There’s nothing quite as appealing as a fresh start. That’s why, every New Year, we tell ourselves we’re going to—finally–embark on the path to the very best version of ourselves. We’ll exercise every day, keep up with our heart healthy diet and drink more water (but for real, this time).
For most of us, though, those good intentions don’t last as long as we want them to. In fact, according to U.S. News and World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February.
So what can you do to ensure you’re part of the 20 percent of go-getters who beat the odds and make lasting lifestyle changes?
We asked Aimee Richardson, a health coach and tobacco treatment counselor with Henry Ford Health how to do just that:
1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
“When you set a goal saying something like, ‘I want to lose two pounds in a week,’ that’s a good start, but the key is to get more specific about how you’re going to achieve that goal,” Richardson says. That’s where S.M.A.R.T goals can help—an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timebound. In the case of shedding a few pounds, get specific about how you’re going to drop the weight (cutting calories, walking, running, etc.) Make sure you can measure your progress (keeping a journal is a great idea.) Ensure your initial goal is within reason or attainable. Ask why it’s relevant or worthwhile (maybe it’s for your health). And give yourself a specific time in which to achieve your goal (days, weeks, months, etc.)
2. Think Ahead and Visualize
When you’re trying to make a change in your life, planning and visualizing can be a big help. “Ask yourself: Three months from now or three years from now, what types of things do I want to be doing consistently that are going to get me to live the happy, healthy life that I desire?” If you have a clearer picture of what you and your daily habits look like in the near future, you’re more likely to see them play out.
3. Track Progress, Not Perfection
Building a new habit takes time, and although you may have heard about studies that put a concrete number on how many days it takes before a new habit sticks, the reality is that it varies from person to person and from goal to goal. While you’re working toward that goal, however, it’s vital to monitor your progress.
4. Embrace the Power of Scheduling
Whatever the new habit is that you’re trying to implement, make it as easy as possible for you to see it through. Sometimes, that means carving out a specific time in the day to do it — whether that’s meditating for five minutes every morning or getting to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday after work.
5. Reevaluate and Refine Your Goals
As you try to make a change in your life, it’s OK — and even beneficial — for your goal to change so you can get the results you want. “Once you’ve been at something new for a while, it’s important to reevaluate so you can continue to make progress,” Richardson says. “How is the change to your diet making your body feel? How does the new workout feel? Are you too sore? Are you too tired? Is it too easy? Too hard?”
As you move forward with your New Year’s resolutions, remember that trying something new can be uncomfortable at first. So if you find it to be too difficult or you seem to keep dropping the ball, don’t be so hard on yourself. “Making changes requires a balance,” Richardson says. “Going to the gym can be intimidating. Eating healthfully takes a lot of education and discipline. As a health coach, that’s what we’re here to help with.”
If you are interested in working with a health coach to reach your goals, call (313) 874-6273 or visit henryford.com.
Aimee Richardson, MCHES, CHWC, CTTS, leads the health coaching program at Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She is an experienced health educator and certified tobacco treatment specialist.