Starting small, staying consistent and being accountable are key to setting and achieving realistic goals.
Written by: Tehreem Khan Media contact: Anna JonesStarting small, staying consistent and being accountable are key to setting and achieving realistic goals. The new year is in full swing. Many people began the year with a list of lofty goals for self-improvement — weight loss, educational and career advancement, regularly exercising and eating healthy, and others. While it is exciting to set New Year resolutions, many fail to sustain them because of overcommitment or because the goals are unrealistic.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate of New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80 percent by mid-February. So, what exactly goes wrong? And what can one do to set goals they can stick to? One expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham has advice on how to set realistic goals and stay committed to them.
Understand the why behind goals
It is crucial to know, figure out and realize the “why” behind your New Year’s resolution to make it work, according to Eric Plaisance, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences.
“Ask yourself why you want to do this, what’s the purpose, what’s really driving you,” Plaisance said. “These answers will help you figure out exactly what realistic measures look like and identify activities you really enjoy doing — an aspect that is key for long-term success.”
A common pitfall is setting a goal that is simply not reachable given life circumstances. Plaisance encourages people to look at the big picture and understand that every person has a starting point on what is comfortable, safe and realistic.
“Crossing off smaller goals makes you more motivated to keep chasing bigger ones as your body adapts,” Plaisance said. “For instance, if you want to start running, try running one mile. Once you can consistently meet that goal, set a new one — perhaps it is running three miles consecutively. As you build up those small goals, you can start looking toward achieving bigger ones.”
Tailor according to personal needs
It is important to realize that no size fits all. Every person has different needs and access. The beauty of goal-setting is that anything and everything can be tailored to fit what one needs. For example, among people who are trying to lose weight and exercise regularly, some may have at-home on-demand fitness platforms, while others may be on a tight budget.
“The key to developing sustainable resolutions is figuring out what works for you,” Plaisance said. “For example, if joining a gym right now is not in the cards, walking or running outside is perfect and free. If you have health conditions that make high-intensity cardio a challenge, trying free low-impact exercises like yoga online could be a great fit for you.”
The process of planning ahead involves researching the topic and gathering relevant resources.
“It is much easier to make wise choices if you have the resources available,” Plaisance said. “For example, if you want to start eating healthy, you need to research healthy foods, and your first date in the new year needs to be with your grocery store.”
Hold yourself accountable
A lot of people fall off within a few short weeks after setting goals. Accountability is an important step to set oneself up for success, according to Plaisance.
“Place a reminder or check-in on your phone, or send a prescheduled email to yourself,” Plaisance said. “Include reminders of why you’re working on the goals and ask yourself the questions you know you want to confidently answer when the reminder comes through.”
People underestimate the simple power of being well-rested. Before making any huge changes that require great effort, consider scheduling time for rest. When people are well-rested, they make better decisions, plan better and typically embrace life with a better attitude all the way around, according to Plaisance.
“Simple improvement in sleeping patterns goes a long way,” Plaisance said. “Changes might include making a point to get more sleep in general or working on improving the quality of what you already get.”
Following and keeping established goals set is one of the hardest things. These tips can help sustain goals.
Be consistent. Consistency is key to turning resolutions into long-lasting habits. According to Plaisance, the new behavior needs to be repeated for at least 21 days.
Reframe the available time.The No. 1 reason people quit on goals altogether is that they perceive a lack of time. If one workout is missed, do not scrap the whole week. It will ultimately cancel out the goal. Therefore, it is important to keep working on the goal even if one has to restart and recharge.