Toi Degree column: Set attainable, specific goals for the new year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 2021

By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension

Now that we have made it through the majority of the holiday season, it’s time to look forward to a new year. With 2022 being right around the corner, many are thinking about what resolutions they will make. New Year’s resolution is a tradition where a person resolves to continue good practices, change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life at the start of a new year.

The most common New Year’s resolution resolves to lose weight followed by exercising more. In an article published on on Dec. 23, 2020, those resolutions were at the top of the list heading into 2021. Here is how the rest of the list shakes out — exercise more (50%), lose weight (48%), save more money (44%), improve diet (39%), and pursue a career ambition (21%). Resolutions are easy to make, but the hard part is sticking to them.

Here are a few tips that will help you stay on track and achieve your goals; this type of goal setting is — S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S — Specific

  • Being specific helps incorporate the method in the goal, not just the outcome.
  • Create your goal as an instruction whereby you tell yourself what to do. Try creating a statement for your goal such as, “I want to increase my weekly physical activity by walking for 30 minutes after dinner four times per week.”
  • Start by stating the objective you wish to meet specifically as possible. Rather than saying, “I want to get in shape,” set a specific activity-related goal (such as walking for 30 minutes after dinner) to help define the pathway more clearly.

M — Measurable

  • Adding quantifiable or measurable criteria to your goal will allow you to measure progress as you work towards achieving your goal.
  • Being able to strike off the numbers as you progress will feel good, and measuring can help keep you from cheating. For example, with the goal of exercising four times per week, you can track the number of times per week on a calendar.

A — Attainable

  • Break larger goals into smaller goals, and spell out the process required to achieve your objectives.
  • Don’t set yourself up for failure by selecting unattainable goals. For example, setting a goal to lose 20 pounds in two weeks is both difficult to do and unhealthy to achieve. Goals should be ambitious but not impossible. Choose a goal you are confident that you can reach and that will challenge you to follow through with smaller, more attainable actions required to achieve it.
  • Make sure that the process is also realistic so that you can achieve all of the individual steps you need. If you don’t have time, supplies, or the right location, make adjustments to your methods and goals.

R — Relevant

  • Each step of attaining the goal should make sense to you and have some level of personal importance or relevance. If you want to increase your physical activity, for example, be sure to select a type of exercise that you enjoy. Zumba, jogging, cycling and swimming are all effective forms of exercise, but not everyone considers each of these enjoyable. Pick the method that is right for you.
  • Goals should be inspiring enough that it motivates you to succeed. If you are not determined to meet your goal, obstacles will be very difficult to overcome.
  • If your doctor says, “lose weight” but you are not inspired by this statement, find another goal you care about pursuing. For example, it might be much more inspiring to you to say, “I want to have more energy to play with my kids” or “I want to fit back into my college football jersey” to feel inspired to create smaller, process-based goals.
  • Your goal should be meaningful to you and set by you — not set by someone else.

T — Timely or Time-Bound

  • When will you achieve your goal? You need to choose a time that is realistic but not too far off into the future.
  • Saying, “I will get fit this year” sounds good but saying, “I will walk after dinner for 30 minutes four times per week for 10 weeks” provides a more reasonable schedule and gives you a foreseeable finish line. Once you reach the 10-week endpoint, evaluate your process and set a new goal based on your progress and interests.

Toi Degree is associate family and consumer education agent with the Rowan County Extension.

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