Planning for success in 2017

Published 6:24 pm Friday, December 23, 2016

As the new year approaches, many of us start reflecting on the past year and make new resolutions. Often our resolutions fall by the wayside because we do not make a plan for success, leading to disappointment by the end of the year with another unsuccessful resolution. Most of us would like a “quick fix” when it comes to getting healthier, but the truth is there is no “quick fix.” You can be successful with careful planning, consistent effort and dedication.

Research shows that people who set goals and monitor their progress are more likely to achieve lasting results than those who do not. However, it’s not enough to simply say, “I want to be more active” or “I want to eat healthier.” Learning how to set SMART goals will help you plan for success. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measureable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time. Let’s discuss each aspect of a SMART goal in more detail with the idea of “I want to be more active.”

Specific: Specify exactly what you want to achieve. Specific goals are more effective than general goals. Instead of saying “I want to be more active,” a specific goal would be “I will walk on three days this week.”

Measureable: The goal should also be quantified and progress measured. If your goal is to “be more active,” there is no way to measure it or way to know if you’ve achieved that goal. An example of a measureable goal is “I will walk for 30 minutes on three days this week.”

Action oriented: Wanting to “be more active” is an outcome or result-oriented goal. Although the outcome is important, it’s even more important to set smaller, action-oriented goals that will help you achieve the outcome. Action-oriented goals are the behaviors you will use to achieve the outcomes you want — the stepping stones to success. An example of an action oriented goal is “I will walk for 30 minutes, three days this week and four days next week.”

Realistic: Realistic goals are difficult enough to challenge you, but also within your reach. If your goals are so difficult that you rarely achieve them, you can become frustrated and discouraged. On the other hand, if your goals require little effort, they are less likely to enhance your motivation. The key is to find a balance between the challenge and what you’ll be able to achieve.

Time: Long-term goals give you direction, but short-term goals get you to your destination. Think about your long- and short-term goals as a staircase. Your long-term goal is at the top of the staircase; it gives you direction and something to look toward. Your short-term goals are represented by each step; the specific behaviors you will take to make it to the top.

Now that we have discussed setting SMART goals, there are a few other tips to help you plan for success.

It’s important to track your progress to help keep you motivated and stay on track. Try journaling through websites, smartphone apps or make your own journal/log to fit your needs. Tracking will help you see patterns and help you recognize temporary roadblocks.

Speaking of roadblocks, it’s important to realize that roadblocks will happen, even with the best of intentions. As part of your plan, brainstorm roadblocks you expect to encounter that may set you back, such as not having enough time, feeling too tired, inclement weather, etc. Once you are able to identify them, get creative and think of several ways to overcome them.

Setting a goal one time is not enough to sustain motivation and focus your attention on what you want to achieve. You need to continually review your goals, develop a plan of action and evaluate your progress.

For some people, making progress is enough reward, but others benefit from rewarding themselves with something they enjoy. Choose rewards that are important to you and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Build a good support network of friends, family or healthcare professionals who are interested, optimistic and committed to supporting your efforts. They can help you maintain your motivation by listening, encouraging, and may participate with you.

Do not overlook the element of fun and enjoyment. You may have to try several methods to achieve your goal before you find something that you enjoy. If you enjoy the process, you’re more likely to stick with it.

Setting SMART goals and planning for success can be used for any type of resolution you may be thinking of making this year. With careful planning and dedication, I have no doubt you’ll be successful by the end of 2017. Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

Meagan Overman, MS, CCEP, is a clinical exercise physiologist at Vidant Beaufort Cardiovascular Rehabilitation in Washington and can be reached at 252-975-4236.