2012 is right around the corner.

Anyone else getting asked if they have any New Year’s resolutions for the New Year?

I love and hate New Year’s “resolutions.”  I think it’s a great opportunity to start off with that “clean slate” feeling, especially after the holiday craze.  It’s a time to reflect on the aspects of our lives we want or need to change and resolve to follow through with those changes.  I actually really enjoy breaking down my personal, professional, and health/fitness related goals each year.

But we all know that all too often people set out with these grand ideas on what they will change for the New Year, swear up and down that they will stick to the plan, and then what happens?

By February we’re in the same old rut again.

So what’s the secret to making resolutions you can actually stick to throughout the entire year, resulting in real change?

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Nix New Year’s resolutions and set SMART goals instead.

SMART Goals, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, are:

  • Specific:  Goals should be specific and well-defined, with clear actions that will be taken.
  • Measurable:  Goals should be objective and measurable to that it is clear when they have been achieved.
  • Action Based:  Goals should be things you will actually do!  Goals should be actions (ie “I will do cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes each day”), not outcomes (ie “I will lose 10 pounds.”)
  • Realistic:  Goals must be possible to achieve, given the time and resources available.
  • Timely:  Goals must have a deadline.  If there is no time frame set, there is no sense of urgency.

Think about some of the most common resolutions you hear people making, year after year.

“I’m going to lose weight.”
“I’m going to be better with money.”
“I’m going to make more time for family and friends.”
“I’m going to be healthier.”
“I’m going to quit smoking.”

Not only are these all very general, but they are all outcomes.  Think about it.  Isn’t losing weight the outcome, or the ultimate long term goal?  Skipping the over-ambition, and don’t make your resolution so daunting!

The key to successfully reaching a long term goal is to develop short term goals that are specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time-constrained to assist you along the way. 

Here are some examples.

Instead of:  “This year I’m going to drink more water”
SMART Goal:  “I am going to increase my daily water intake by 1 glass of water each week until I reach eight 8 ounce glasses every day.  I will start this on Monday.”

Instead of:  “In 2012, I’m going to eat more vegetables.”
SMART Goal:  “I plan on adding 1 serving of raw vegetables per day each week until reaching the recommended RDA of vegetables at lunch.”

Instead of:  “I really need to get more sleep.”
SMART Goal:  “I am going to go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual to increase total sleep to 7-8 hours every night starting on Tuesday.”

See where I’m going with this?  Once each smaller SMART goal has been achieved, just re-evaluate.  SMART goals can always be changing!

One other piece of advice I have for you?  Don’t start on January 1st.  Because on January 1st, you most likely will be hungover and tired from celebrating on New Year’s Eve.  Or you might have a family party with all the leftover holiday desserts.  You’ll be tired, still be trying to get back to normal schedules, and not in that “fresh” state of mind  You might even have Monday the 2nd off from work since New Year’s falls on a Sunday this year.  I plan on “starting fresh” on Tuesday the 3rd once I’m home from my long weekend away and back into the swing of things.  Pick a date that works for you!

Do you usually make a New Year’s resolution?  Do you think you’ll try making a SMART Goal instead this year?  Anyone have any in mind yet? 

Stay tuned for my own SMART goals – I plan on posting them after the 3rd!!