It’s now two months into the year. The New Year vibes have definitely faded away and work and school are now back in full throttle. I wrote a post in January, “Top Tips for a Healthier, Better New Year”, in which I mentioned that less than 10% of us actually stick to our New Year resolutions for more than a few weeks – so, how are YOU going with your goals?
As the gun-ho enthusiasm ebbs, reality sinks back in: the errands, late nights out, birthday parties, school terms… there’s so many things that we may not have factored into our seemingly bulletproof health goals. When our attention is divided between maintaining a healthy lifestyle, work projects, kids, finance… our self-control can falter and old habits can slowly creep back in. Hmm…
Personally, I see any day as being as good as 1st January (or any other occasion) to make and start working towards your goals. Health goals, financial goals (saving up for your next holiday), career goals… Now is the only moment you have control over, so let’s make the most of it!
Remember that setting out to achieve a goal isn’t for the half-hearted, so making the first attempt is a fantastic sign! Whether you’re well on track (thumbs up and a hearty pat on the back – keep going) or if you’ve stumbled a little, now is the perfect time to read up on these top tips to help yourself on your way.
Check out my piece on making SMART and SMART-ER goals for tips to fine-tune your health targets!
Must-do #1: Find your “-er” word and figure out what you really want
Ask yourself what exactly you want to get out of your goal and try answering with “-er” words. By pinpointing what you specifically want to change and phrasing it using “-er” you pose it as a form of self-improvement and it doesn’t set a fixed glass ceiling, meaning that you can always keep aiming for better and better! Vague words like “get healthy” or “get active” are quite ambiguous and can lead to unrealistic expectations or no expectations at all! Being specific also helps to create a clearer vision and source of motivation for your journey. Under umbrella terms like “healthier” or “fitter”, do you want to get clearer skin, better sleep, better mood, to be happier, stronger in lifting?
#2: Focus on behaviours
You’ve got a goal, which is a good start, but what exactly do you need to DO to get there? Incorporate “doing words” as these are easier to measure and be accountable to. Think of specific behaviours such as making a weekly shopping list, preparing snacks for school or work, eating XX serves of veggies a day, jogging XX times a week, climbing XX number of stairs at work…
#3: Change your perspective
How you word your goal can make or break your chances of success. It’s amazing how simply framing your goal differently can make the same goal seem so much more do-able, or less do-able! Using negative words like “stop”, “will not” and “never” make a goal sound like a sworn oath. These negative words also mean a lack of action (i.e. to NOT do something) which will also make you feel paralysed and deprived (“I will stop snacking”, I won’t eat my favourite desserts”). On the other hand, positive phrasing makes the goal more action-oriented and enabling (“I will always have a meal plan”, “I will only eat when I am hungry”). See the difference?
#4: Think more, not less
It can be easy to get stuck in a paralysing trap of setting goals that involve avoiding, limiting or stopping a certain behaviour or foods. Take a step back and think about it – what on earth will you be doing instead?? Of course, cutting out bad habits may be your goal in the bigger picture but phrasing the goals around the negatives will leave you paralysed. Instead, think of what you can do MORE of and not what you need to do less or stop all together. Think of how much MORE nourishing foods you can ADD to your meals rather than dreading how much you need to stop eating or cut out – you’ll be surprised at just how much of the less healthy foods will naturally fall out of your day since you’ll be too full to stomach them after all the better ones! There’s so many things to try, do and enjoy out there, so why focus on restrictions when all you have to do is focus on better replacements and additions?
#5: Focus on one aspect of health at a time
Just like when life gets busy, juggling too many goals at the same can be distracting. As a result, we’re less likely to invest or plan each goal properly. Take it one step at a time and focus on mastering one aspect of your health at a time before moving on to the next one on your list. Small changes can make a huge difference in the long run.
#6: Always have a plan B!
No matter how SMART your goal may be, there will always be something that gets in your way and tries to steer you off-course. When you pledged that you will only have a cake once a month, did you account for the three work birthdays coming up next week? When you announced that you will be jogging every morning, did you consider an alternative activity on rainy days? This is why having a plan B (and a plan C) is a must! Your back up plan might include an alternate schedule for the week – for example, if you need to finish off some work this weekend, the “weekend grocery shopping and cooking” routine is now a no-go and you could try shifting your food preparation regimen to a weeknight or split it into two smaller parts and complete them over different nights.
Lastly, know that perfection is improbable (but, not impossible) and be prepared for hiccups. Pummelling yourself for any slip-ups will just be demoralising and unproductive – the important thing is to acknowledge them and get back on track. Some challenges may pop out of the blue and you will need to do some impromptu troubleshooting – consider this as part of the journey and it’s how you bounce back up that will determine the long term success.
Note that this approach is one of many, and it is only as foolproof as the person applying it. So gear up and be prepared for the thick and thin. Remember that a goal is not a pledge that you must live by and it does not define you. A goal is a means to the end of getting a few steps closer to overall good health.
You can do it!
Photographs from Unsplash