Happy New Year! Have you made your New Year’s resolution? According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38% of resolutions made are weight related and 47% are other self-improvement goals. Did you know that less than 10% of the resolutions we make are successful? How can you improve the chances of your success?
First, congratulations if you made a resolution, because by identifying a goal, you increase your likelihood of success by 10 times.
Second, be sure your resolution goals (and don’t make more than two) are SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound.
- Specific. Identify specific small steps that can lead to a bigger goal. For example, instead of saying, “I am going to lose weight,” say, “I am going to eat a total of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day” or
“I am not going to add sugar or salt to my food” or “I am going to cut my intake of sugary beverages by half.”
- Measurable. Make it measurable, as in the examples above—”five servings” or “cut my intake by half.” This helps you identify success.
- Attainable. Make sure you can reach the goal. Look at your barriers and identify how you can overcome them. Say to yourself, “I want to XXX (your goal here), but it is hard because XXX (your reason here.)” To change your perspective and determine how you can best attain your goal, change the barrier to an “AND/SO” solution. Say to yourself, “I want to XXX (your goal here), AND it is hard because XXX (your reason here), SO I am going to do XXX about it.” For example, “I want to lose 10 pounds by Valentine’s Day, BUT I work night shifts and I don’t have any healthy options” becomes
“I want to lose 10 lb by Valentine’s Day, AND I work night shifts, SO I will pack a healthy meal and bring healthy snacks.” This technique will help you identify and avoid barriers and temptations.
- Realistic. Make sure your goals are realistic and healthy. Trying to lose 50 lb in 2 months is not realistic or healthy. Also, determine your readiness level: Are you willing to commit to this goal right now? If so, write it down, and tell trusted family and friends, who can be allies in helping you attain your goal. (Be aware that some individuals may have a vested interest in you maintaining your unhealthy habit. For example, they may fear losing a smoking buddy.)
- Timebound. Because your goals must be manageable, set deadlines and celebrate your accomplishments. Then set a new deadline to get you one step closer to your new goal. Remember, it takes 3 months for a change to become a habit, so commit to the change for that long and see if it is now a new way of life.
Third, enlist support. Whether your support is a family member, friend, phone buddy, or online community, there is strength in numbers. Engage those who have your best interests at heart or who already practice your desired change. For example, to lose 10 lb by Valentine’s Day, take a brisk walk with that physically fit neighbor or join the local gym with a coworker.
Fourth, if you don’t reach your goal, use it as a learning opportunity. Think about what prevented you from reaching it this time. What can you do differently next time? There is always a better way. Identify it, set a new SMART goal, and try again. Good luck!
Remember that ANA is here for you and supports your change to healthy behaviors through the Department for Health, Safety, and Wellness. As nurses, we are wellness role models, but change of ourselves should first and foremost be for ourselves.
Suzy Harrington is director of the Department for Health, Safety, and Wellness at ANA.