So You Made a Resolution. Now What?

Many of us see the new year as a time to refresh and recommit to our fitness and health goals. For example, 40% of people recently polled by Insider made a new year’s resolution revolved around dieting or eating healthier. Unfortunately, only 8% of New Year resolutions are actually seen through to completion, according to research done by the University of Scranton. That statistic may be daunting, but here are some things that can be done to improve your chances of sticking to your goals this year.

Start with your “Why”

In Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective people, he suggests to view any activity within the framework of what is really important to you. He says, “Each part of your life – today’s behavior, tomorrow’s behavior, next week’s behavior, next month’s behavior – can be examined in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you”. What really matters to you? What is your reason for doing anything? When finding that answer, you will discover what I like to call your “why”. Reminding yourself of this “why” will make you more likely to take daily actions that help you reach your goal.

I remember gaining a little over 30 pounds in college, and the physical weight gain wasn’t initially enough to convince me to finally commit to a sustainable healthy lifestyle. In fact, I had tried and failed multiple times to lose weight with various crash diets. It wasn’t until I had a health scare that I became fully committed to my health. I simply wanted to be around longer, and I needed to take actions that would allow for that. I needed a big enough “why” to push me even when I didn’t feel like heading to the gym, tracking my calories, or putting down that second serving of cake in favor of some fruit.

Make S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Often times, we have a general idea of where we want to be eventually, but we become ships with broken rudders, aimlessly floating out in the vast sea of endless possibilities. Knowing where you want to be, but not when or how to get there may become overwhelming. It helps to break a general goal down into something more specific. This is where setting S.M.A.R.T. goals can come in handy. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Specific means assessing what exactly you want to achieve. Measurable means determining in what concrete ways you would be able to track success, and what evidence you would have of success, especially using some type of specific unit of measurement. Achievable means assessing if this is really something that can be done given the resources that can be made available to you. Relevant means considering if this is something important to your life – if and why it really matters to reach this goal. Time-based means setting a deadline for reaching this goal. S.M.A.R.T goals are useful for breaking high level goals into focused goals that are easier to track and assess progress against.

For example, after having my baby, my generic goal, “I want to lose this baby weight” became, “My goal is to lose the 50 pounds I gained while pregnant, by working out 3 times per week, combining strength training and cardio, and having a calorie deficit. This is important to me because I value my health and fitness. I will take exactly a year to reach this goal”. It was then that I could start to take specific actions, such as making a workout schedule, meal prepping, and tracking my progress towards my goal.

One great benefit of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is that this method really puts things in perspective – if you start to see that a goal is not realistic, not relevant, or your original deadline is too aggressive, it is much more relieving to modify it ahead of time, versus attempting a nearly impossible goal, and being discouraged when it doesn’t work out.

Self-Manage and Self-Monitor

The truly successful know how to reflect internally through self-management and self-monitoring. Self management refers to individuals managing their own behaviors, thoughts, and emotions and then changing whatever is not working. For example, it is what will help me talk myself into working out when I don’t feel like it, by first understanding why I don’t and then coaching myself into a more motivated mood.

Similarly, self-monitoring is a way to record the actions related to whatever behavior you are trying to change. For example, one can keep an exercise log, track meals on a food log or calorie counting app, keep a journal of how they’re feeling, and/or keep measurements. Benefits of self-monitoring include the ability to track progress over time, and through that increase adherence. So many times we don’t see how well we are doing until we look back and compare. Many times I will feel stuck with my goals until I look back at old pictures, or try on old clothes and see how differently they fit – self monitoring allows that comparison.

Both self-management and self-monitoring force you to stay accountable and honest with yourself. They may also lead to an “a-ha” moment when you assess how you feel and identify roadblocks, then begin to take action against those roadblocks.

Get an Accountability Partner

As great as it is to be able to self-manage and self-monitor, we are social creatures and often benefit from having someone around that can help us keep our commitments – also known as an accountability partner. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that by just deciding you will complete a goal you have a 25% chance of completing that goal, and by committing to someone else this increases to 65%. If you go as far as to set up a specific appointment with someone else to monitor your progress, your chance of success incredibly rises to 95%. You can use a goal with a deadline and share that specific timeline with your partner. You can then keep your partner posted on your progress with regularly scheduled check-ins to improve your chance of reaching your goals.

Even if you don’t know anyone personally, there are a lot of health and fitness based websites and apps that have social aspects that may be of help. When I was losing weight, I joined a now unavailable website called Calorie Count. This site had discussion boards, journals, and the option for people to become your “supporter”. Through that website, I met many that helped push me along my journey, congratulated me when I reached a goal, and encouraged me when I felt down. Similar sites available include MyFitnessPal, BodySpace, and even fitness trackers like Fitbit or Apple Watch now come with a community aspect.

Pull it All Together

If you followed these tips, you now have a goal that you know for sure really matters to you in the grand scheme of things. You have specific plan that is broken down into realistic actions with a deadline. You are now able to assess your actions daily and reflect on how well you are doing against those goals, even tracking this progress and holding yourself accountable. If you need extra help, you have been able to identify a few outside resources to help hold you accountable. Here’s to a successful year and to seeing your goals through to the end!