Goal Setting

Rock climbing.

As the New Year approaches, many people start making New Year’s Resolutions around what they’re hoping to accomplish in the coming year.  While early January is a popular time for setting goals (a new year means new beginnings and fresh starts), you can make healthy lifestyle changes at any time.  Just remember, whenever you set goals for yourself, make sure they’re SMART goals. 

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timely.  Specific means your goal isn’t too broad or vague.  Measurable means there is some way to track your progress.  Action-oriented means you have to actively work towards achieving your goal.  Realistic means the goal is do-able and Timely means there is a timeframe or deadline for what you hope to accomplish.  So let’s say your goal is to improve your Diabetes management.  This is a great start, but how can we make it into a SMART goal?  How about:  I will take control of my Diabetes management by testing my blood sugar before eating and two hours after every meal for the next month.  Stating your goal this way gives you a clear picture of what you’re working toward, which will help you stay on track and hopefully develop momentum to stick with it after your goal has been reached

Once you’ve decided on a goal, don’t feel you have to go it alone.  Talk to your friends and family about your plans—they can help keep you on track and offer emotional and moral support during the tough moments.  If you do hit a rough patch—maybe your A1C came back a bit higher than expected or you missed an entire week’s worth of gym workouts—don’t get discouraged.  Give yourself permission to slip up; no one is perfect (and no one expects you to be perfect either).  Instead, see if there is anything you can learn from your experience and make a plan to work around whatever obstacles have popped up.  For example, if you’ve found it’s difficult getting to the gym first thing in the morning, see if it’s easier to on your way home from work.  Then, pick up where you left off and keep going.  

Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself.  You’re putting a lot of time and effort into making some positive changes and you should celebrate your accomplishments!  For each milestone you reach, give yourself something that will help you stay motivated to stick with it. 

What are your goals for 2012?

(Content reviewed by MGH Diabetes Center. Photo Credit: Bryan Wintersteen)


Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? If you did, you’re in good company; about half of us see the New Year as an opportunity to make changes in our lives and our health. Some of the most popular resolutions each year include losing weight, quitting smoking and exercising. Yet despite the best intentions, just under half of the people who make a New Year’s resolution keep them at least six months. In light of that discouraging statistic, it may seem like New Year’s resolutions as a rule are doomed to failure. But that doesn’t have to be the case; with a little planning it is possible to create a New Year’s resolution and stick with it.

First, be specific about what your goals are and how you will achieve them. One reason resolutions fail is they’re simply too vague. Like many of the other goals you set for yourself (because that’s what a resolution is really, a new lifestyle goal) it can be difficult to maintain commitment if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. So for instance if your goal for the New Year is to check your blood sugar more often, you can make this more specific by saying how many times a day you will check.

Along the same lines, make sure your resolution is realistic—just as vague resolutions are difficult to maintain, so too are ones that are overly ambitious. It can be tempting to try to make big changes, but if you try to take on too much too fast you may find it hard to keep up. Instead, see if there are any places where you can make small changes in your daily routine—such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator or including a serving of vegetables with your dinner. These small changes can add up to big ones over time. Be patient, and remember to reward yourself for sticking with it.

One last tip: apply the concept of SMART goals to creating your resolution. Choose one that is specific and easy to track progress, requires your active engagement, stays within your ability to achieve, and has a specific time frame for accomplishment.

(Information reviewed by MGH Diabetes Center)