you have established a goal, you need to consider what it will take to be successful with this goal. Write a list of actions that will help you to achieve your goal. Pick 2-3 actions that will most impact your chances of success. Be specific about what, where and when you will do these things. For example:
I will investigate available Yoga classes near my house by January 5th.
I will make a commitment to start a class by January 10th
I will attend class 2 days per week on Mondays and Thursdays
I will walk around my neighborhood 5 days per week for 45 minutes
I will eliminate desserts from my diet
I will quit drinking sugary beverages
Step 3: Are you being realistic?
Be realistic about your goals by considering the amount of time and energy you have to put into it. A good goal is a realistic goal. Be honest with yourself and see if the list you created in Step 2 is going to be achievable. For example, in the weight loss list above, you planned to completely “eliminate desserts” from your diet. Is this a realistic goal for you? When there is a Birthday Party or Holiday and everyone else is having a dessert, are you not going to participate? This is an instance where you could make a more realistic adjustment to your goal. For example,
“I will cut back on eating sweets by not stocking sweets in my home”.
Step 4: Staying the course
Focus on the Positive
Focus on the way eating right and exercising makes you feel. Maybe you feel more alert and focused throughout the day. Maybe you love feeling stronger and more mobile. Maybe you feel more emotionally stable, less stressed, and are sleeping better at night.
Treat yourself with kindness:
Don’t beat yourself up if you get off track. Just acknowledge that it happened and start right back up again where you left off. We often sabotage our own progress by thinking negatively about ourselves, but this behavior is never helpful in motivating us to reach our goals. It’s about progress, not perfection!
Provide yourself alternatives:
It’s important not to get bored with your goal. Try to work variety into your workouts, recipes, or routine.
Have good support:
Find a friend, family, or support group that shares a common goal with you. Surrounding yourself with others who share a common goal ideal for sharing ideas, staying motivated, and staying accountable.
“Perfection is a toxic desire. We are not supposed
to be perfect. The challenge is not to be perfect,
it’s to be whole.”
– Jane Fonda
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