Welcome to the end of the year! It seems to have flown by—at least to me—and I’m planning for a busy month with patients and clients along with some vacation time at the end of December.
Of course, with the start of a new year comes reflection on the past and thoughtful looking forward. What would you like to achieve, do, or see grow within yourself in the next year? (Okay, here’s one of mine—add more cardio to my exercise routine.)
We’ve all seen how New Year’s resolutions tend to come with a brief burst of high motivation…followed by abandonment or, worse, a few steps backward. But over my 20 years of working with patients in my New York office and clients virtually across the country, I’ve developed a tried and true plan for crafting winning resolutions. Today I’d like to share with you two secret ingredients that go into goals that really work. In fact, without these key ingredients, I can almost guarantee you’ll be back to square one before the end of January. Read on for my 2-step plan for making your goals stick this new year.
Step 1: Define SMART goals.
Let’s use my example of adding more cardio to my workout schedule, because I know that many of you share that goal, too.
“Add more cardio to my workout” is a nice start, but this objective needs more shape. To get from wish to action, I need a clearer picture of what following through looks like. I advise clients to do that by making their goals SMART.
S is for Specific.
I will go to the gym at 7:30 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings for 30 minutes.
M is for Measurable.
I will perform 90 minutes of cardio per week and increase the speed and incline of the treadmill every month.
A is for Attainable.
I’m making sure not to set the bar so high that I’m guaranteed to fail. I can definitely accomplish this goal regularly, even if I have to get up earlier in the morning.
R is for Relevant.
I need my goal to fit in with my larger lifestyle and health objectives. Will doing this add to my happiness in some way? I think so!
T is for Timely.
Is it too much, too soon? In this case, no. I will be able to have this goal established as part of my routine as of February 1 and continue it until next January 1—at least.
Once you’re certain your goal is SMART, you’re ready to give it legs and put it in action. Roll up your sleeves and…
Step 2: Top your SMART with AWE.
AWE is what lights the fuse that brings a goal to life. I think of it as the “secret sauce” that makes a resolution actionable and, ultimately, achievable. Ready? Here’s how AWE looks in relationship to our example goal of adding more cardio to the workout.
A stands for Accountability.
I’ve told my family about my goals. I’ve also teamed with a fellow gym member. We’ll look for each other on specified days to offer mutual support and help keep each other on task. With people looking out for me, it’s much more likely that I’ll keep my word.
Another simple secret to accountability is to write down your goals. Studies show that a person who puts her objectives down on paper is 42 percent more likely to achieve them than someone who doesn’t.
W stands for Why.
What’s your bigger, more important reason for wanting to achieve this goal? For me, there are many, but the top 3 are these: to be fit to run after my grandchildren, to be 4 pounds lighter (and, bonus, fit easily into some new jeans, too!), and to be able to walk up a steep hill in my neighborhood without feeling short of breath.
E stands for Execution.
How am I going to get up on time in the morning? I’m going to get a new alarm clock. How will I get out quickly? I’ll have my workout clothes ready to go the night before. Plus, I’ve bought brand-new sneakers to inaugurate my new initiative. Ready, set, go.
Today’s technology can help add AWE, too. Look for wellness apps such as My Fitness Pal or others. Perhaps you could use a reminder when it’s time for your workout or when you’ve been still too long. Some apps help you keep tabs on your nutrition and calories and even alert you when it’s time for a snack. Others operate while you work out, recording your steps, heart rate, calories burned, etc. It’s a great way to stay motivated.
Now, it’s your turn. What’s a goal that is New Year’s Resolution-worthy? Write it down. Make it SMART, then pour on the AWE. Bingo! Before you know it, you’ll be on the road to making a new life-affirming habit that will go a long way to bolstering your personal pride and commitment. Congratulations and Happy New Year to us!