You started the New Year full of motivation and enthusiasm. You decided that this is going to be your year to make lasting changes and improve the quality of your life. Now that we’re almost a month in, perhaps your motivation has started to wane and a little doubt has crept in. Does this mean that you’re doomed to repeat the failed resolutions of the past? Definitely not! Take a few simple steps to ensure that your resolutions last from January to June to December—and for the rest of your life. Here's how.
Make your goals SMART: specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely. If you're goals are vague (instead of specific) or don't have a deadline (timely), then failing to reach them might not be your fault—it's the fault of your goals. Revisit and revise to make your goals SMART. For example, a goal to “Walk a 5K this year” is a good idea, but isn’t very specific. When do you want to walk the 5K? How are you going to progress up to this distance? A better way to state the goal would be: “I will walk my neighborhood 5K in June. I will start SparkPeople’s 5K walking program in April to train for the race.” Also don’t be afraid to adjust your goals as time goes on, depending on your needs and progress.
Create a routine you can live with forever. Will you lose weight faster if you go on a crash diet and exercise for two hours a day? Perhaps. But are these changes you can sustain forever? Not likely. The reason “diets” don’t work is because they force you into a style of eating that you can’t maintain long-term. As soon as you start eating normally again, the weight comes right back. And I don’t know many people who can exercise two hours a day for very long. Unless you’re training for some kind of endurance event, you don’t need that much exercise. Sooner or later, it will burn you out, both physically and mentally, so develop a reasonable exercise routine you can enjoy forever. Don’t consider your goals to be a race to the finish, but rather a life-long journey.
Set goals that mean something to YOU. Don’t set a goal to lose weight or make other lifestyle changes because family or friends have been bugging you about it. Do it because it’s important to you and you feel the need for a change. Resolutions don’t last when you create them out of pressure from others. You’ve got to be ready.
Plan, plan, plan. You’ve decided you want to lose 50 pounds this year. How are you going to make that happen? What will you do when times get tough and motivation is low? It’s great to have goals, but if you don’t create a plan to accomplish them, you’re much less likely to follow through. Consider breaking your large goal into smaller milestones and don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. Identify your areas of weakness and create a plan of action to deal with them. With the right strategy, success will be inevitable!
Get others involved in your goals. People naturally perform better when others are on their side and helping out. Even in everyday nutrition and fitness, people who involve others and ask for help get much better results and stick to their programs longer than people who try to reach their goals without any outside support. Positive peer pressure can be one of the most powerful motivators around. It’s tougher to quit when someone else is counting on you. In fact, with a team that’s pulling for you, it’s less likely that you’ll want to quit.
Surround yourself with positivity. Whether its feedback and support from others or positive self-talk, a good attitude will help you reach your goals with greater success. Even if you are a "glass half empty" type of person, you can re-train your mind to see things in a positive light. Because of their thought processes, optimists have much brighter futures. A bad circumstance or event is taken in stride, viewed as a temporary setback—not a permanent way of life. Even if something bad happens today, a positive thinker believes that good things will come again in the future. Things aren’t always going to perfect and they might not go the way you’d expect. Keeping a good attitude and believing in yourself will help you quickly get back on the path to success.
The key to keeping up momentum is to point your efforts in a healthy direction—and to celebrate each step along the path. Choose something to build (a solid running base, a pantry full of healthy food, a daily meditation routine) and then pat yourself on the back for each step forward. You’ll be surprised how quickly the year goes by as you accomplish goals that once seemed out of reach!
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