Many of us make them every year; give up smoking, take up running, lose weight, quit sugar, save money: you name it, we’ve heard it. The problem is that by the end of January 2015, 13.2% of Australians had already broken their resolutions, with the average success rate of 42% by the end of the year. So should we just throw in the towel, or are there ways to help us make 2016 the year we achieve our goals?
Well, if you have made a New Years’ resolution, some data suggests that you are up to 10 times more likely to keep a goal set at New Year compared to goals set at any other time of the year. Step One for success: done!
Step Two is making your goals SMART. SMART goals are:
Specific – Be specific about what you want to achieve, for example “I want to lose weight” versus “I want to lose 10kgs”
Measurable – Be clear on how you will know when you have achieved your goal, for example “I want to smoke less” versus “I want to cut back from 20 cigarettes per day to 5 per day”.
Achievable – Make it realistic. Smaller goals are better than huge ones, because you can always make a bigger goal when you achieve the first one. For example “I will go from going to the gym never to going 7 days a week” versus “I will go to the gym at least 3 days a week”.
Relevant – Make your goals fit you, your likes and dislikes, and what you want to get out of life. The best exercise is one that you will do: don’t take up hiking if you hate the outdoors; take up dancing instead.
Time-bound – You need to have a timeframe in mind, to keep yourself accountable. You need to be able to say “I plan to achieve this by this date/month/etc”.
Good goal setting is the best way to keep yourself accountable. Making bigger goals i
s important, but even more important is breaking those bigger SMART goals into smaller SMART goals. For example, if your goal is to save money, your bigger goal might be “I want to have $5000 in my savings account by the end of December 2016”, smaller goals might be, “I need to put away $100 each week into this account,” rather than finding yourself in September relying on the potential tax return to bulk out your goal.
Step Three is to plan for failure. There are always going to be unexpected plans, or expenses, or injuries that will keep you from sticking to the original plan. If you expect these things to happen, you are much more likely to view them as speedbumps rather than failures, and as a result you can use them to boost your motivation, rather than destroy it. Acknowledging that you will encounter speedbumps means you can plan for them, rather than having to react to them. For example, if you miss one Tuesday afternoon workout because of dinner with friends, but you know that Wednesday morning is normally a sleep in for you, then you have a back-up time up your sleeve.
Step Four is for our physical goals, and it is to make sure you start ease into your exercise. Start by making sure your technique is good (whether it be weightlifting form, running style, flexibility) before adding load (heavier weight, longer runs) to reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Step Five is to seek professional advice if you aren’t sure where to start. This can mean a financial planner for your savings; a personal trainer to make sure you know what you are doing in your new exercise program; a nutritionist/dietitcian to help structure a diet you want to stick to; or a physiotherapy assessment to identify potential risk factors or areas to target to improve your performance.
With these tricks up your sleeves, may 2016 be the year you smash your goals out of the park!