It’s estimated that half of adults set New Years Resolutions each year, with only a fraction meeting them. Resolutions are often bad habits you’re trying to break, or goals you strive for in an effort to better yourself. Recognizing that old habits die hard, give yourself a break this coming year and set small, achievable goals. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, save money or get promoted at work, following some goal setting guidelines can provide direction and clarity in where you’re putting your efforts.

Focus on one thing at a time.

Changing too many habits at once can be uncomfortable and send us right back to where we started. We can make a laundry list of ways to improve ourselves – eat better, get more sleep, exercise daily, quit smoking – but there is likely no need to tackle these at once. Instead, pick the one that you feel you can succeed at now to get you moving in the right direction. There’s time to work on the others later.

Set SMART goals.

Goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, relevant and time-bound give us clarity and direction in where we want to maximize our efforts. Goals that are vague and can’t be measured don’t allow us to celebrate their successes.
Typical goal: I want to be healthier in 2018.
SMART goal: I will exercise for 30 minutes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to improve my fitness in 2018.

Be accountable.
Many find that sharing goals with a friend, family member or health coach keeps them on track. Additionally, make yourself accountable by writing down your goals and revisiting them often. Really brainstorm them out including possible barriers and a plan to move through those barriers. This is your action plan.

Finally, be accepting of goals and resolutions that fall flat. Instead, use it as a learning experience allowing yourself to revisit it with a fresh look or even take it off the table until you’re really feeling motivated to tackle it again. Sometimes failed goals are just indicators of where our motivation lies; accept it, revise it and keep moving forward.

By Cristine Griffing, certified athletic trainer for Northwestern Medical Center