A lot of New Year’s resolutions sound like great ideas. They seem like the solutions to so many problems. That strict diet that you start on January 1st or next Monday will better your blood glucose, slim you down, control your cholesterol, get you off blood pressure medications and so much more. And your new gym membership will do the same.
Unfortunately, resolutions rarely last very long or give us that huge impact we’re after. Resolutions tend to be grandiose and eventually feel like punishment. If you want to make changes this year, skip the resolutions and commit to a few small behavioral goals.
Why Small Goals?
Small behavioral goals are likely to become habits. A small goal such as eating 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables is much more realistic than overhauling your diet completely. By planning your steps to eat your vegetable servings day after day, you’ll soon have a good habit to rely on.
They spur us on to bigger things. Success motivates us to pursue more success. Start small to get the jumpstart that leads to bigger goals and bigger results.
They aren’t so black and white. Once those big resolutions are broken, that’s usually the end of them. But small goals aren’t simply a function of our resolve to do something difficult. Small goals allow you to focus on the process of meeting your goal even more than the outcome of meeting it.
Using the example of eating 3 servings of vegetables every day, you’ll learn what it takes to prepare them, schedule time to shop for them, pair them with other foods and so many more skills that you can use for other, bigger goals.
6 Steps to Goal Success
1. Know what motivates you
If getting regular exercise is your goal, ask yourself why. Write down a list of whys. Is it a path to better blood glucose management? Better sleep, more energy, greater heart health, more confidence? Pick a goal that you want very badly. Avoid picking one just because you should want it.
2. Know the negatives
Every tough change has at least one negative associated with it. Otherwise, you would have already done it. Does meeting your exercise goal mean that you have to wake up earlier, pay for childcare or eat dinner at a different hour?
3. Write clear-cut goals
Use the following to write a more detailed plan:
Specific. Write your goal so it passes the stranger test. Will strangers know exactly what you plan to do if they see your goal written? They won’t if you say that you’re going exercise more, but they will if you write what you will do, how you will do it and where you will do it.
Measurable. Words, like more, less and better are too vague to measure. You should be able to say that you met your goal with 100% success or 66% success or any other number.
Action-oriented. You are in control of your actions or your behaviors, but sadly, you don’t have 100% control over your blood glucose measurements or body weight, as examples. Write your goals as behaviors.
Realistic. Make sure your goal is attainable with the resources (money, time, energy) that you have available.
Timely. Identify when you will engage in the desired behavior and when you will assess your results. For example, you will walk outside or dance in the living room 5 mornings after breakfast for at least 10 minutes. And you plan to assess your results in 1 week.
4. List your steps to success
This is easy to ignore, but critical to do. It’s not enough to say that you’ll exercise 5 mornings this week. You also need to identify what it will take to be successful. Do you need buy new walking shoes, get out of bed a few minutes earlier, arrange for your spouse to look after the kids?
5. Ask for help
There are very few difficult tasks that we can accomplish entirely on our own. It’s okay to ask someone to watch your kids, unload the dishwasher, run an errand or do something else to free you up to take a walk or try out some new recipes.
6. Give yourself due credit.
Not being 100% successful doesn’t mean that you were 100% unsuccessful. Take pleasure in what you did accomplish. And look critically at your efforts and outcomes. What worked out well and what didn’t go so well? What did you learn? What part did you like? Use that information to tweak your goal and your plan to meet it next week.
Cheers to a happy, healthy 2020!
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND is the author Prediabetes: A Complete Guide and Diabetes Weight Loss - Week by Week. Find more food and nutrition advice from Jill at jillweisenberger.com/blog