For many people, the start of a new year presents a valuable opportunity to make healthy changes, as it signifies a new chapter and chance to start afresh. However, research shows that the majority of people abandon their new year’s resolutions by the end of January!
One of the key reasons why new year’s resolutions tend to fall flat is because the goals that people set are often too broad and overly ambitious. For example, come new year, many people decide to “get fit” or “eat more healthily”, and whilst these are obviously both great things to want to work towards, they’re describing the end goal and neglect the smaller actions needed to achieve these outcomes. It’s important to know what your desired outcome is, of course, but big overarching goals such as these can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve spent a couple of weeks relaxing and indulging in festive treats! To suddenly “eat healthily” or “get fit” can seem like a big leap and it can be hugely demotivating if you then find yourself struggling to make these big changes.
Instead, it’s important to break down your end goal into smaller, more manageable chunks, and to specify the steps you’ll need to take to help you get there. You’ll be more likely to achieve these smaller goals, which will help to maintain your motivation and move you closer to making the broader changes you desire.
A useful way to set more manageable goals, is by using a tool known as ‘SMART’ goal setting. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. In this blog post, I’ll be breaking down what each of these goal setting steps involve, to help you on your way to making sustainable healthy changes in 2023.
The first step is by getting really specific. You might know that you want to improve your fitness or your diet, for example, but these are both quite vague concepts. Think about what it would look like to get fit - Are there certain types of activities you’d like to do, or a certain place you’d like go to exercise? Similarly, what would it look like to improve your diet? Does this mean eating less sugar, increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, or drinking more water? It might be that the outcome you want involves making multiple changes but focus on one area and start with that. Using these same examples, a more specific goal might be to “eat three portions of vegetables a day” or “to go for a daily walk around the local park”. The more specific you make it, the clearer it’ll be what actions you need to take to achieve these goals.
The next step is by making sure that your goal is measurable in some way. If it’s a movement-related goal, you might want to quantify it by specifying how many times a week you’d like to do a given activity, or for how long. For example, you might want to commit to a 20-minute walk daily or to going swimming two times a week. Alternatively, you might want to decide on the number of hours sleep you want to get each night, or how many glasses of water you’d like to drink each day. Ensuring you do this means you’ll be better able to review your progress and assess whether or not you’ve met each of your goals.
As I pointed out previously, setting goals that are too ambitious can be really demotivating, as they are much harder to achieve straight away. When thinking about the changes you’d like to make, it’s therefore important to set goals that feel like they would be manageable to achieve and realistic given your current situation and with everything that you have going on in your life. For example, if you’re struggling with sickness or nausea, is it really going to be possible to commit to eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, if all you can keep down is toast? Similarly, if you’re suffering with back pain or other bodily aches, how likely is it that you’ll be able to go hit the gym five times a week? Really think about what feels right for you at this moment in time. Be compassionate and try not to expect too much of yourself!
It’s really important to consider how the goals that you’re setting are relevant to your life and the reasons why you want to make these changes. Are you setting a particular goal because it’ll make you feel better in yourself and improve your health or wellbeing? Or is it more to do with supporting the health of your baby? Perhaps it’s both! The most important thing is that your goals are really meaningful to you. Being clear on your ‘why’ can help to refocus you if you start to struggle and help to keep you motivated.
The final step is really simple and just involves setting a timeframe or deadline for achieving your goal. It might be that you’d like to achieve it by the end of the week, or if it’s a bit more challenging then it might be the end of the month. Go with whatever feels right for you, just make sure that it feels manageable and realistic. At the end of this timeframe, you can reflect back on your progress and assess how you’ve got on. If you’ve not managed to meet your goal, it might be that it’s still too broad or is not as well-defined as it could be. If this is the case, try modifying it slightly using the previous steps, and have another go. Remember that progress is better than perfection!