Goal setting for the new year
This little lull between Christmas and New Years is often a time when people think about their goals for next year re: New Year’s resolutions. Whether your goal is health related, financially motivated or relationship driven, there are some principles that can be followed which I believe are invaluable. Since I am a chiropractor and spend my days helping people achieve healthy objectives, I am not equipped to render any money related advice to you. I will, however, lend a little insight about how you might want to achieve your health goals. Here are my do’s and do not’s for the New Year:
Do: Make your goal SMART. Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Oriented. This is a really handy tool when setting your goal. If it does not have some parameters, chances are it is too vague. Saying I want to get “healthy” is great, but if you don’t know specifically what you want to achieve, you won’t know where to start and will have a tough time achieving anything measureable.
Do Not: Make it too complicated. I encourage my patients to pick a maximum of 1-2 goals to pursue. If you say “I am going to lose weight, exercise 5 times a week, eat clean and stop smoking” this is setting yourself up for frustration and failure. Picking one goal and sticking with it is hard enough to succeed at. Once you have achieved what would be called a “Maintenance” stage in the Stages of Change model, then consider selecting another goal.
Do: Make a Plan. In order to make a sustainable change and get to the all important Maintenance stage, you need to make a plan that is going to take you to at least the 6 month point. Whether it is quitting a behaviour or adopting a new one, it is critical to plan. If you are planning to exercise more in the upcoming year and have little knowledge on where to start, you will need help. Find it within your budget to seek the required expertise to help you. This can vary greatly from hiring a personal trainer to see you weekly and monitor you or to finding a friend who is encouraging and supportive to help you go for daily walks. There is room for exercise in EVERY Budget. If a gym pass is what you desire but can’t afford; the YMCA in the Okanagan has financial supports for low income households.
Do Not: Give up after one failed attempt. Adopting a new behaviour or ending another is almost always a case of trial and error. For example the success rate of smoking cessation on the first attempt is less than 10% and some research has shown that adopting regular exercise is even more difficult. Do not expect to be 100% victorious on your first attempt and don’t be so hard on yourself! Have a plan in place for when a relapse occurs. The whole Stages of Change Model is built around anticipating setbacks. The success rate for people who are on their 3rd or 4th attempt at smoking cessation improves.
Do: Look for the fringe benefits of what you are trying to accomplish. Here’s the bad news: if you are new to exercise and using this as your vehicle to lose weight, prepare to be disappointed at the progress. Exercise adoption and weight loss can be achieved; however it is a slow process. A 180 pound person walking for 60 minutes at 5.60 km/hr will burn 324 calories or about 1/10 of a pound of fat. Here’s the good news: The benefits of regular exercise go far beyond weight management. Exercise is vital for everyone on a regular basis. It is important for heart and pulmonary health, musculoskeletal health and function, stress reduction, depression prevention, a real reason to wear those yoga pants and social benefits with friends and family. Try and focus on how you feel during and following exercise and how your body is changing in other ways rather than just what a scale is telling you.
Dr. Marc Nimchuk