The start of a new year is all about new beginnings, fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions!
It’s natural to start off the New Year thinking about all the goals you want to set.
For many, this means setting health goals, such as losing weight, following a healthier diet, or starting a regular exercise routine.
Although we go into a new year with the best of intentions to smash these goals, it doesn’t take long for many people to give up on their New Years Resolutions or to forget about them entirely. In fact, studies show that a massive 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by mid-February.
So why is it so difficult to stick to these resolutions?
Here’s the problem: New Year’s resolutions involve habits – either forming new habits or quitting bad habits – and habits are complicated.
Habit formation is done by repeating a behaviour frequently and consistently and this can take some time. In fact, a recent study found that the amount of time it took for a behaviour to become automatic (AKA a habit) was an average of 66 days.
When creating new habits that you want to stick to all year round- a game plan is needed.
Here are some top tips for turning those resolutions into lasting healthy habits which you can stick to all year long, not just in January:
- Know your reason why
Know what you want and WHY you want it. Keeping your ‘why’ front and centre will give you the motivation you need to keep pushing through, especially during periods of struggle or when the going gets tough.
So, when coming up with your resolutions, ask yourself – “What is the reason for choosing this New Year’s resolution in the first place?”
If your goal is to lose weight, choose more healthy eating options or start exercising – ask yourself “Why?” Is it to be able to keep up with your kids or grandkids? To reduce your risk of chronic health diseases? Or is it to increase your confidence and to feel more comfortable in your body?
Having a long-term reason “why” is a powerful tool. However, it is not always enough when we’re starting out and have so far to go. Having a pre-defined game plan with a realistic goal and measurable milestones is one of the keys to success.
2. Be specific
We all want to successfully accomplish things in life but when goals are too general, unclear and not measurable it makes accomplishing them difficult. When it comes to setting your resolutions, use a framework such as SMART goals to help you come up with specific goals.
SMART goals are:
- Specific – Setting goals that address what, why, and how in detail provide a clear direction.
- Measurable – Goals should have a measurable outcome, i.e. I will lose 10% of my body weight.
- Attainable – Choose a goal that is possible, yet challenging. I will lose 10% of my body weight by next week would be amazing, but not very attainable. On the other hand, losing 10% of your body weight in 6 months’ time is more attainable.
- Realistic – Focus on goals that are realistic and consider your current circumstances
- Time-sensitive – Give yourself a time-frame in which to achieve a goal.
Here’s an example using the SMART goal framework: “By June 2022, I will lose 10% of my body weight to get to my goal weight of 85kg.”
While this goal is as specific as it gets- we’re still missing something – steps to get there.
3. Break up big goals into smaller goals
When you have a long term goal, you need a game plan to get there! It is important to break these goals into smaller, more achievable goals.
Using shorter-term goals such as the below examples helps makes goals easier to focus on and keeps you motivated; all while moving closer to the end result you’re wanting to achieve.
“I will bring my lunch to work at least three days per week to limit my intake of restaurant food for the next six months.”
“I will replace my soft drink intake with water every day to reduce the amount of sugar in my daily diet for the next six months.”
These smaller goals, allow you to change your daily habits and track your progress. Remember to celebrate those small achievements.
That’s right – celebrating your success after reaching small goals has been found to increase the likelihood of reaching longer term goals. So make sure you reward yourself and celebrate after reaching a goal or milestone, such as getting new workout gear, a bubble bath with your favourite magazine or posting a message on social media to share your success with family and friends.
In fact, having a supportive group where you’re able to share your successes is another way to increase your chances of successfully reaching those long term goals.
5. Get support
You may have heard this a million times but it’s because the buddy system works! Find a like-minded group to use as a solid support system. This will help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. Studies have found those who received support were exclusively and significantly more successful in reaching their goals compared to those without support systems. Use all the support systems available – remembering health professionals such as exercise physiologists, dietitians and psychologists. All these experts can help you come up with strategies to move past barriers as well as guide, educate and support you in moving forward in reaching your goals!
6. If you fall off track, get back on quick
Always remember this – Your daily habit formation is going to pivot on your ability to bounce back.
It will take time for your goals to become a reality and we know change and habit formation is difficult. In fact, you should establish that some room for mistakes and setbacks will be needed. Setbacks happen and will not impact your goal, as long as they are handled correctly. The key is to have a positive, ‘can do’ attitude. Ie. “Well I screwed up today, I’m going to own it, learn from it and move on. I CAN DO THIS!”
The most successful people in the world slip up on their habits too. What separates them isn’t their willpower or motivation, it’s their ability to get back on track quickly.
When resolutions end up sticking, it’s not by chance. A successful New Year’s resolution involves multiple components: a reason why, a realistic goal, a clear game plan, measurable milestones, a reward system, support, a plan for setbacks, and a positive mindset.
With these key parts, you can be successful in setting achievable New Year’s resolutions that will stick for a lifetime.
Tegan Tudor, WLSA Dietitian