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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Join the 'Non-Resolution Revolution'

I dread going to the gym this time of year. New Year's is a time when fitness centres are full of fresh and eager faces, and while I think it's great that so many people use the beginning of a new year to kick-start their health and fitness goals, it saddens me that with each passing day, those people seem to fade away.

While the beginning of a new year is an excellent time to re-assess goals and search for new ways to improve ourselves, the majority of us will fail to make our resolutions become an habitual part of our lives.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you stick to your self-improvement goals.

Tea or Hot Chocolate?
1) Adjust your mindset - For so many people, the problem is not that they don't have good goals, it's the fact that they don't set goals often enough! Ditch the idea of making resolutions once per year and instead commit to making smaller monthly goals. I recently decided to address my addiction to hot chocolate...if I had told myself that I could not have hot chocolate for an entire year, I would not only be miserable, but I would probably cave at some point (who could possibly resist that Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate forever?!?) and therefore not achieve my goal. Instead, I committed to drinking tea instead of hot chocolate for one month. Yes, there were days when a hot chocolate would have been much more satisfying than a cup of tea, but knowing that I only had to go without hot chocolate for 30 days made achieving that goal much easier.

Furthermore,  it takes about 3 weeks to create a habit. At then end of that month, I certainly enjoyed a tasty hot chocolate, but drinking tea had become the norm for me and since that time, I consume tea much more frequently and hot chocolate way less often.

2) Make goals visible - Write down your goals each month and put them where you can see them (such as a bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, or office desk). Be creative about adding colour or pictures - make them fun to look at and exciting to think about!

Running in the MB Marathon
3) Make realistic goals - Often people are a little bit overzealous in their attempts at self-improvement. If goals are too difficult to attain, failure is likely to occur which decreases your motivation not only for that particular goal but in setting future goals. It's better to set goals that are simple and attainable and to use those as stepping stones to larger goals. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to get into running. I have never been a strong runner so completing a half marathon might not have been realistic for me at that time. Instead,  I made smaller goals and completed a 5K, then an 8K then a couple of 10K's, and a 15K before I set my sights on the half. Eventually, I used that half marathon as a spring board and exceeded my initial expectations by completing a full marathon! Never could I have imagined being able to do that at the beginning of my training and I might have defeated myself before even starting if I had made unrealistic goals to begin with.

4) Use the 'check mark' test - Good goals are specific and measurable which means that you will be able to check them off when accomplished. 'I will be healthier' is not a goal that can be defined or measured making it hard to give yourself a check mark at the end of the month when you are re-assessing your goals. 'I will walk for 20 minutes three times per week for the month of January' is a goal that is both specific and measurable. Check!

5) Choose positive goals - Instead of saying, I will NOT..., turn your goal into a positive and ask yourself what you WILL do. For me, instead of committing to not drinking hot chocolate for one month, I committed to drinking tea anytime I felt like consuming a hot beverage. Replacing your bad habits with a desired behavior or substitute activity increases your chances of success.

So this January, rather than making New Year's Resolutions, set yourself some monthly goals! You should always be committed to improving yourself - once per year is not enough. At the end of the month, build on what you have already done and start again for February.

Happy New Year!!