Making SMART New Year’s Resolutions – Updated 12/2012
Making SMART New Year’s Resolutions – Updated 12/2012 avatar

“I’m going to lose weight!” is just not good enough!

How to become one of the 11% that succeeds in keeping their New Year’s Resolution!

It’s that time of the year.  The New Year is just a few weeks away and all of us are taking inventory of our lives to determine what resolution(s) we can make.  It’s a time of renewal – a fresh start.  The problem is that only a small percentage of us actually follow through with our resolutions.  The reason most people fail is that they don’t make SMART goals.

For every 10 people who resolve to either lose weight or exercise starting January 1st, one will never start.  Another will quit by the end of the first week.  Two more will quit within 30 days.  Two more will give up before six months.  Three more will walk away between months 7 through 11.  Only one will be left standing… strong and fit at the end of one year.

In an online article by Jonah Lehrer titled Blame It On the Brain Lehrer says that we aren’t able to maintain willpower for long periods of time, much like our biceps can’t exert itself for long before it gives out.  We need to understand how our brain works and how to keep our resolutions simple and manageable.  He references a 2007 study conducted by British psychologist Richard Wiseman which showed that of the 3,000 people surveyed,  88% said they failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

So, how do you become a member of “The 11% Club”, the group that actually follows through?  By setting SMART fitness goals and not focus on what you are going to “lose” or setting unreasonable deadlines.

SMART is an acronym for goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based).  You have to have all of those elements in your goal to increase your chances of succeeding.  If you’ve made resolutions in the past like, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds by spring break” or “I’m going to try to exercise five times a week”, you’ve probably failed.  Those resolutions don’t come close to meeting all of the criteria of a SMART goal.  Here’s the anatomy of a SMART goal:

Specific – Narrow it down to exactly what you are going to do. “I am going to run three miles.”

Measurable – Can you actually add it up or measure your progress? “Can I actually run three miles, three days a week for two months?”

Attainable – Can you actually do it?  “Can I physically run three miles in my current condition?”

Relevant – Does it apply to your life at this point in time?  “Do I really need to run three miles to reach my goal?”

Time-based – Can you set a reasonable deadline? “Can I work my way up to running three miles in time for the 5K race on March 15th?”

What is a good SMART goal? “I’m going to join a gym, hire a personal trainer,  work out five days a week and keep my daily calorie intake to 1,800 calories for the next six months so that I can be healthier by summer.”  If you set a SMART goal like that, you will not only lose weight, but you will feel great in six short months.  One of my SMART goals is “I’m going to train for the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon in May by running three miles, three days per week and increasing one of those runs by .5 miles per week until I can run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.”

SMART goals don’t have to be long-term.  They can also be broken down into very short goals for your week or a single workout.  You can set a weekly goal like, “I am going to do three 30-minute resistance training workouts and three 45-minute cardio workouts starting at 7:00 a.m. this week and consume an average of 2,000 calories each day.”  A workout goal might be, “I’m going to do 3 sets of 12 reps of eight chest and triceps exercises in 45-minutes followed by 30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical at level 5.”  That’s much better than saying, “I’m going to lift some weights today and get on the treadmill for awhile.”  See the difference?  You have to break your long-term goals up into smaller goals.

It’s also important to reward yourself.  I’m a proponent of rewards and “cheat days”.  Some people won’t agree with me.  But, I might reward myself with a Starbuck’s coffee for completing a really hard workout that day.  At the end of the week, I will reward myself with a cup (not a bowl) of light ice cream or a slice of pizza.  If I reach a certain weight or reach a specific fitness goal (like running three miles on the treadmill under a certain time), then I might go out and purchase a new pair of jeans, workout clothes or running shoes (but only if I need them).  Lately, my body composition has been changing so much that I need to buy new clothes – a nice problem to have!  After all, what fun are goals if you can’t reward yourself and live a little, right?

If we set realistic goals, focus on achieving them, and reward ourselves once we reach them, we have a much better chance of succeeding.

To Your Health!

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