Happy New Year! This time of year is always so refreshing. We set new goals for ourselves, focus on where we are currently in our lives, and where we hope to be by the end of this year. It’s the one time of year I feel we really focus on self-evaluation; something we tend to overlook as our lives are consumed with busy schedules. Unfortunately, by the end of January most of us have already “fallen off the wagon” and lost our focus. I would like to give you some tips and tricks to help you keep those resolutions and continue to work on your best self throughout 2018.
First and foremost, don’t set resolutions. At this point you’re thinking I’m crazy, but the term resolution tends to hold little value to the individual. Instead, set an intention or a promise to yourself for 2018. Think of those two words and the amount of weight each of them hold, especially ‘promise’. If we make a promise to ourselves, it makes it a bit more serious, doesn’t it?
It’s also important to write your 2018 promises down. Start a new journal, write them on a sheet of paper and post it somewhere you look every morning (the mirror, fridge, even in the shower), or make a poster board for yourself or as a family to display in the house. You can do as much or as little with this as you want to, but it’s important to take time to record your promises you hope to keep throughout the new year. There are also apps you can use such as Done and Habit List which lets you set your goals and receive reminders about them.
Make sure your intention is the right intention, and is realistic. Your intention should be focused on something you hope to achieve or overcome, not something someone else or even society is telling you needs to be changed. Also make sure your new intention is not vague and is something you can set a realistic plan to achieve. A common acronym used in Extension programs, as we have to set a plan for the programs we’ll deliver for the year, is to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For your new year’s promise to yourself, make sure it is:
Specific – Be clear on what you hope to achieve. “I want to lose weight” is not as clear as “I want to lose five pounds in two months.” This leads us into the next letter of our SMART goals.
Measurable – If you set a specific intention, it should also be easily measured. “Eating healthy” is not as specific of a goal as “eating 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables a day.” The latter can be measured much easier, right? For fitness or weight loss goals, this seems pretty obvious. However, if you’re trying to change a certain habit, such as smoking or being on social media too often, it helps to log your progress in a journal, your phone, or an app.
Achievable – This is similar to the term realistic. Make sure your intention is something you can actually achieve. Losing 30 pounds in a month is not very realistic. Even exercising five days a week is a bit much if you have never exercised or haven’t exercised consistently in a while. Instead, shoot for exercising two to three times a week, then work your way up to five days over a few months. Personally, I feel I have to go to the gym for at least an hour to exert all my energy. When I think of physically doing that, I am already exhausted and I end up going home and not exercising at all that day. However, if I told myself that I would just go walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, I would be more likely to stick to that goal and maybe even have the energy to do some other activities while I was at the gym. Be realistic!
Relevant – Make sure your intention is something that really matters to you. You’re much more likely to stick with it if it is something you care about and you personally want to change. Spend some time thinking of a goal that YOU really want to achieve, that YOU feel is actually good for you, and with people YOU bring into your life that will reinforce your new intention.
Time-bound – This is similar to measurable and achievable. Make sure you have enough time set to achieve your goal, and even add some smaller goals in between. For example, if your intention is to exercise five days a week by April, you may only exercise two days a week for a month, then three, then four, and by April you’re at five days a week. Think of this as working your way to a new lifestyle or working a new habit into your routine.
I hope you all will be blessed this year to reach your new goals, new intentions, and new promises you have set this January. I am working on some programs to help you reach any health goals you may have, so call into the Extension office if you’re interested in signing up for any of our upcoming programs. I am only a phone call away to give you healthy recipes or exercise tips if you ever need them.
Sydney Johnson is an Area Family & Consumer Sciences extension agent, with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592- 7161.