6 Strategies to Set Yourself up for Success in the New Year
The start of the new year is marked by the sound of resolutions being set, the majority of which center on enhancing health and well-being. The all-too-familiar pledges to exercise more, lose weight, and eat healthfully, while well-intended, are often short-lived. In fact, it’s estimated that over the majority of individuals who set new year resolutions will abandon their goals by February.
So how does one ensure that the flames of motivation that burn so brightly in January don’t simply fade into a smoldering afterthought for the rest of the year? To set yourself for success in 2018 and beyond, health coaches and behavior change experts offer these six tested strategies for transforming your health and wellness goals into a lasting reality.
Tap into your ‘why’
Before embarking on any type of lifestyle change, it’s important to get clear on your personal ‘why’ and ultimately how your values will guide and sustain your actions. “Research shows that intrinsic motivation fueled by deeper held values is one of the greatest predictors of long-term success,” shares Meg Root, ACE-certified health coach. To tap into your true intention, Root recommends compiling a short list of words to describe how you want to feel every day, examples of which can include ‘energized,’ ‘focused,’ ‘strong’ and ‘accomplished,’ and using these words as the ‘why’ for making healthy choices throughout the day. “If you want to feel strong and accomplished notice how a daily workout helps you do that; or if you want to maintain energy during a busy day, notice how eating nourishing whole foods supports that goal,” notes Root. “And if you if you fall off track, simply pivot back in the direction of your positive ‘why’ words without judgment so you can continue forward on your wellness journey.”
Embrace an optimist mindset
Setting a vision for your best future self requires not only tuning in to what’s most important to you, but also recognizing and ultimately leveraging the strengths and abilities that you already possess. “Transforming health concerns into lifestyle commitments requires healthy thinking above all,” shares Michael Mantell, Ph.D., author of The Link is What You Think. Acknowledging that you have the aptitude to turn your dreams into a reality is a framework for long-term success, as is realizing that your health and happiness is not a direct reflection of the number on the scale or a particular clothing size. Mantell advocates fully accepting and embracing where you are presently in your personal journey, ditching the harsh inner-critic mentality in favor of an optimist mindset that a better future is in sight, and that you have the skills you need to accomplish your chosen health and wellness goals.
Focus on just one thing
With a positive perspective, you can begin to thoughtfully consider how to start toward achieving your personal goals. To overcome feelings of overwhelm as to how and where to get started, ACE-certified health coach and behavior change specialist Kelley Vargo recommends getting super specific and clear on just one action you can complete every day to move closer toward your overall goal. “For example if your goal is to run a 5K, break this down into daily actions items such as getting in a 10-minute run, and then just do it,” says Vargo. “Don’t think about the bigger picture of the race itself, just focus on doing this one thing — run today.”
Establish a system for consistency
Now that you’ve honed in on one small, specific action to take toward your bigger goal, the key is to make consistency a reality. “As Aristole stated, ‘we are what we repeatedly do,’ and therefore the most critical aspect of optimizing wellness is through the accumulation of choices we make,” shares Lee Jordan, ACE-certified health coach and behavior change specialist. On days when you find yourself pressed for time or lacking motivation, instead of foregoing your planned activity, such as your 30-minute workout, Jordan suggests simply lowering the bar, doing 15-minutes if that’s all you have, or even 5-minutes if that’s what you can do. “Habits can be created more effectively when we adjust how hard the activity is, which is completely within our control,” notes Jordan. “While it’s great to allow yourself the space to dream big, it’s important to plan small and focus on frequency, as that ultimately is how healthy habits are built.”
Diversify your approach
Just as life is dynamic so too is your personal wellness journey, which is why it’s helpful to continually assess and evolve the systems and strategies by which to support your continued progress. “Motivation is never static — it varies and shifts from week to week, month to month, or even throughout the course of a single day,” says Tiffani Bachus, registered dietitian and ACE behavior change specialist. “Adopting different strategies to boost motivation gives you an assortment of resources to have close at hand to help you stay focused on your wellness goals.” From social support from friends, family or other gym goers, to creating lists of motivating statements you can use as your personal mantras, Bachus recommends periodically reviewing and updating your sources of motivation and accountability to help you stay the course.
Be kind to yourself
A critical aspect of achieving any wellness goal is to have compassion for yourself, especially amidst times of challenge or discomfort. “Approaching the process of change from a positive lens of what is gained through the experience will help you to rise and build lasting success,” shares Leila Finn, health coach instructor at Emory University. For example, if you have a goal around weight loss, it’s not uncommon to perhaps find yourself focusing on foods you feel you ‘can’t have,’ which can make you want those items that much more. As opposed to feeling deprived Finn suggests focusing on the positive when you find yourself feeling tempted, such as ‘I’ll wait ten minutes and will go for a walk, and if I still want the sweet I will eat it mindfully, truly savoring each bite.’ “A negative approach to lifestyle change pulls us down and limits our view of possibilities,” says Finn. “Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up. Instead focus on what can work instead of what can’t, feeling confident in all that you can achieve.”