Are you making New Year’s resolutions for 2015? Studies say that about half of us usually vow to change something about our lives in conjunction with the New Year—and the number one resolution is “losing weight.” “Getting or staying in shape” clocks in at number five.
So far, so good. The problem is that despite their best intentions, less than one in ten women who make resolutions actually achieve them. The issue isn’t lack of motivation or drive—it’s more likely the kinds of resolutions that are made.
Too often we set a goal like, “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get in shape.” That’s admirable, but too vague. More specific would be, “I want to lose ten pounds,” or “I want to get back into my favorite skinny jeans.” This is a more specific goal, which is good, but it’s still an all-or-nothing objective that sets you up to fail—you either make it, or you don’t. (Think about it—if you lose “only” eight pounds but feel confident and look amazing, does that mean you failed? That’s why these kind of “outcome” goals may be unwise.)
Get Smart About Your Goals
If you want to achieve your fitness and diet resolutions in 2015, change your approach. Instead of focusing on a “big” goal (that magic number on the scale), choose to focus on behavior changes that you are within your control. Researchers call these “SMART” goals, for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
You may have heard about SMART goals before, but you may not have harnessed them to help meet your resolutions. SMART goals put the focus on your behavior, not the overall results—but when you meet your SMART goals, you have a better chance of meeting your “big” goal as well.
So let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds. That’s your starting point. Now think about what behaviors could help you reach that goal, and set SMART goals reflecting that. Those SMART goals might include: “I will lift weights for 30 to 40 minutes three times every week” or “I will eat at least two servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner” or “I will limit my soda intake to one/day and drink water the rest of the day.”
Thinking about what you’d like to achieve—and how you can go about doing it—can help invigorate your fitness routine. Whether you’ve been a couch potato who needs a boost to get moving or want to tune up your regular plan to meet your goals, SMART goals can help you do it.
Just be sure to consider where you are now when you set your goals. What’s your current fitness level? How much time do you have available to work out? What commitments may interfere with your plans? SMART goals should take all of those factors into account to be effective.
The specificity of these kinds of goals make it easy to track your progress—if your goal is to workout at least four times a week, for example, or drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day, it’s easy to see if you’re on track—or not. If you’re not meeting them, consider tweaking them to better fit your lifestyle.
There are other proven benefits to setting SMART goals, too. First, research shows that the act of setting fitness goals makes you more likely to stick with them! Plus, success breeds success. So if you stick to your workout plan for three weeks, you’re more likely to continue to do so even when you get overloaded with work or don’t feel like going to the gym. And that means you’ll be empowered—and able—to make those resolutions stick this year.