Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Resolution & Good Intentions


It's that time of year again where we take stock of the last year and start to look towards our goals and resolutions for the new year. It's a great time to reconnect to your values and decide which direction you want to focus for the coming year.  Have you ever set a resolution you haven't achieved? We are all guilty of what I call 'The new year resolution dilemma'. It happens when we set ourselves lofty, and somewhat, unrealistic goals. How we set up our goals is just as important as the goals we choose. Here's a few things to consider while you plan for the year ahead:

Set realistic goals - Real change comes from small and sustainable changes. If you are looking at changing your diet or exercise regimens or learning a new hobby its helpful to keep in mind that these are lifestyle changes and should be a part of a balanced life. Be mindful of your language as you set goals - they are meant to prop you up and support your growth not to tear you down! 

Plan for real-life - There will be days when you are short on time, feeling sick, having a bad day or even on vacation. Have a backup plan for the days when life is happening so you can do a little something every day towards your goal. Did you get derailed? That's okay - life isn't about being perfect it's about being resilient. Have a plan for how you will keep yourself accountable when you have stopped making progress towards your goals. Don't let yourself get stuck in the shame spiral -setbacks happen and the best way to overcome them is having a plan! 

Have check in's - The best way to know if you are on track to meet your goals and keep your motivation flowing is to have check-ins along the way. Make sure your goals are measurable and revisit them frequently. I like to review my goals monthly as this allows me to notice where I'm doing well and what I have been neglecting before too much time passes and I lose momentum. 

Good intentions

Generally, new years resolutions are made for changes we want to make but often we focus more on end results or vague, sweeping resolutions instead of how we are going to get there or why we want to make the changes we do. It is also common to fall into the trap of making New Year's resolution from a negative place, instead of positive intentions.

For example, probably the most common New Year's resolutions is losing weight. Great, but what does this really mean and why are you making it your goal. When it comes to weight loss goals, think about why you want to lose weight. Is it because you want to feel better, have more energy or just be healthier? Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, focus on why you want to achieve this goal and changes that need to be made to reach those goals. This is also the important part of setting resolutions from a positive place instead of a negative- if the focus is on feeling better and how you are going to achieve that, it's a much more positive mindset than, "I weigh too much I need to lose weight."

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are lifestyle changes. It has actually been shown to take any where from 2 to 8 months to form a new habit (not the often quoted 21 days). So, set small changes and focus on those one at a time to ensure a lifestyle change vs a crash course that doesn't last. 

Try setting smaller, monthly changes that combined will help you reach your end goal. In the case of weight loss, for example, instead of vague "I want to eat healthier", quantify it. Maybe it's I want to eat 5 servings of vegetables a day, or I want to only have treats on the weekends or even I want to have only 1 cup of coffee/day. Focus this one goal for the entire month before adding another change.

Don't throw in the towel if things get off course or you mess up. Studies have also shown that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” Building new habits is not an all or nothing situation, it's a process.

Remember there are many factors that affect any resolution. If we look at the weight loss example again, yes, diet and exercise are the most common things that people think of, but there are other factors that will affect this goal- stress reduction, sleep, caffeine intake, water intake- just to name a few.  All of these are just as important when it comes to sustainable lifestyle changes and reaching your goals.

The new year is definitely the most common time for people to set goals and plan to make changes, but remember every day is a new opportunity. Even if you veer off course, you can recommit any day of the year!

Happy New Year and here's to reaching whatever goals you are hoping for in 2019!

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