This is the time of year that friends, family, food, time off, travel and general year end madness hijacks our normal day-to-day and leaves us aching for routine and revision in the New Year. Which makes the birth of New Year’s Resolutions so timely (and so doomed).
According to a 2012 Study in Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50% of us in the United States will attempt to achieve a self imposed New Year’s resolution, while only a whopping 8% of us manage to successfully achieve these resolutions. You can read the synopsis here.
Most resolutions involve behavior modification (healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation are the top 3) and if you’ve ever attempted any one of the three you know that motivation and excitement wear off somewhere around noon. What gives?
Now for the good news….this research also shows that those of us who bother to actually set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve our personal goals than folks who don’t explicitly set them. So in sum, there is power in the promise.
The question remains, why do SO MANY of us who are clearly ready for behavioral change still not manage to sustain these things that we really, really want? Most behavioral psychologists believe that permanent change requires a shift or re-wiring of the way our brain responds to circumstance or stimulus. Behavior and neurological response is so much stronger than just ‘trying not to do’ something or ‘trying to do’ better. Our ‘ought to’ conscious thought is simply a weenie when it buts up against ingrained and powerful habits.
This is where goal setting comes in. Goal Setting Theory is widely used and recognized as an important and effective way of achieving and maintaining behavior change.
Goals are good. Without them I suspect I might never have: potty trained, graduated from high school, gotten a job, or run a marathon. Some goals are set for us, by our parents, society or others and some are set by us. On our terms, for our benefit. Because we want to enjoy life and longevity. Because we said so.
Knowing where we want to go is half the battle. Planning and proper care to get there is the other. Here are some tried and true methods for helping that nebulous resolution turn into a thing of attainable specificity.
A ‘Good’ goal is a SMART goal:
Specific (who, what, when, where, why etc..)
Measurable (how much, how many, how long, how fast etc..)
Achievable (within reach, then reset to attain larger goals)
Realistic (must be both willing and able to achieve)
Time sensitive. (within a specific time frame)
Set several small SMART goals to help you achieve your long term goal.
Celebrate EACH success and rework your SMART goals as necessary.
Make a Commitment:
Committing to another person, an organization, a friend… anyone, but COMMIT. Having accountability while striving for your goals is paramount in achieving them. It often feels ok to let yourself down (not really) but your sense of loyalty and commitment will help you muscle through.
Feedback is one of the most important tools in Locke’s Goal Setting Theory. It provides:
Clarity–in goals and attempts to achieve.
Benchmarks–what are the targets for along-the-way success.
Reworking–recognizing what is helping, hurting, hindering success.
Recognition–celebrating the milestones and small goals achieved while enroute to that larger goal.
Goal setting is a wonderful tool to make real and lasting changes in life. It is a skill and practice that is widely used professionally yet difficult to master in the personal realm. At least once in life everyone needs a little support setting health and wellness goals and some encouragement along the way. If 2014 holds big things for you and you’d like a little support, we’d be honored. Check out all of Four-Fit’s Programming that focuses on goal setting here.
Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year,
Kathryn and Steph.