Tuesday, January 24, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions and Goal Setting


By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

Happy 2017! As the start of a new year naturally turns our attention towards taking stock and setting a new year’s resolution, you have probably started to think about what you’d like to accomplish or change over the course of this year. “I want to be healthier” or “I want to be happier” are all examples of the first step of resolutions, yet they lack a focus and a structure, which makes them tougher to accomplish. Goal setting is a great tool to guide you as you hone in on the specifics of your resolution and how to get there.

Before you set your goals though, you want to think about the level of commitment you can make towards achieving this resolution. What are your priorities, and how much time do you realistically have to devote to this endeavor? Current work, family, finances, other interests, and health status all need to be considered, as, from year-to-year, goals change due to these factors. The last thing you want to happen is setting the bar too high and feeling disappointed or giving up. You want to set goals that are challenging and help you rise to the next level, but that aren’t too lofty that you are setting yourself up for failure.

Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For instance, the New Year’s resolution, “I’m going to live a healthier lifestyle” is a good start; however, the lack of specificity may hinder your focus and ability to accomplish this. One way to transform the resolution into a SMART goal is: I’m going to meditate 10 minutes a day and eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day (specific). I will keep a daily log to measure my progress (measurable). I’ve never meditated before so I’ll start by downloading a meditation app, learn the guidelines on how to meditate successfully, and listen to the guided meditations provided. I will pick out and buy one new fruit and one new vegetable to try each week (achievable). I will meditate in the morning before I get out of bed, and I will talk to my family about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our meals (realistic). I will do this and log my progress for the next six weeks and then assess where I’m at, and make new short-term goals (time-bound). When you turn your resolution into a SMART goal, you will know exactly when you accomplish it, giving you that boost of encouragement to move to work towards the next step as well as the chance to savor the moment and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

So, for 2017, what is an exciting yet realistic goal for you to reach toward? It would be helpful to first brainstorm and write down your ideas, then choose a couple to start with, and rewrite them into a SMART goals format. You can revise them anytime you’d like. Posting your goals in a place you will view them frequently, such as taping them to your computer, the fridge or the steering wheel will help to keep you on task and motivate you.

May you accomplish your resolutions and learn along the way, and Happy New Year!

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