I am always curious at the goals people set for themselves for the new year; setting the course for an entire year. Quit smoking, lose weight, go to the gym more, stop eating donuts (okay…that last one may have been mine). If you’re thinking within the time frame of a year, those are some high expectations. Expectations, that if not met, then make it look like you have failed. That’s not being very fair to yourself, now is it? Instead of ‘go big or go home’, a more fair way would be to just go home and figure out what rate you are already performing at and then go small. This is often referred to as gathering the baseline data. If ‘quiting smoking’ is your goal and you’re currently smoking 25 cigarettes a day, expecting yourself to go down to zero in a day may be too big of a change in rate. Instead, I’d aim to cut your smoking by 1-2 cigarettes a day for a few weeks and see how you’re doing. Or, if you’ve never set foot inside a gym (i.e., baseline is zero), then setting a goal of once every two weeks may be more realistic.
The nice thing about setting the bar at a much more realistic level, is that once the goal has been met, you can always increase/decrease it further. On the other hand, setting the bar too high and then never reaching it sure doesn’t feel good. This is where people often give up. Why bother? I can’t do it! That is why I propose a new trend in goal-setting: new week resolutions or new day resolutions! For me, this means eating only one donut a week.
There’s obviously much more to setting and attaining your goals than just a smaller time-frame or a close-to-baseline rate of behaviour (and the answer isn’t more willpower either). It’s more than I can get into in one blog post - hence the reason for this whole blog in the first place! But some other goal-setting tips:
- Be specific and concrete as possible (e.g., texas style donuts don’t count)
- Word your goal in the positive - what you WILL do, versus what you WON’T do.
- And in some cases, if you’re trying to decrease a particular behaviour of yours, it also helps to define what may replace it. For example, to stop nail-biting, you may need to replace it with 5 minutes of using a stress-ball or giving yourself a finger massage. The theory behind this, is that time spent doing the replacement behaviour, may either take away from the target behaviour or fulfill the same consequences as the target behaviour.
We’re less than three hours away from 2011. I wish everyone a happy new day, week or month of goals and resolutions ahead. Keep them small, specific and positive and remember to find yourself replacements and it can be a positive and prosperous new year!