With this year coming to a close, many people start to reflect on the goals they’ve achieved (and did not achieve) and start contemplate what they want to attain in 2016. Thus, New Year’s resolutions are born.
When it comes to setting goals, it’s imperative to be realistic. If you set goals that you are not ready for, you may be setting yourself up for failure. The goal setting process should start with assessing your readiness to change.
There are 6 stages of readiness to change. Where you fall within these stages should dictate the type of goal you set for yourself.
Stages of readiness to change:
Precontemplation: The person does not intend to take action/make changes. Often the person is unaware that their behavior needs to change. They may underestimate the importance of making the change and focus too much on the cons of making the change.
Contemplation: People are intending to start a healthy behavior. They recognize the behavior is unhealthy and think about how to change. People in this stage may still feel ambivalent towards changing their behavior.
Preparation: The person is ready to take action. They start to make small steps to achieving their goals. They believe these changes will improve their health.
Action: People have recently changed their behavior and intend to continue with the behavior change.
Maintenance: The person has sustained their behavior change for some time and intend to maintain this change. People in this stage are trying to prevent relapse to earlier stages.
Termination: In this stage, the person has no desire to return to their unhealthy behaviors and are confident they will not relapse. This stage is difficult to achieve and people tend to stay in the maintenance stage. However, staying in the maintenance stage is normal. As you go through different phases of your life, it’s common to reevaluate your goals and how you achieve those goals, thus staying in the maintenance phase.
Now, think about a goal you want to achieve and give some serious thought into which stage you fall into. For example, perhaps your goal is to increase activity and you fall into the contemplation stage. Brainstorm what is stopping you from progressing to the preparation stage. Once the deterrent is determined, set a goal to overcome it.
For example, you may feel you do not have enough time in your busy schedule to fit in activity. The goal would be to figure out a way to make time for exercise. To accomplish this goal a detailed plan should be constructed.
This can be done by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals:
Specific. I will sit down and map out my daily routine.
Measurable. I will find time in my schedule to fit in activity 3 days per week.
Attainable. Is this goal attainable to me? Yes, after mapping out my schedule I feel I can fit exercise in at least 3 days per week. If you are unsure if your goal is attainable, ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident you are that this goal is attainable for you. If your answer is less than 7, reevaluate your goal. It’s ok to start small- being active for 1 day per week is better than zero!
Realistic. Is this goal realistic for me? Yes, given my current fitness abilities I feel I can exercise 3 days per week.
Timely. I will map out my schedule to find time for exercise within 1 week.
Now that you have moved from contemplation to the preparation stage, it’s time to set a goal to advance to the action stage. An example of a S.M.A.R.T goal for the action stage is as follows:
Specific. I will start exercising 3 days per week for 30 minutes.
Measurable. I will use an activity log to keep track of my fitness.
Attainable. This goal is attainable because I have allowed time in my schedule for exercise.
Realistic. This goal is realistic because I have the resources I need to achieve it (treadmill, gym membership, workout video, etc.)
Timely. I will stick to this routine for 3 months and then reassess my fitness goals.
Just like developing a project for work, setting a health goal requires a plan and deadline. So as you start to think about your goals for the New Year, take the time to develop a strategy for success. By following this method, we’re sure a year from now when you are reflecting on 2016 you will have met more goals than not!
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