To me, it often feels trendy for people to tell you what they have chosen as their New Years Resolution(s) for the year. Way too often it turns out to be more of a talking point than an action plan. In fact in my experience, if you ask the same person again next year - their resolution will be the same. Either at the same starting point or sometimes further away from the goal. This can be for many reasons. But instead of focusing on failure - let us focus on success. I don't want YOU to be a statistic of the trendy New Years Resolution Craze. I want YOU to be successful.
First off you need to identify something you would like to accomplish. Something that is meaningful for you. Something you can imagine yourself accomplishing and feeling great about the achievement. You may pick 1 to 3 goals. But keep in mind, aiming at 3 targets will lessen the chances of you hitting all 3 "bulls-eyes".
How will you measure success? If you say - I want to lean out (or) tone up. When can you be certain you have achieved this? You need to sharpen up the specifics of the goal. This will allow you to dissect it into digestible pieces you can hack away at and ultimately check it off as achieved.
How can you set yourself up to have the best ability to achieve your goal? Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal. If you know what this acronym is - then why aren't you applying it? If it is new to you, here we go:
Specific: in lieu of I want to tone up, be specific = I want to loose 5" from my waist.
Measurable: Loosing 5" from your waist line is measurable, can be tracked, and accomplished.
Attainable: 5" is attainable if it is available to spare; if waist is 25", prob not; if 55" - definitely doable.
Realistic: Are you willing/capable to put in the required to earn/achieve the goal?
Time-sensitive: set a deadline, give yourself enough time, but remember "Parkinson's Law".
After you have your bigger picture set, break it down with an action plan and milestones. If you decided to loose 5" from you waist in 6 months. Maybe you set monthly measurements aiming for 1" lost the first 4 months and 1/2" each month for the last 2 months (these are your milestones). Now how would you loose 1" from your waist in a month? You need an action plan. Your plan should outline your nutrition, resistance routine, conditioning, and if you can afford it a personal coach/trainer. This action plan will be your road-map to your desired goal. The more detailed you are in your action plan the better. I will exercise regularly isn't specific enough. I will practice resistance strength training 3 times per week; conditioning 3 times per week = specific.
I believe the above template for setting "S.M.A.R.T." goals is a great tool and when practiced is highly effective. With that said, I also do not like to subscribe to absolutes and only one way of doing things. I am a huge fan of habit(s). They are extremely powerful and are the "behind the scenes" play-makers. If you have qualms or reservation(s) for practicing S.M.A.R.T. goals - focus on developing the habits that will lead to the behaviors you would like to make a reality. If you want to start exercising, keep a gym bag packed and in your car. You want to eat better quality food, prep your food in advance. Want to start running in the mornings, set out your sneakers and running attire next to your bed so everything you need is there when the alarm goes off. The idea is to stack the deck in your favor. Help yourself eliminate poor impulse decisions. Make it as easy as possible to do the encouraged behaviors.
A couple extra helpful tips
Have a support system to encourage you and help you through the hard times.
If you are extroverted tell your friends what your goals are and what your deadline is.
If you are introverted perhaps tell one of your introverted friends that is supportive, but won't broadcast your intentions to others until your ready.
Keep you goal(s) in front of you.
There is research that writing your goals down and keeping them visible will increase your likelihood of success - you are encouraged to do this!
Carrots and sticks.
Studies have shown people will work harder to avoid loss; bet on yourself. Check out www.stickk.com You can set your goals and if you do not achieve you pay a penalty. Make it interesting and motivating. Say you are a die-hard republican - set it up so that if you do not achieve your goal you will donate $100 to the Democratic Party.
Prefer positive reward system? Depending on your goal set yourself up to show off what you achieved: Bodybuilding show, powerlifting meet, run a half marathon, earn a kettlebell certification, take a vacation at the beach...
Be prepare for setbacks.
Consistency is key. Just like one good meal won't make you look like a Greek God, One bad meal isn't the end of the world. Missing one workout for a good reason won't wreck your success. Make sure these are the exception and not your normal. If it becomes an emerging pattern - create a better plan that works with your lifestyle.
Workout with a friend.
Work with a coach or a personal trainer.
Good luck and enjoy the process!
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