Set Goals to Succeed in 2016

Hi there, Mamas! The New Year is fast approaching – can you believe it? Time to examine our lives and set new goals. It’s amazing how much things have changed in the past 12 months.

It's a new year - what goals have you set?

It’s a new year – what goals have you set?

  • RDNMama has been up and running for a year!
  • I transitioned from a highly clinical job to join a private practice (which I {love}), with a few consulting gigs on the side.
  • I finally completed my Master’s Degree from the University of Alabama. After deciding to choose a new career path in dietetics over five years ago, I am finally no longer a student! (For now, anyways.)  Let’s just say there have been no shortages of happy dances at my house.  Now, I can concentrate on things I really enjoy, like writing, cooking, and cleaning (or at least having a house that doesn’t look like a complete disaster).
  • We celebrated L’s second birthday. That’s a huge change in itself. Between 1 and 2 she stopped nursing, had a bout of picky eating, had her first trip to the dentist, started chatting up a storm, and of course brought us more joy than we could ever have imagined!

With all this change, things haven’t always been a breeze. In order to graduate this summer, I took an interim course between spring and summer classes, so that meant no break at all from January to August.  Yikes!

Lor wasn’t just eating specially-made foods (like this or these) anymore. With her expanding palate and normalizing meal times, she was eating the same foods as my hubby and me most of the time. That required a bit more meal prep and planning to ensure she was getting a healthy mix of foods.

To keep things running as smoothly as possible, we had to have a plan.

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail

As cliche as that sounds, it is totally true!  To keep up with L, work, school, and the house, we had to get on a schedule.  That’s not to say that we were completely productive every second of every day, but priorities were set.  We did have to become accepting of the fact that for a few months, our house wouldn’t look that great and I had to cut back on writing (alright since it was short-term).

A schedule is a huge part of planning and it can help you make decisions about how and when you perform different tasks. It can also help you develop new habits. As tedious as a “scheduled” life sounds, I’ve found that it actually can help you reach your goals, improve your self-confidence, and ultimately, get you on a path that keeps you feeling productive. All of this productivity can further increase your self-efficacy, so you feel better and more confident about yourself! It’s such a positive cycle!

Setting SMART Goals

A main problem that I see when people set goals, is that they are too broad. Sure, it’s great to have a goal to “lose weight,” “get stronger,” or to “save money,” but how exactly will you go about achieving that? And, maybe more important, how will you know when you’ve met your goal? That’s where SMART goal setting and planning come into play. Here’s what a SMART goal entails:

  • Specific – What exactly do you want to achieve? The more detail, the better
  • Measurable – How will you be able to track your progress? Whether it’s day-to-day (like reaching a certain number of steps) or more long-term (like weight loss), there has to be some type of measurement in place for tracking purposes.
  • Attainable – While it’s great to shoot for the moon in theory, let me be the first to tell you that if your goal is completely unrealistic (like losing 30 pounds before your vacation two weeks away or never, ever eating chocolate again), you will fail, feel badly about it, and likely rebound into further unhealthy behaviors. Plus, your self-esteem can dwindle, and you reach the viscous cycle counterpart of what we talked about earlier.
  • Relevant – Will this goal help you get closer to where you want to see yourself in life? Is it worth your time to accomplish?
  • Time-Bound – Having a time frame in place can help you put together a plan of attack. Depending on how long you want to take to reach your goal, you may need to up your intensity for a while.

So, for example, instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” think more along the lines of: “I will lose 30 pounds by the end of the year.” 

It is specific (you’ve set a number), measurable (via scale), attainable (it falls nicely into [below, even] the 1-2 pound a week range which is indicative of healthy weight change), relevant (if you’re overweight and trying to become healthier), and time-bound (you’ve set a deadline).

Change Your Habits to Achieve Your Goals

Unfortunately, even with a SMART goal, we still don’t have a plan. While we may think that our free will dictates our daily life decisions, it’s actually our habits which make decisions for us. Will we exercise or sit on the couch after the kids are asleep? Will we eat breakfast or not eat until lunch? Will we eat dinner at the table or in front of the television? All of these are determined by habits, formed over months or years. No wonder it’s so easy for people to get stuck in a rut!

In order to bust out of a rut, it is vital to change habits. To do that, you need to pick a specific habit to change or add to your daily routine. So, for our example, there are a couple behaviors on which we could place our focus: Food or Exercise.

  • I will eat X,XXX calories every day
  • I will exercise for (at least) XX minutes on X days of the week.
  • I will get XX,XXX steps a day.
  • I will eat at least X cups of vegetables a day.

You get the idea. These individual steps are SMART, as well. Be sure to account for time in your schedule: when each day will you take the time to (exercise, log calories, etc) or plan for (eating vegetables, lower-calorie meals, etc.). Knowing when you will do things is a big part of success. Otherwise, it’s only too easy to fall back into old habits and not see the change you want!

For change to take place, you need to change very specific behaviors that happen every day. By doing this, you’ll surely be on the right track to achieving your 2016 resolutions!

Keep in mind that RDNs can be a big help in setting SMART goals and helping you achieve the your goals for 2016! Don’t have an RDN? Find one near you here.

So, let me know, Mamas: What are your goals for 2016?

Additional Reading:

For some good reading on habits and change, check out these books:

Click: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Photo Credit:

“Happy New Year 2016” by noppasinw, obtained from freedigitalphotos.net.

 

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