This post is not necessarily nutrition related, because I write mostly about nutrition and not everyone has a nutrition/health related New Year’s Resolution, although all of my tips can be applied to health goals, as well as goals in life in general.
Every year I get excited about making resolutions because it’s always a good idea to have goals for yourself. In 2012, I promised myself in 2013 I would accomplish a long list of goals, which I’m proud to say I did this past year. Some of the things on my list were to return to school in order to study something I’m passionate about and want to make a career out of (nutrition!), save money, start a blog (this one!) and run more. I realized I didn’t go into any situation unprepared, rather I had a plan of how to achieve what I wanted and I always took time to see if my plans were coming to fruition in a satisfactory way. Here are my tips for making your resolutions become a reality in 2014:
- Take time to reflect upon what did or didn’t work for you in the past year(s). It’s difficult to make goals, or resolutions, if you’re uncertain about what specifically is keeping you from what you actually want to achieve. This is the time to be a little self-critical, because it will help you become more focused on the prize at hand. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing your mistakes and faults, it only makes it easier to improve yourself in the future.
- Write down all the things you’d want to accomplish in 2014. You can be as realistic or not as you want, but keep in mind, you’ll have to work harder for those out-there-desires, and you might be disappointed come mid-March, if you haven’t even made a dent in your goal.
- Once you have your resolutions written down, you want to have a plan on how to achieve them. The quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) sums it up nicely. You can have very specific goals, but without an actual plan on how to achieve them, you might be disappointed in the long run. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, now is the time to plan out how you should achieve that. Also refer to #1 (reflect on what works vs. what doesn’t). If in the past, you tried to lose weight through a low-carb diet, but you hate meat and feel lethargic when you limit carbs, then you need to take that into consideration and explore another option.
- Your plan should include a timeframe of when you want to meet specific markers of your goal. This past semester I took a business management class (ask me why a nutrition student needs to take a business class, I have no clue, but I digress) and one very useful thing I learned was that most people plan best when given a 3-month timeframe. So, let’s say your goal is to go from couch potato to avid runner, you might want to sign yourself up for a 5 or 10k in March. That way, you can build up your running to a comfortable yet challenging level three months into the New Year.
- Your plan should also have short-term goals and long-term goals. For someone looking to improve their health through diet and exercise, some short term goals can be to eat at least 4 servings of vegetables each day, exercise for about an hour most days, use less salt in each meal, and drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. Long-term components of this goal would be to reduce blood pressure, lessen risk of obesity, possible weight loss, and other cardiovascular improvements.
- Put your plan into action. Time for another motivational quote (get excited!): “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goeth). In other words, be prepared to work in order to accomplish your goals.
- Monitor your progress. If your goal is to lose weight, weigh yourself at regular, consistent times. Once a week is usually recommended. If your goal is something less concrete (say, one of your resolutions is spending more time with your family), you’ll need to look at the changes from a more qualitative, instead of quantitative, perspective.
- Reward yourself for your achievements. Positive reinforcement is a great motivator for behavior. Set up a system of rewards for each achievement in the New Year. For example, if one of your resolutions is to get in shape, make a chart and give yourself a star (or other marking) for each day that you went to the gym. If at the end of the week, you’ve earned 5 stars representing the 5 times you worked out, then reward yourself with something that makes you happy (not food or alcohol, which will probably negate the effects of the gym).
- Be Flexible. Life happens and sometimes life events get in the way of our immediate wants and needs. Stay focused on your goals, but don’t get disappointed if you get sidetracked. Whenever possible, just keep at it. It’s a clichéd saying, but progress is better than perfection so keep that in mind.
- The most important thing to remember is that goals can be made all year. Don’t put pressure on yourself to start planning an elaborate goal for the sake of having a New Year’s Resolution. Figure out what’s important to you throughout the year and have your goals be reflective of that.
Have a Happy achievement-filled New Year!