Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Myth: It’s hard to stick to the health goals I set for myself for the new year.

Answer: That's probably true for many of us.

Ever wonder why? Let’s look at some tips to set goals that ‘stick.’

Good intentions aren’t enough when setting goals. How you define your goal can help translate into success. Think S.M.A.R.T. when setting goals.

  • S is for specific. Make your goal specific. How often do you hear someone say, “I’m going to eat healthier this year.” Great idea! Not very specific. Change this to: Three days a week I am going to eat fruit as an after-dinner dessert.
  • M is for measurable. The more specific your goal, the more measurable it is. This makes it easier to track your progress. It can be hard to track the progress of a broad goal like “I’m going to eat healthier this year.” But when you state that you are going to eat fruit three days a week after dinner, now that’s measurable.
  • A is for attainable. Most of us make unattainable goals for the new year in our attempt to erase an entire year of poor health habits. If you aren’t active and then set a goal that you will walk for an hour every day, you are probably setting an unattainable goal. A more attainable activity goal might be to walk 20 minutes three times a week in the morning.
  • R is for realistic. This goes hand-in-hand with a goal that is attainable. It may be attainable for you to walk 20 minutes three times a week but not realistic to do so in the morning if you aren’t a morning person.
  • T is for time-specific. What is the time period for the goal? It probably makes sense for you to choose short periods of time, maybe one to three months. That way you can track your progress and set new goals in the next few months. Most people are only able to think in short periods of time.

Using the S.M.A.R.T. approach to setting goals can help you move forward in good health for the new year or any time of the year.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, schusterer@missouri.edu, 573-882-1933

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