You may have experienced it before—New Year’s resolutions falling by the wayside before February sets in. Fueled by high hopes and a sincere desire for change, you resolve to do better—eat healthy, stop smoking, sleep more, exercise daily. While inspiring, New Year’s resolutions are big-picture outcomes. They barely suggest the myriad little steps necessary to achieve them. Unless you create a plan to accompany your resolution, making long-lasting change is nearly impossible.
Say, for example, that you’d like to introduce a daily walk into your life. You know the cardiovascular benefits of brisk walking and understand that 30 minutes a day would greatly improve the health of your heart and your waistline. But what if you rarely walk now? How will you get from sedentary to seven days of exercise per week?
Set Small Goals
Desire can fuel you, but realistic goals will keep you on task. Begin small and be specific with your goal setting. Perhaps you could start with 15-minute walks, three times per week. Get precise about how you will fit them in. Will you wake up earlier? Will you walk during your lunch hour or after dinner?
Stay with your first goal until it feels comfortable, and when it does, celebrate your success. Buy yourself some new walking shoes. Invite a friend to walk with you. When you achieve your first goal, your confidence will increase. Then, move onto your next small goal. Increase the frequency of your 15-minute walks to five times per week. Think of each goal as a building block that moves you closer to your larger resolution.
Give Yourself Time
Achieving a healthy change of lifestyle takes a while. If you give yourself enough time—even the year—your new habit is more likely to last. New research suggests that new habits are not fully established until a minimum of 66 days. Allow yourself more than enough time to make the change.
Start Over if You Need To
Understand from the beginning that you may experience setbacks. What if you catch a cold and don’t feel like walking for a week? Or what if your motivation suddenly wanes? Don’t give it all up. Dust off a small goal, or make a new one, and lace up your shoes again.
Helpful Goal-Setting Tips
Making resolutions is easy. Goal setting is where the real work comes. Here are some tips to help you achieve the healthy changes you desire:
- Be specific in your goal setting.
- Set realistic goals that are within your reach.
- Write your goals down. Post your current goal in a place where you will see it every day. “I will walk on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings for 15 minutes.”
- Create a timeline with small goals that mark the steps toward achieving your resolution. Cross off each goal as you go.
- Believe in yourself!
- Be flexible. Setbacks sometimes happen. Be kind to yourself and start over.
- Lean on friends. Ask for encouragement or support when you need it.
- Reward yourself for achieving small goals and you’ll be more motivated to keep going.
If you’d like to make a healthy change in 2016 and need some inspiration,
and get started in making a New Year’s resolution that you can achieve!
This article first appeared in the December 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.