Family, Self

You Made Your New Year Resolutions…Now What?

The ball has dropped, the bubbly has been consumed, and the New Year has been rung in.

About 45% of people will set New Year's Resolutions this year.  In keeping with tradition, many of those people will have already abandoned them. How can you break the tradition and have the confidence to be one of the people who succeeds? 

The following tools can be used to turn those resolutions into achievements.

1. Instead of resolutions, make goals

Not all goals are ones to resolve!

When the top resolutions are: lose weight, become more active, stop smoking, and cut back on drinking, we are not dealing with laziness or a lack of will. We are dealing with poorly set goals. The vagueness of these resolutions leaves us without the path we must take in order to achieve them. 

Think about what you would like to achieve in terms of specific goals. People are more likely to achieve goals with a plan to follow. The best goals are called S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific Measureable Attainable Realistic and Timely). 

Broad goals such as losing weight or becoming more active need to be more specific. "Lose 50 pounds" is more specific than "lose weight", likewise "run a 5k" is more specific than "become more active". The specificity of the goal allows it to be measured and when we measure our progress regularly we are more likely to stay on plan.

Once specific goals have been identified a timeline needs to be set. "Lose 50 pounds by 12/31/2015" and "run a 5k by September" are more specific and more likely to be achieved because we have a real timeline set to it.

Additionally, larger goals need to be broken into smaller, cumulative goals to keep momentum. "Lose 5 pounds each month" and "follow a 5k training plan to end on race day" are the perfect way to keep on track without becoming disillusioned by the larger goal. Five pounds is a lot easier to work towards than 50 pounds.

Take Away: Goals should be reasonable and something that we are connected to.

2. Engage your social network
Accountability goes a long way. Finding support groups online, joining in challenges, or even just making a goal public can have a huge impact on success. The more people are aware of our intentions, the more likely they are to support us and possibly even join in with us!

With a quick search, one can find any number of challenge groups on Facebook and other social media sites, where people with like goals participate for encouragement and support.  If a group does not exist, you can start your own challenge group and invite others to join in on the fun! 

Take Away: Goals are more fun when we work towards them with others!

3. Use technology to your advantage
Similar to using social media, applications on our computers and smart phones can be used to help track progress as well as to educate and to stay motivated. Some of the best applications I have found are "Fooducate" and "My Fitness Pal", and now days phone manufacturers have included their own programs such as Samsung's "S Health" and the "Apple Health" app.  Even Google has a fitness application that can track activity, food, and steps taken.

Speaking of activity tracking, the last few years there has been a rise in wearable activity trackers that link to their own apps and to programs such as "My Fitness Pal". These trackers monitor any number of metrics: steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, active time, food consumed and even sleep quality and duration. Some of the ever growing options include the entire "FitBit" family of trackers, "Jawbone's Up", "Garmin's VivoFit", and "Misfit's Shine". 

Take Away: While tracking is an effective tool to help in activity and weight goals, it is not always about the exact detail of what is tracked, it is about fostering consistency in action.

4. Make each month a new focus
Burn out is a big reason people do not follow through with resolutions. 

According to StatisticBrain, the percentage of resolutions maintained drops dramatically after the first month.  Resolution maintained through first week—75%, past two weeks—71%, past one month—64%, and past six months—46%. Only 8% of resolutions are followed through!

We can keep momentum going by switching things up quite a bit.  If you goal is to lose weight, try a new fitness activity each month. If you are trying to foster new habits of exercise and activity, try a new sport each month, or season.

Take Away:  Keeping something in the horizon can often provide motivation at the times when we need it most. 

5. Life is a sliding scale

The biggest tool that you can have in your toolbox is forgiveness.  We carry an all or nothing attitude on achievement, especially when it comes to losing weight or getting healthy. We look at one slip up or a less than ideal choice as a deal breaker. 

The key here is to forget perfection and aim for making the best decisions that you can in each situation. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness and then move on. Trying to lose weight but all that is offered at a business dinner is deep fried or laden in cheese?

Make the best choice that you can given the options in front of you and then let it go. One meal is not going to make or break you. We are looking at the cumulative effects.

If you are trying to be active and know that you are going to be unable to get to the gym for a period of time, a product called "Stack52" fitness cards, or the "Stack52" fitness dice are super portable and provide a fun way to exercise while on the road.

Take Away: Look at life as a sliding scale of choices. On one end is the least optimal, on the other the most optimal. There is no failure and no judgment.  

When you arm yourself with the right tools you are better suited for the job ahead and are able to turn those goals into the achievements you want. Life is a journey to be enjoyed. Find your shine in 2015 and have fun!