Setting Goals for the New Year
The New Year is here! Have you decided on a resolution? Often, these yearly goals focus on improving overall health. One common goal I hear from family and friends is, “starting January 1, I am going to eat only healthy foods.” But, as time goes on, some people struggle to keep that enthusiasm and motivation high the entire year. As you create your resolution for 2021, keep in mind that “SMART” goals help in producing long term success.
The letters in the acronym SMART stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. These characteristics help make each goal unique and focused on your specific needs. As a result, it provides motivation and purpose to change unhealthy daily habits. Knowing how to write a SMART goal is valuable in creating a healthy lifestyle.
Successful goals are specific. For example, “to eat healthy” has different meanings to different people. Targeting a broad area to change, such as healthy eating, can be overwhelming. A more specific goal would be “to eat more fruits and vegetables.” However, one person may see this goal as eating one piece of fruit daily while another person may see it as eating a vegetable at every meal. A more clearly stated resolution would be “to eat a vegetable at least three times a week with breakfast.” Having a specific goal helps with the next step, having a measurable goal.
In the example above, the goal is also measurable. Having a measurable number, such as “three times a week,” helps in monitoring achievement. At the end of each week, you can count the number of times that you had a vegetable with breakfast. If you achieved this, you can celebrate your accomplishment. However, you may notice that you were only able to eat a vegetable at breakfast on the weekend. If this is the case, a closer look should be taken at the barriers that are preventing success or you may need to readjust your goal to a more realistic number, which brings us to the next factor.
Goals need to be attainable. A weight loss target of 60 pounds may be ideal to achieve a healthy weight. However, this high number can seem like an overwhelming challenge to take on. Studies have shown long-term success in weight loss is better achieved when smaller more attainable goals are set. For example, a four pounds per month weight loss goal is not only more realistic, but it also helps to build confidence as you celebrate.
Choose a resolution that is relevant and meaningful to you. It is important to choose a goal that you feel is important. This is key in sustaining motivation. When changing health behaviors there are periods where it can be difficult to keep that motivation. You may start to question why you are working toward creating that change. Having a meaningful goal in mind helps you to continue to move forward.
Finally, a time frame should be in place. Most resolutions are focused on the entire year. However, setting monthly goals for the year can help to make sure that you stay on track. Having a monthly reminder in your calendar helps enforce this aspect. Throughout the year, remember to celebrate your achievements! Treat yourself to something that encourages you to maintain your success. For example, buy a new item of clothing or go for a hike on a new trail. As you decide on your New Year’s resolution, it can be well worth the time to write it down and carefully plan it. Celebrate this New Year by starting it smart!
N.C. Cooperative Extension of Lee County’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN, at 919-775-5624.