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Healthy2014As this final day of 2013 comes to an end, I find a few minutes to look back at a year that for some had ‘bad luck’ written all over it, and rejoice in what was learned and the family and friends that remain, while learning from the mistakes and less memorable moments.  Thankfully, another one of these ‘unlucky’ years won’t come by for another 100 turns of the calendar – long after these words disappear from the on-line stratosphere.

For those of you who have kept up with my inconsistent writing, thank you! Last year, when this project began, the goal was simply to learn the process and ‘get started’.  As 2014 begins, the goal is more specific – to write monthly.  Which brings me to the actual point of this post – resolutions vs. goals.

As the New Year begins, we all hear about ‘resolutions’ people around us are considering.  Losing weight seems to be the most common.  Funny enough, in over ten years in the health and fitness industry, I can count in one hand those who have told me “I want to gain muscle!” – but that’s a different post all together.

Let’s talk about resolutions… If we look at the actual definition of the word resolution, we could potentially explain why most of these are forgotten shortly after the beginning of the year.  For the most part, nowhere in this definition is there a clear path to finding the “solution” we seek.

resolution : the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict; an answer or solution to something

Most New Year’s resolution involved some type of behavior change (e.g. lose weight, start exercising, eat less, stop smoking); however, the problem with these resolutions is that they are not specific enough to achieve change.  To make changes we need to establish goals, not resolutions.

Unlike resolutions, goals tend to be more specific.  The mere definition of the word creates a sense of direction, which could lead to the changes one seeks.

goal: something that you are trying to do or achieve; the end toward which effort is directed

It is important to think about these “New Year Resolutions” as ‘a direction towards something’ and not merely ‘the answer to something’.  Perhaps the answer to loosing weight IS eating less and being active, but how are you going to do that? How are you going to start eating more vegetables, if you don’t know what to buy? How are you going to start exercising safely, if you don’t know what to do?  These are all part of the planning process of setting up goals AND will ensure that you achieve them.

Personally, I think planning for New Year goals should begin around November, but December 31st is not too late either; so let’s get planning!

In order to be successful when creating these goals, we should use the mnemonic SMART.  Let’s break this down:

Goals should always be:

S – Specific – Answer five basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

“e.g. I will join a walking club at the park and will attend 3 days/week” 

You can see how all the basic questions are answered here.  The ‘why’ should be the reason you are doing it in the first place.

M – Measurable – Establish a way to measure your success.  How are you going to know if you are falling ‘off track’? or if you are succeeding?

Participating in a walking club three days a week, gives you a way to measure your success.  At the end of the month you should have attended 12 times.

A – Attainable Personally, I think this is the most critical.  Think of goals that are challenging, but “easy” to attain – small gains can lead to great accomplishments.  Although having a challenge is always good, creating goals that are too overzealous can set you up for failure.

Wanting to run a full marathon is a great challenge; however, make sure you give yourself enough time to train and avoid injury.  Perhaps, planning a 5K in two months would be a more realistic goal.  Once, you get used to running and have completed the 5K, then set your goal to a 10K, then a half-marathon, and then the full marathon — see, small gains lead to great accomplishments!

R – Realistic – You have to be ‘real’ about your possibilities here.  This is where your personal experiences come into play.  What are you willing and able to “give up” to achieve your goal? Running a 5K, 10K, Half- or Full-marathon require commitment in your training and will take you away from your family and other responsibilities.  Are you willing and able to make that commitment?

T – Timely or Tangible – Depending what resource you look at, this final ‘T’ could mean either of these two.  Personally, although they are both important, I think having a ‘time‘ component to the goal is MOST important.

A tangible goal is one that can be experienced by one of the senses, which for the most part, people will consider goals that can be experienced one way or another.  Thus, having a time component is paramount to keep you ‘on track’!

The same way as the measurable component is specific, having a time frame provides a sense of “urgency” that would serve to keep your efforts focused. The resolution “I want to lose weight in 2014” provides a very loose “goal” that could technically be accomplished by loosing one pound before December 31st!  Was that what you were referring to when you set that goal?  How many pounds? If this is your goal, a four to six pounds per month may be reasonable (1-2 pounds per week).

With that said, enjoy the last few hours of 2013; celebrate with those closest to you and remember – you have 365 days to set goals and accomplish anything you put your mind into!

Happy New Year to all and until next time, #BeActive!