As a new year begins, it’s time to start thinking about creating a New Year’s resolution. Research shows it takes about a month to form a new habit, but even longer if you want the improved behaviour to become a sustained part of your life. That means that if you stick with your New Year’s resolution, you should have formed a new healthy habit by the beginning of February.
Good health doesn’t just happen. Often, a series of choices defines your health. Desire, motivation, and commitment to accomplishing a health goal are essential. If you aren’t committed to reaching a goal, chances are you won’t.
The truth is that we are all motivated to be healthy—who doesn’t want to feel healthy and lead a good quality life? But it takes something extra to commit us to those goals. We must ask ourselves why we want to accomplish a certain health goal. If it is because someone told you to, it’s unlikely that you will be successful. Perhaps it’s the motivation to become a healthy role model for your children, have more energy, or to have a better quality of life. What is it that motivates you?
Everyone is different, so creating SMART (Specific Measureable Attainable Realistic Time) goals can set you up for success by making your desired outcome specific to you. When breaking down your resolution into the SMART categories, the guesswork is eliminated and a clear path for success is paved.
S – Specific. When creating your goal, be very specific as to what you want to achieve. Saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save money” is not specific enough. How much weight? How much money?
M – Measureable. Make your goal something you can measure—add an amount or quantity to the goal. For example: “I want to lose 10 lbs” or “I want to save $100” is a good start. Keeping track of your progress is a great way to make sure that you are on track.
A – Attainable. Is this goal attainable for you, given your current schedule and your desire to achieve the goal? Are you prepared to make the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve this goal?
R – Realistic. Is this goal realistic? Do you have the necessary resources to achieve this goal? Have you looked into the details about achieving this goal?
T – Time. Creating a due-date for your goal encourages you to stay accountable. When there is no end date there is less of a sense of urgency and you are less likely to complete the goal. Marking your progress in a journal or on a calendar is a great way to create visual reminders on how much progress you have made.
After we achieve a goal, many times we don’t even see this as a goal anymore because it has become a way of life. A healthy lifestyle is made up of a series of choices and we are faced with new choices every day. Maybe you feel as if you are making all the right decisions and are healthy and fit. It is still a great idea to set a goal to maintain that direction.
Amanda Niskala is a Health Promotion Facilitator at Forth Macleod Health Centre.