Whether you’re setting health goals, personal goals, or professional goals, one key to successful New Year’s Resolutions is to create a strategic plan based on your values. Read about Jean’s successful New Year’s resolutions using a seven step goal setting and achievement process.
More successful New Year’s resolutions
Too often, people set New Year’s resolutions that depend on unsustainable or even unhealthy restrictive methods, like eliminating favorite foods and rigid exercise regimens. These goals won’t create lasting change in your health or vitality.
On the other hand, when you make specific, consistent small changes in the way you think, eat, move, and live based on your intention to live a vibrant life, you create a sustainable pattern the reinforces itself. (Although I’m using the terms “resolution” and “goal” in this post, I generally prefer the term “intention.” Read this article to understand why: The differences between goals and intentions.)
Let me give you an example from a coaching client I’ll call Jean, who had tried many diets in the past, but always reverted back to old habits as soon as her resolve wore thin.
Jean was a busy mom with two teens and a successful career. She typically skipped breakfast or grabbed whatever was in the break room at work. She was starving by lunch so she’d pick up fast food to eat at her desk while working. Dinner was either fast food again between her kids’ soccer practice and dance classes or a quick-to-fix meal like mac ‘n cheese before homework. After the kids were finally settled and the house was picked up, she’d watch TV and snack until she finally went to sleep.
It would have been easy to focus on what she “should” or “shouldn’t” be eating but we both knew that to create lasting change, we needed to focus on increasing her awareness at the many decision points during her busy days.
She was open to setting a more successful New Year’s resolution this time, so she used the following seven steps. Scroll down to see how Jean applied these strategies. (Download this simple one-page guide to capture your own ideas as you set your intentions for the new year: 7 Steps to Magnetic New Years Resolutions.)
Successful Goal Setting Process
1. Create Space
Invest time and space to think about your present life and set goals that will bring you greater health, happiness and fulfillment. As part of your resolution-making process, decide how you will carve out space daily to accomplish your goals.
Most of us can easily find extra time in the wasted minutes we spend on unproductive activities like watching TV or surfing the internet. Some of us will need to get up a few minutes earlier or say no to joining another committee to find more space in our day.
2. Consider Your Values
Goals based on your core principles and values form a passionate attitude! What is truly important to you—family, friends, health, career, achievement, contribution, spiritual growth? When you are clear on what really matters, you’ll willingly invest your valuable time and energy pursuing meaningful goals that are congruent with your principles and values.
3. Be Inspired
Go for the shiver-factor: If the thought of achieving your goal gives you a little shiver of excitement, you’re on the right track. Your goals should act like magnets that draw you toward them. (Hint: If you are repelled by the thought of working toward a particular resolution, start over with a new goal that inspires and challenges you.)
4. Predict your future
Close your eyes and project yourself into the future. Imagine what it’s like as you achieve your goal. Picture how you feel, think, look, and act—as though it’s happening this very moment. Make it so clear you can see it, feel it, and measure it. Create a vivid, exciting image of yourself living it out, then return to this vision regularly to maintain the pull your goal has on you.
5. Set mini-goals
A magnet can’t attract an object that’s too far away to feel its pull. Similarly, goals that feel too far from where you are now quickly lose their attraction. Therefore, create achievable mini-goals that are within reach and challenging enough to pull you toward your larger goals.
6. Give your brain a map to follow
Write your goals and mini-goals in positive, present terms using specific details. For example, instead of “I won’t eat sweets anymore,” try “I enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal to support my energy and health.”
Another option is to create a collage of inspiring pictures that represent your intentions. Put your written goals and/or collage in a place where you’ll see them often. You’ll be amazed how these concrete words or images begin to manifest themselves in your life.
7. Be flexible and creative
Use your goal(s) as your compass and steps one through six as the map to chart your course. However, remain open to new paths to your goals. Obstacles and detours are a natural part of change and provide important learning opportunities. When you’re patient and gentle with yourself, you’ll discover creative solutions that help you grow beyond anything you could have planned.
Periodically assess your progress, adjusting your approach and/or modifying goals as necessary. Reward yourself with relevant incentives as you are successful in achieving your goals. Of course, the greatest reward is in knowing you have done your best!
Jean’s 7 steps to successful resolutions
Create space: It is pretty obvious Jean didn’t have a lot of time for herself, much less her goals, until she prioritized her own needs.
She made two important decisions: She registered for the Am I Hungry? Level 1 Mindful Eating Support Community so she would have the structure of weekly workshops and the support of the group and individual coaching sessions necessary for learning new skills.
She also decided to get up 20 minutes earlier for a cup of coffee and some quiet time before anyone else was up. She quickly found that she felt calmer and more energetic throughout the morning.
Consider your values: With a little prompting, Jean quickly identified what was most meaningful to her: spending quality time with her family and having the energy to be successful at her job. With this focus, she laid out a plan to make one change at a time.
Be inspired: Jean decided she was done with dieting once and for all! She wanted to be more like her sister who could eat whatever she wanted and never seemed to feel out of control around food. She wanted to stop using exercise as punishment and find something she enjoyed doing.
Predict your future: Jean visualized herself focused on living her best life, instead of thinking about food (or not eating food) all the time. She saw herself as a well-rested, active mom and an energetic team member at work.
Set mini-goals: Jean decided on the following three goals.
- Eat mindfully. This was not a “mini-goal” so she registered for the Level 1 Mindful Eating Support Community to help her break the process into manageable steps.
- Move regularly. She decided to walk for 10 minutes twice during her work day.
- Practice self-care, beginning with getting more sleep. She decided to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each week until she felt more refreshed in the mornings.
Give your brain a map to follow: Because Jean had the Level 1 program to guide her, she was able to focus on the process of learning to eat mindfully one step at a time.
In the first month, she learned how to identify hunger and fullness and how to use this information to help her decide when and how much to eat. She then learned three options for what to do when she wanted to eat when she wasn’t hungry.
During the second month, she learned how she could eat whatever she wanted (like her sister!) without feeling guilty or losing control. She started bringing her lunch to work more often and gave herself at least 20 minutes to eat mindfully without working. She enjoyed her meals more and felt recharged by taking a break.
During the third month, she focused on her emotional eating, especially her night time snack habit, and how to meet her needs better. She realized that most of the time she wasn’t hungry in the evening but was rewarding herself for getting through the day and procrastinating going to bed.
She promised herself she could still eat her favorite foods without feeling guilty when she really wanted to, but she wanted to try rewarding herself in more nurturing ways at night. Her favorite “treat” became a hot bath and reading in bed to wind down.
Be flexible and creative: She wasn’t perfect with walking at work, but it felt good to get up and move regularly, so she did the best she could to be consistent. She was feeling so much better that she eventually started a dance class at her daughter’s studio.
With these positive experiences to fuel her along, she asked her teens and husband to each take a night to plan for dinner. She bought an instant pot, determined to try a new recipe once a week. They still went out for fast food sometimes, but she noticed she didn’t need to up-size her meal to feel satisfied. Not only were they spending less money, but the kids were eating healthier too.
Looking back, Jean realized that if she had just started another diet or joined a gym like every other year, she might have had some quick but temporary results. This time, she knew she was changing the way she thought about eating, activity, and self-care for lasting results.
This year when you sit down with pen and paper to write your goals, focus on making sustainable changes that align with your principles so your resolutions will be more successful too.
Best wishes for a healthy and successful new year! And remember, we are here to help you! Join us for our Level 1 Mindful Eating Support Community. Click here to learn more!