Published on December 28th, 2016 | from CAMH
Making good on your New Year’s resolutions
By Dr. Niki Fitzgerald, Psychologist in CAMH’s Work, Stress & Health Program
With the New Year just days away, you’re probably beginning to think of some resolutions for 2017. Weight loss, fitness goals, debt reduction and smoking cessation are some of the most common.
And if you’re like most people, those well-intentioned resolutions often become a distant memory before the month of January is out. And unfortunately, setting goals without following through can have a negative impact on our mental health. In a way, we’re letting ourselves down and reinforcing the belief that we can’t achieve what we’d like to.
But it’s not impossible. It’s about setting goals that are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound (SMART).
Let’s make 2017 the year you make good on your New Year’s resolutions.
Specific – Think about you actually want to accomplish. Being healthy is a great goal; however, it’s pretty vague and could mean countless things. What do you actually mean? Will you exercise more? Will you eat healthier? Will you take time to meditate and relax your mind?
Measureable – How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? What metric will you use to quantify it? Here’s also where you can put something of a plan into place. For instance, if your goal is to reduce your $2500 credit card balance to $0, you may decide to pay off $50/week until you reach your goal. Or if we revisit our goal of being healthy, perhaps you will aim to exercise three days per week for 30 minutes.
Attainable – Ask yourself; is your goal something that you can achieve in the context of your current responsibilities? For example, if you’re approaching a particularly stressful time at work, it might not be the best time to say “I’m going to quit smoking.” Instead, you might commit to holding to a certain number of cigarettes per day with a plan to reduce use once crunch time has passed.
When we achieve multiple, smaller goals we stay motivated to up the ante along the way.
Relevant – Why do you want to achieve this goal? Really give this one some thought. If you’re lukewarm about the idea in the planning phase, chances are it will join the land of other forgotten New Year’s resolutions before you’re done ringing in the New Year.
Once you have a solid list of reasons (and there might just be one or two really important ones), post them in a few key places where you’ll see them if your motivation starts to wane and you feel like you might throw in the towel.
Time Bound – By when would you like to achieve your goal? For years I’ve talked about doing a triathlon. It wasn’t until a friend gave me a race entry for one that expired in a year did I actually put my plan in place and compete in my first triathlon.
Having a deadline can go a long way to making a bucket list item a reality.
Once you’ve determined your SMART goal, tell someone about it; it will hold you accountable to following through (the comment section below would be a great way to announce your resolution!). Or even better, recruit others to join you on your mission!
Happy New Year! Best wishes for making those goals a reality!