December is here and with it the countdown to 2019. As the new year approaches, many of us will take stock in what we have accomplished and what we’d like to see happen in the future. Hence, the NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION. However, statistics show that as little as 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions. What’s more, the most common resolutions are wellness-focused. That means that many of us believe that there is more to be done to make us well; despite this, we still lose sight of our own self-care goals as the calendar pages turn.

What can be done to carry the optimistic outlooks of December 31st into the new year with positive results?

Try this: Ditch the resolutions and set yourself a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Make it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Trackable.

The problem with most goals is that they are general. Often, they force significant changes into our routines that are both mentally and physically fatiguing due to a steep (self-induced) on-ramp. These positive changes are worthy of our attention and energy. Still, they should be crafted in such a way that we can sustain progress and find happiness. We need positive reinforcement. As defined, positive reinforcement occurs when we engage in behavior where, as a result, something follows (a consequence) that makes it more likely that we will engage in that behavior again. The key is finding an effective consequence.

Let’s take a look at how this plays out with a common resolution: changing your diet. Notice I did not say “going on a diet.” Already we are tweaking the process to show a commitment to a sustainable versus a temporary. The average person coming off of the gluttony of the holidays will feel ready to dive into “healthier eating.” Now let’s steer away from the general and move into the SPECIFIC.

How do you define healthy? It isn’t just about the calories. It’s also the quality of what you put in your body. A low-calorie diet can still be full of empty calories and processed foods. I encourage you to define a healthy diet as reduced processed foods and increased whole foods. This is cleaning up your diet. Still, it is too ambiguous. Now let’s make it SMART: I will increase my vegetable intake by eating 3 or more servings (fresh or frozen) daily by the end of January 2019. That is one solid goal. In fact, you could be working toward more than one goal at a time. Whether or not that is achievable is highly individual and based upon where you are starting from today. The point is to set yourself up for success with benchmarks that are shorter in duration and in line with your larger goal of a healthy diet.

Now onto the consequences, not to be feared. Positive reinforcement can come from many sources: self-tracking, social media, health coaches, friends, and family. Tracking your progress through an app, in a journal, or charting on your refrigerator is inherently rewarding for some folks. Social forums such as Well Together Now offer a support network of like-minded people who are ready to cheer on your successes and lift you up through the challenges. Wellness coaching, such as that on WTN, is available to those who need a little help getting off of the starting line and setting a maintainable pace. A good wellness coach will listen and help you to be in the driver’s seat. Ultimately, it is your plan; we teach you to become your own coach. Another option is to share your goals with those closest to you. Family and friends will likely ask about your progress, and you may want to celebrate with and lean on those who care about you most.

This is a basic example of how a SMART goal can be a remedy to the lost resolutions of years past. Having a growth mindset is powerful. Setting a SMART goal says that you believe in yourself, AND provides a structured plan for growth. Please share your questions, thoughts, and stories in the comments below. We can’t wait to see and hear about all you will achieve.