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12.30.2014

Ask a Health Advocate: How can I succeed with my New Year’s resolutions?

As the year wraps up, many of us spend time reviewing the previous 365 days, and then making a list of New Year’s resolutions based on improvements we would like to see in the upcoming year. But even with the best intentions, it can be difficult to continue a New Year’s resolution beyond the first couple of months. Here are some tips that can help you successfully maintain your resolutions.

Consider the “Future You”: Once you chosen a resolution (or several), it is helpful to think about where you are now and where you want to be after having achieved your resolution. Imagine that you are looking into a crystal ball and seeing yourself after you have succeeded with the resolution. Take note of how you see yourself and how your behaviors are different. Having a solid understanding of the positive ways your life can change if you successfully maintain the resolution can help you stay motivated to meet your goals.

Take It Step by Step: Break your resolution down into small, manageable action items. This helps you avoid being overwhelmed by the larger goal, gives you reasonable steps you can take to achieve the goal over time, and keeps you motivated by feeling a sense of pride for each milestone.

Think S.M.A.R.T.: Make your action item goals S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely). This makes it easier to keep your goals relevant and realistic.

  • Specific: Create goals that fit exactly with what you want to improve upon. For example, if you want to keep a resolution for being more active, you could say you want to be active in one specific way, such as going to the gym, walking around the neighborhood after eating dinner, or riding your bike to work.
  • Measurable: Keeping these specific goals measurable will help you look back and see what progress you have made or maintained from the beginning. For example, if your goal involves physical activity, you could set a number of days that you would like to exercise each week.
  • Attainable: Making sure that you can achieve the goals you set out for yourself is very important. Don’t choose goals that are impossible and/or unhealthy to achieve. For example, a beginner runner should not aim to be able to run a 5K in 4 weeks’ time, and someone who wants to lose 20 pounds should not attempt to lose all the weight in one month.
  • Realistic: Along with keeping goals for your resolutions attainable, keeping the goals realistic is equally important. If you ideally want to work out once every day but know it is not realistic for your lifestyle, consider what might be a more realistic number of workouts you can strive for in a week.
  • Timely: Setting a timetable for yourself is important for keeping your resolutions as well as maintaining them during the upcoming year. Having a deadline can help keep you motivated. if you are breaking your larger goal into smaller goals, have a deadline for each milestone to help yourself stay on track.

Reward Yourself. Consider rewarding yourself when you meet each milestone. Some examples of small rewards are buying some new songs for your workout playlist, getting a new book to enjoy during downtime, or going out for a meal or movie with a friend. Examples of bigger rewards could include purchasing new exercise gear to help you take your workout to the next level, going on a mini-vacation for a weekend, or taking a healthy cooking class.

Be Flexible: Life happens, and sometimes that means unexpected events temporarily affect our ability to focus on our goals. Keeping these events in mind, consider re-adjusting your goals to make them more attainable during hectic times.

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, reach out to your Wellness Coach for more help with setting attainable goals.

Have a question for a Health Advocate? Email nhess@healthadvocate.com, and your question may be the topic of an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!