Let’s start off this month’s post with a quick word association. When you hear the phrase, “New Years’ resolution”, what is the first thought that pops into your mind? Hope? Ridiculousness? Restriction? Success?
Some have a positive feeling associated with New Year’s resolutions, for many others, it probably evokes a slightly uneasy, or even negative feeling as you think of unsuccessful resolution attempts from New Years’ past. Unfortunately, this sentiment can make future resolutions less effective, or in many cases, non-existent.
You’re probably feeling a strong desire to change as we head into 2012, but lack of success with resolutions past make each year’s resolutions easier to let go. But realize that those previous, unproductive resolutions are not a reflection of you or your ability to make healthy changes. They may just be missing the right measurements for a successful resolution.
How can you make a successful resolution? First, consider if your previous resolutions were similar to the ones below, missing some vital measurements and directions:
• Vague: “I’m going to exercise more starting Monday!”
• Unrealistic: “No more sugar!”
• Non-Time Bound: “I am going to lose 50 pounds!”
Too often we make broad, sweeping statements on New Years’ with the intensity of a lion but then follow through like a kitten. The problem is, saying things like “No more sugar” or “I am going to lose 50 pounds” or “I’m going to the gym starting Monday” does not really change your current circumstances, nor does it prepare or motivate you to change them. Our thoughts are in the right place, but these thoughts need to performed consistently until they become habits. Habits create results. To change our habits, we need resolutions that motivate us to change consistently for the better.
And those are motivated, S.M.A.R.T. resolutions. A S.M.A.R.T. resolution has the following characteristics:
An example of a S.M.A.R.T. resolution is: “I will lose 20 pounds by May 31st, 2012 by increasing my physical activity level and improving two of my eating habits. I will continue to go to Pilates class on Mondays at lunch and perform my 60 minute full-body exercise session on Wednesdays after work. I will now add one day of run/walk intervals for 30 minutes on the weekend starting this weekend. I will have one less soda and one less mocha latte per week, as I know there are no real nutrients in either drink. Instead I will drink seltzer and a regular coffee with low-fat milk and one sugar. I will also replace one restaurant meal each week with a healthier, home cooked alternative.”
Can you imagine someone doing that resolution a lot better than “exercising more” or “no more sugar”?
You’ve now created a real, actionable plan that you can hold yourself accountable against. But of course, if we are not motivated to follow-through on our S.M.A.R.T. resolution, it is still just a “good idea.”
To determine your motivation, ask yourself this about your S.M.A.R.T. resolution: “Why did I choose this resolution? Why do I want to make these changes?”
To have more energy or lose weight are a start, but they aren’t good enough. Consider what you will DO with your increased energy and improved weight. Having it doesn’t necessarily make us happy . . . it’s what we do with the results that make us happy. Do you want to play with your kids and not get winded? Do you want to avoid a disease that runs in your family? Do you want to improve your self-image? Do you just want to feel like you are living your life like you should be? This is the stuff that real resolutions are made of.
Tell us your S.M.A.R.T. resolution and tell others, too. Making your S.M.A.R.T. resolution public, especially amongst supportive friends and family, has been shown to increase motivation and accountability. And that creates action, which creates habits, which produces results.
Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, author of Savor Fitness & Nutrition wellness blog and avid proponent of MyBodyTutor, a health coaching website dedicated to helping people stay consistent with their healthy eating and exercise goals.