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Setting goals for a healthy new year

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2011

After the rush of the holiday season, January is an optimistic time when many people set New Year’s resolutions for self-improvement. An increasing number of these resolutions involve lifestyle changes to improve one’s health and overall well-being. Though making resolutions for change may be an easy thing to do, the challenge lies in how to continue working towards those goals without getting discouraged when it becomes difficult.

Over the holidays, a good friend and I had the opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of our New Year’s resolutions in 2010. Her year had been a difficult one with ongoing health issues and a stressful work situation. Despite these struggles, my friend persisted in finding treatment for her condition and also for transferring to a better work environment. Despite numerous difficulties, she was able to accomplish many of her resolutions. She shared four tips that helped her reach her goals.

Choose one or two resolutions and make them a priority in your life. New Year’s resolutions are not supposed to resemble laundry lists of to-dos. For resolutions that address lifestyle changes, it is important to focus your energy and time on a few main goals, rather than too many.

Set SMART goals. Each letter in the word SMART stands for a criterion to create a goal setting statement or that works towards your resolution. Goal-setting from the Wise at Every Size program at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium describes SMART goals as specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and with a time commitment.

Share your resolutions. Sharing resolutions with friends, family or a supportive group of people can motivate and encourage us to succeed. When we share our resolutions with others, we receive important feedback from a fresh perspective. By sharing our resolutions with others, we may even find that others share similar goals and suddenly, reaching the goal becomes a team effort.

Remember the three Ps: patience, perseverance and perspective. New Year’s resolutions are meant to be a challenge, so be patient with yourself when setbacks occur. Small failures can be disappointing, but they are only truly failures when one gives up. Avoid the “all or nothing” mentality, and accept that imperfection is simply part of the process. By persevering while keeping our expectations in perspective, we keep our discouragement to a minimum and continue moving forward.

Whether your New Year’s resolutions are as lofty as learning a new instrument, or as simple as cleaning your desk, hopefully these tips will help you keep working on your goals for a happy healthy new year.

SMART goals

Specific: Make the goal as specific as possible. For example, if the goal is to get more exercise this year, the exercise should be a particular activity, such as walking.

Measurable: Specify a way to measure your progress, such as how often you will work on this goal. Example: walking twice a week in Cope Park

Action-based: Use words such as “will do” rather than “plan to” or “would like to.” By making the statement action-based, the goal demands action rather than just a hope or desire. Example: I will walk twice a week in Cope Park.

Realistic: Decide what is realistic for your current health condition, work schedule, family commitments and other factors.

Timeline: Choose a reasonable timeframe in which to accomplish this goal. Example: I will walk twice a week in Cope Park for a month.

At the end of this timeframe, you can determine whether you accomplished the goal or not. If you have succeeded, you can continue with the goal, or modify it. In this way, a big new year’s resolution is essentially broken down into several smaller SMART goals.

Source: SEARHC Wise at Every Size curriculum

• Jennifer Nu is a freelance writer in Juneau. She can be contacted at

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