goals.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you sticking with it?

We’re only 2 weeks into 2017, and, chances are: 1) you made a resolution & are sticking with it, but just aren’t too gung-ho about it; 2) you made a resolution & haven’t started it yet, telling yourself, “I’ll start next Monday;” or 3) you’ve decided not to even make a resolution this year “because I won’t keep it anyway.”

I have a suggestion for an alternative to making a New Year’s resolution. Why not try setting a wellness goal for yourself? Think about how many New Year’s resolutions you’ve made & how many you’ve kept. I know I’ve made too many for me to remember, but I know how many I’ve kept. One. I remember only ONE resolution I made and actually followed through on, & that was to take more pictures to have a tangible record of the memories made with family & friends. On the other hand, I’ve set many goals, and have made several life changes because of these goals. So, what’s the difference?! The difference is that when setting a goal, you get really detailed and specific, and you can celebrate small achievements along the way. This is a more positive way to make changes or work through problems.

Working toward a goal is a journey, and a journey begins with a single step, to loosely quote Lao Tzu. If you notice, I end most of my posts with “Happy Journey.” Life itself is a journey, and each step on this journey enjoyed & celebrated. If you set goals for yourself, you can incorporate those small celebrations into your life, rather than beat yourself up over another failed New Year’s resolution.

New Year’s resolutions tend to be broad, and let’s face it, most are unrealistic and unachievable. Goals are SMART: S) specific, M) measurable, A) achievable, R) realistic, and T) timely, meaning you have a time-frame. There are other words used for this acronym, but these make the most sense to me when setting goals.

Consider setting your goals with a focus on achieving wellness, happiness, & life balance, rather than “losing weight,” “wealth,” or “success.” These latter terms are too broad, and when your weight fluctuates, you have a financial setback, or someone else gets the promotion you’re hoping for, you’re likely to label yourself “a failure.” With goal-setting, you can celebrate your small successes, expecting setbacks so you’re prepared for them, but you’re able to continue your journey with a positive attitude. Goals, like YOU, are dynamic. Goals are flexible, and can be adjusted as needed. Goals give you focus and balance, but aren’t so rigid they can’t be tweaked along the way.

So, how do you get started? First, you identify what it is you want to change. If you know you need to lose weight because the doctor told you so, decide what is an acceptable and realistic amount, say 10 pounds. It’s okay to have a broader long-term goal, so your long-term goal would be: “I will lose ten pounds.” This goal is somewhat specific, but it doesn’t establish how and when you want to reach that goal.

Now, how do you get from 150 pounds to 140 pounds? This is where you get SMARTer. For example only, (I’m not recommending you restrict calories, except by advice of your doctor), here is a short-term goal:

“I will consume 1200-1500 calories, incorporating nutritious foods, daily for the next 3 months, allowing myself one day weekly to enjoy some of my favorite foods.” This goal is specific (also specified “nutritious”), it’s measurable (1200-1500 calories, daily, 3 months, and one day weekly), it’s achievable, it’s realistic (you’re allowing yourself a lenient day), and it’s timely (you can celebrate each day you stay between 1200-1500 calories, and celebrate your total weight loss at the end of the 12 weeks -which may or may not be the 10 pounds goal, but you still have roughly 40 weeks left in the year to reach the long-term goal).

Another example (again, get your doctor’s advice) of a short-term goal:

“I will walk 1-3 miles 3-6 days weekly, for the next 3 months.” Again, this goal is specific (I will walk), it’s measurable (1-3 miles; 3-6 days; 3 months), it’s achievable, it’s realistic, and it has a time-frame. In this example, you’re allowing yourself at least one day weekly to rest, “1-3 miles” allows a flexible range (if your honest with yourself, you may not feel like the full 3 miles every day you walk), and “3-6 days weekly” allows for the weeks when life happens, and you just aren’t able to take the time to go for that walk.

When setting goals, you’ll have one long-term goal, and have several short-term goals (objectives or steps) to get you to that long-term goal. If needed, you can change these along the way, or discontinue them, and set a completely different short-term goal. These goals don’t have to be achieved within the year, unlike a resolution. Your long-term goals may include a 5-year goal or a 10-year goal.

For example, if a value for you is “success,” you may want to set these longer-term goals. A 5-year goal might be “Open a part-time geriatric private practice.” A 10-year goal could be “My geriatric private practice will go full-time.” Short-term goals might include: “I will become a certified geriatric therapist by December 2017, through attending 30 hours of continuing education in aging-related workshops, and completing the application requirements.” By using the SMART goal-setting model, YOU define what “success” means to YOU, and you’ll celebrate all of your small successes along the way. Just keep in mind that there will be setbacks. When you openly and honestly accept this fact, you will develop a more positive, balanced life.

What are some of your goals?

Happy Journey!

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