Setting Resolutions and Achieving Your Goals

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In the immortal words of John Lennon, “another year over, a new one just begun”. For many of us, that means reflecting on the year that has been and setting some goals for the year ahead. Whether we will achieve these goals remains to be seen.

88% of resolutions fail. Staggering isn’t it? Or is it? Consider resolutions you have set in the past, have you managed to maintain them or were they a phase? Why is it so difficult to follow through with resolutions until they become habits?

resolutionIt is important to differentiate between resolutions

and goals, both are important but serve different purposes. Resolutions are permanent changes to your life, whereas goals are specific achievements. By this logic it isn’t necessary to set the same resolution each year, as ideally you would be committed to your resolution and living by it. For example, a resolution I set last year of ‘taking the time to taste my food’ I will continue with this year and into the future. I am yet to master this resolution, but consider it important as I have been guilty too often of taking food for granted, rushing through meals and eating for the sake of hunger. As humans we need to eat,
multiple times each day, which is why I would like to take the time to enjoy meal times.

A goal such as tasting your food doesn’t cost anything, takes up none of your time and makes meal times more enjoyable. This is consistent with another resolution from last year, brushing my teeth and shaving with my left hand, another achievable goal as long as you have the willpower to persevere.

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This also stimulates my interest in skill acquisition as I feel quite uncoordinated with lefty and wanted to improve my dexterity. Also, I love reading all sorts of studies and publications and came across one study by the University of Case Western Reserve University that found small changes in habits increases your stamina for focusing on tasks. What I am trying to say is that there is potentially a lot to gain from a seemingly insignificant task.

It is important to decide what you would like to achieve from your goal, lose 10kg or form a regular exercise routine and cut out processed food. I constantly remind people not to lose faith if they have a ‘bad week’ and neglect their exercise or overindulge in comfort food (pretty standard December for most people).The benefits of the festive season is it makes people re-evaluate what is important to them and consider making appropriate changes. The next part is the hard part. Deciding on change is easy, initiating change is possible, however committing to change is where most struggle.

Choose a date that suits you. If you know that January 1st isn’t your most productive day on the calendar, then pick again, be realistic.

Keeping it simple is a proven approach, if you ultimately have 40kg to lose, then start with 10kg. If you were 10kg lighter at the end of the year would you consider that a failure? Of course not. What if you were 40kg lighter in 4 years time ?

Knowledge and planning are the key to success. Below I have summarised the key reasons some succeed where others are overcome by the challenge.

    • Plan it out. The resolution or goal is the end point. Figure out how you are going to get there by breaking it up into short, attainable objectives.
    • Be specific. Saying that you want to be more mindful sounds very holistic, but ultimately doesn’t achieve anything if you don’t attach it to a specific goal. However, if you say you would like to be more mindful about wasting food, then you can go about achieving it.
    • Celebrate your wins! If you aim to lose 15kg and you achieve 3kg in the first month, then celebrate. Preferably not with wine and cheese, but why not some new exercise clothes since your old ones will be getting loose?
    • Write it down, say it out loud, tell a friend, make it public. Why not throw it up on facebook, instagram or google +? If you are determined then commit to your cause and back yourself 100%. This will give you the support of friends and family members.
    • Remind yourself of your reasons for change. If your plan involves sacrifices, then use your reasons for change as motivation to keep you on track.
    • Ask for help. The health and fitness industry has all types of specialists to help you stay on track. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit your GP, exercise physiologist, or dietitian.

One of my favourite approaches to goal setting comes from the guys at Freakonomics. It goes particularly well with people determined to quit smoking. Their idea is put a sum of money in an envelope (more money than you would like to give away), address it to someone you don’t necessarily like but do good things, such as Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. Give this envelope to a friend with the instructions that if by a certain date, e.g. March 31st you hear that I am still smoking, then please mail this for me…. Gold. When you achieve your goal you are refunded your hard earned money, if not, an orphanage in central Africa will have a happy Easter.

Why do so many fail? Because they throw an idea around in their head and call it a resolution or voice it at a new year’s party after a few drinks when their inhibitions are lowered. The steps to achieving success are not difficult, there are no secrets or magic pills, it simply involves planning, writing it down, celebrating your wins and reminding yourself of your reasons for change. So, make the commitment to yourself to take up a sport, read more books, spend more time with friends and family, taste your food (go on, I dare you), eat less, drink more water, start a blog, volunteer, give blood, learn a language, pick up an instrument, leave work on time, go to the dentist, smile more, don’t eat chocolate during the week, ride your bike to work, watch less TV, take dancing lessons, try your hand at magic, plan a holiday, walk the dog or spoil your nephew.Remember, you can’t be perfect all the time, life is busy, if you do experience a setback, then simply acknowledge it, accept it and move on. Don’t wait until 2016 to start again.

Thanks for reading. I invite everyone to post their goals or resolutions somewhere you will see it every day, the bathroom mirror, background of your phone, by your desk at work, and feel free to post on the Health Sense Group facebook page. Be bold, in the words of Charles Richards: “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days as you make use of.”

For some further reading, check out the links below:

7 Mental Health Resolutions for 2015: http://time.com/3641834/mental-health-resolutions/

9 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions: http://www.rd.com/slideshows/9-healthy-new-years-resolutions/

http://ed.ted.com/on/cu5IwKY6

http://www.smart-goals-guide.com/Caroline-Casey.html

https://www.ted.com/playlists/217/talks_to_inspire_new_year_s_re

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