Steps for Setting & Following Through on New Year’s Goals


By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

Motivation is the general desire or willingness to do something. It is the drive and determination to get something done. That desire is part of the HOW to get things done. Motivation also includes the reasons you have for getting something done. Motivation is the incentive or stimulus to do something. It is the WHY you want to do something.

6 Steps to Achieving New Year’s Resolutions

At the start of the new year take an honest look at yourself. It doesn’t really matter what it is that you want to work on; the process is much the same. Whether you want to eat healthier, be more physically active, save more for retirement, live more simply, or be a better XX (fill in with friend, wife, husband, etc.) the steps are fairly similar. Here I’ll use a hypothetical physical activity and fitness goal to give more specific examples.

Take a Baseline Measurement

Take a baseline measurement to objectively assess where you are right now. For fitness you may want to use one or more of the following that are appropriate for you. There is no one-size-fits-all measurement. (Always be sure you are healthy enough to perform these activities by consulting your physician first!) These include, but are in no way limited to: aerobic capacity tests such as the Pacer Test, 9-minute Run, or an informal test by doing your favorite type of cardio for 10 minutes and measuring your distance; muscular strength and muscular endurance tests such as push-ups or curl-ups, or seeing how many reps you do for any muscle group; flexibility measures such as the sit and reach or triceps stretch; and body composition measures such as skin folds or Body Mass Index (BMI). These measurement suggestions cover the 5 components of health-related.

Set Your Goals

Set your goal(s). Once you’ve put some objective numbers on your fitness, think about which areas you want to focus on. Is your endurance good, but your strength is not? Or are you super tight and need more flexibility? Whichever area needs the most improvement, that’s where you want to focus your attention. What are you trying to accomplish? Be specific. Be sure that it can be measured. For example “Running more” is not specific enough. You want to set a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused, and Time-bound. An example might be: “By June 1st, I will be able to run 10K in under 1 hour on a flat course.”

Make a Reasons Why List

List all the reasons you want to achieve this goal. What are your incentives? This is the WHY of your goal. If, for example, losing fat is your goal, you may list things like lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and many cancers, it will be better on my joints, it will be easier to move, I will live longer, I can fit into my clothes better, I’ll look better, etc. Whatever your goal, list your motivations. Visualize yourself succeeding. Cut out positive images from magazines or on the internet and create a collage to look at when you are working through challenges. Print out encouraging quotes and post them around your house.

Create an Action Plan

Create an Action Plan. This consists of short-term objectives that work toward your end goal. They may be monthly, weekly, or daily. Be sure these are specific and measurable so you can tell if they’ve been achieved. Once a short-term objective is reached, write your next one. The road to your ultimate goal is paved with the baby steps of short-term objectives. Know that set-backs will happen. You may backslide, get an injury, have to travel, etc. DO NOT let this stop your journey! These happen to everyone. It does not mean you have failed. Remember, if you never fail it means that you have never tried to accomplish anything worthwhile. Learn from your set-backs. Keep a journal and write down lessons learned along the way.

Set Up Your Support System

Set up your support system. Who will support you on this journey? Surround yourself with these people. Find positive, encouraging people who you can call when you need motivation. Have a list of folks you can be active with and schedule activities with them throughout the week. A workout buddy not only ensures you workout, but makes it much more fun! Join a group or team that keeps physical activity a priority such as hiking or walking groups, masters swim teams, cycling clubs, group fitness at the gym, etc. There is no reason to do this alone. You will be much more successful with support.

Make It a Habit

Make these new behaviors a habit. It takes at least 21 days of repeated behavior to form a habit. Reaching fitness and wellness goals and continued maintenance of fitness levels are the result of forming healthful habits that last your lifetime, not just until your goal has been achieved. Start with making a list of your good habits. Examples might be:

  • I walk my dog every day.
  • I floss my teeth daily.
  • I eat whole grain bread.
  • I say please and thank you.

Now think of some things you can change for the better to help achieve your goal. Write a list of these too. Try a new one every month. Examples for health goals might include:

  • Replace junk food with healthful snacks.
  • Eat at home instead of going out.
  • Take a walk after dinner each night instead of watching TV.
  • Drink water rather than soda.
  • Workout in the morning instead of sleeping in.

No one said change was easy. But when it comes to achieving goals, it can be life-changing in a very positive way. So, don’t be afraid of failure. It’s going to happen. As J.K. Rowling once said “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” So don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Learn from your mistakes and keep reaching toward your next success. What are you waiting for? Get going!

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