Getting and Staying Motivated in the New Year
It’s the new year and that means new you! Right? Every new year, millions of people set New Year’s resolutions, but most will be abandoned by February. How do we stay on track and meet those goals that we so desperately want to achieve?
First, raise your hand if you set the same goals every year. I bet a lot of people are raising their hands. We don’t set goals that we don’t want to achieve. We set goals with no plan, with no known meaningfulness behind them and with “loopholes.” This year, we want to help you achieve your goals. Follow the step below, and I promise you will get further than you have in the past.
- Starting is always the hardest part. In the past, we might have made the goal in our head (quit smoking, lose weight, meditate more etc.), but I want you to write it down! It has been seen in studies that when we write down our goals, we are more likely to achieve them. I also want you to take a step back and downsize the goal. What? Yes, downsize. Make it achievable. Do you want to quit smoking two packs a day? Start with eliminating five cigarettes a day or going to a smoking cessation counselor. Don’t make your goal “be down to one pack a day in a month.” We set goals too big, and when we don’t reach them, we abandon them.
- Think about your goal daily. I bring a journal with me that has my goals written down in it. It keeps me focused on what I want to achieve throughout the year. I don’t always hit them all, but for the last couple of years, I have reached more goals than I did in the past. Another benefit of having a journal is it helps you incorporate your goal into your daily life. Do you want to lose weight? Try taking the stairs every day instead of the elevator or go for a walk on your lunch break. When we think about the goal daily, we can work on changing our habits to help reach the goal.
- Use SMART goal criteria. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable/Meaningful, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. These criteria help you focus your goal so that you have fewer “loopholes. Example – “I want to lose weight.’’ This is a popular goal, but how much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it? How are you going to lose it? It could be one pound or 100 pounds? If you lose a pound in a week did you hit the goal? A SMART goal would look something like this: “I will lose 20 pounds to lower my cholesterol; I will lose weight in six months by going to the gym three times a week to walk; I will bring my lunch to work four days a week and limit going out to eat.” In the new goals, there are specifics about how much you want to lose, when you are going to lose it and why you want to lose it. These questions take thought, and when we put effort into our goals, we are more likely to achieve them.
- The next tool is to have accountability. A lot of the time, we go at goals alone. There is no support or anyone to lean on when you are having trouble. Your accountability buddy doesn’t have to be a friend. It could be a smoking cessation specialist, a therapist, a trainer, your doctor etc. Find someone who can be your support for when things get hard.
- Incentivize yourself! Listen, most people will work harder if they know that they get a bonus or a raise at the end of the year, right? So why not incentivize your goal? If you hit your weight goal, buy a new piece of clothing Stop smoking. Get that new TV. We are more likely to hit a goal when we know that there is a prize at the end of the road.
- Change comes with the potential for obstacles. Prepare for these obstacles and have a plan for how you will deal with them. Looking to cut out alcohol? Think about how you will prepare for parties that you attend throughout the year. Wanting to abandon your goal is also an obstacle that many will face. If you haven’t lost weight in a month, will you keep going? Your mind will want you to quit. Think of ways to push through. This is where incentives and accountability are key.
- Revisit and reevaluate! Sometimes, when we start a goal, we don’t know what we will encounter. What if you are doing well and lose 20 pounds in three months? Are you done? Do you want to lose more weight? What if you don’t lose any weight? Sometimes we make decisions knowing very little information, so revisiting and reevaluating every couple of months will allow us to make changes with new information or new goals.
- Lastly, and most importantly, give it time. Change doesn’t happen overnight. You aren’t going to wake up after 20 years of smoking and not pick up another cigarette. Being patient and compassionate with yourself and your progress is so important. Beating yourself up for going over your calories or smoking an extra cigarette is only going to push you backward. Acknowledge that you didn’t follow your plan and move on.
Hoping that all these tips help with accomplishing those New Year, New You goals! Happy New Year, everyone!