Setting a New Year’s Resolution? Make it a Goal Instead

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness December 28, 2017
Do you usually give up on your New Year’s Resolution before the end of January? Try setting a goal instead. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a resolution is “the act or process of resolving” or solving a problem. Whereas a goal has a more positive definition of “the end toward which effort is directed.” Mind-set and attitude are the keys according to Allison Johnsen, a certified professional coach and manager for behavioral health at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “A firm resolution is often very challenging. Stumble a bit and we often chastise ourselves and give up,” says Johnsen. “Rather, as we work toward a goal, we may fall, but we can get up again and keep going.”

The experts at Northwestern Medicine offer several tips for helping you reach your goals in 2018:

Focus on just one goal first
“Too many goals can be overwhelming. Pick one realistic goal and achieve it before you start on the next, or choose a series of small goals,” says Johnsen. For example, if you haven’t been off the couch in a while, resolving to run a marathon will set you up for failure. Brian Babka, MD, sports and exercise medicine physician, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, suggests try walking three times a week, to help you get to the bigger goal. “Realistic goals will help decrease burn out and injury, both physically and psychologically,” says Dr. Babka. “Smaller goals lead to more consistency and helps the change become habit.”

Be specific
A vague “Eat Healthy” goal may leave you floundering. Instead, set some specific healthy eating goals, such as “don’t skip breakfast”. Try decreasing or eliminating one unhealthy thing from your diet. “A good place to start is eliminating soda or cutting back to one cup of coffee instead of two,” says Dr. Babka. On the exercise front, there are numerous great “walk to run” apps and programs that offer specific goals and track progress each week.

Double up
Instead of only taking away foods from your diet, add some foods back in suggests Audra Wilson, RD, clinical dietitian, Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery Program at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital. Remember My Plate, which recommends half of your plate be filled with vegetables, and double your vegetable serving at meals. Try roasting or grilling vegetables seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil. “Non-starchy vegetables -- anything besides corn, peas, potatoes or beans -- are low in calories and high in nutrients and fiber, as well as volume, which means you fill up on less calories,” says Wilson.

Give yourself five
Make a list of five reasons why you want to meet your goal. These reasons can be subjective or objective, but they have to mean something to you. For example, I want to be able to play with my kids without taking breaks or feeling tired. “When you have reasons to work toward a goal, you can always go back to those reasons for motivation and purpose when challenges arise,” says Wilson.

A little help from your friends
“Seek the goal with some support,” says Johnsen. “If you team up with a buddy who is trying to achieve the same or similar goal you can cheer each other on and keep each other accountable.” To meet fitness goals, Dr. Babka suggests have fun family competitions (Sunday night plank off, etc.), include the kids in healthy meal prep, or commit to daily dog walks.

Recognize change
Keep a log of your accomplishments and review them when you are feeling frustrated. “Stay positive and visualize success. It will become apparent when healthy decisions start to grow off each other, and it will eventually become a new life habit,” says Dr. Babka. “Recognize and celebrate change. You will not want to undo previous decisions and hard work.”

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