Many of us use the month of Jan­u­ary to set our­selves some goals for the year. Typ­i­cal­ly, we aim to change some­thing we are not hap­py with, for exam­ple our health. Whilst it is great that we reflect upon and revise our health sta­tus and lives in gen­er­al, set­ting goals which are dif­fi­cult and unre­al­is­tic can leave us feel­ing dis­heart­ened, upset and like fail­ures. Equal­ly, set­ting goals which are too easy can also be prob­lem­at­ic in that the changes we make are unlike­ly to be sus­tain­able, sim­ply because we did not have to work that hard to get there. Any change requires plan­ning and true change can take up to two years to incor­po­rate into our lives ensur­ing that change not only hap­pens, but the changes we make then become the new way of being.

Some sim­ple ways of increas­ing our chances of suc­cess in set­ting and achiev­ing goals and ongo­ing, sus­tain­able change can be to set what are called SMART goals. SMART stands for Spe­cif­ic, Mea­sur­able, Achiev­able, Rel­e­vant and Time Based. Here is how you can incor­po­rate SMART goals into your desired change set­ting you up not only for increased oppor­tu­ni­ties of suc­cess but also plan­ning for those lit­tle hic­cups which might occur;


What exact­ly is it you want to change? Name it, write it down, tell trust­ed oth­ers.


What will the change look like, how will you know you are mak­ing a change?

What is the high­est lev­el of change you are aim­ing for, what is the low­est lev­el you would still be hap­py with and where is some­where in the mid­dle? How will you know change is occur­ring? Per­haps a dai­ly, week­ly, month­ly progress chart can help here. If it is some­thing phys­i­cal, take a pho­to, take some mea­sure­ments.


Is the goal real­is­tic? Typ­i­cal­ly, you want to be about 70% con­fi­dent you can make this change. The con­fi­dence rat­ing of 70% ensures the goal isn’t too dif­fi­cult or too easy. Find­ing a bud­dy or join­ing a group who is also inter­est­ed in mak­ing this change increas­es your like­li­hood of suc­cess. It’s much hard­er to walk away or not turn up when you are account­able to oth­ers besides your­self.


Does it mean some­thing to you? Is it your goal? Are you invest­ed in the change? Change which means noth­ing to you or which you may be try­ing to do to please some­one else is just hard work and can leave you feel­ing guilty, frus­trat­ed and like a fail­ure. Here, you need to be hon­est with your­self and hon­est with oth­ers.


How long are you going to give your­self to make the change? Can you break this time­frame into incre­ments with small goal ori­en­tat­ed reward points along the way? Be care­ful not to reward your­self with some­thing which is a step back­wards towards the behav­iour you are try­ing to change! To increase your chances of suc­cess, look for­ward, what events which are com­ing your way and may be a threat towards goal achieve­ment? Plan for them.

Oth­er tips that can help are con­sid­er­ing the fol­low­ing:

  • Write your goal down, say it out aloud and share it with some­one you know who will be sup­port­ive. There are many tem­plates for SMART goals on the inter­net, have a look and down­load one.
  • Plan­ning is the key. What prepa­ra­tion will you need to do to increase your chance of suc­cess? Who can help you and what does that help need to look like? Are there cer­tain sit­u­a­tions which you might need to avoid where you know you will be tempt­ed in the ear­ly stages of change?
  • What can you replace the behav­iour you want to change with? For exam­ple, going for a walk at a time when you might nor­mal­ly do the behav­iour you want to change.
  • Think about last time you tried to intro­duce change, what worked well and what didn’t? Can you use some­things you learnt from your past attempt to increase your suc­cess this time?
  • Would help from a pro­fes­sion­al increase your like­li­hood of suc­cess?

Above all remem­ber, along the way you are like­ly to face some hic­cups. Hic­cups are lit­tle speed bumps on your road to change. You know the ones, the days where work or home are stress­ful and despite the best laid plans, life just gets in the way or when you get sick or injured and you just feel like giv­ing up. Again, be real­is­tic, here, accep­tance is the key. Every­one has bad days when it all seems too hard. It’s when you con­vince your­self that the bad day has ruined all of your efforts and there is no point in get­ting back on track when the hic­cups become a major prob­lem. Here are some things you can do to stop a hic­cup from becom­ing a total dis­as­ter:

  • Reflect – what hap­pened and why? What might you need to revise to make the goal achiev­able again?
  • Time­frame – allow your­self to feel like this/behave like that for an after­noon or 24 hours but then, it’s back on track. Pick your­self up and dust your­self off!
  • Turn to one of your sup­ports – some­times hav­ing a bud­dy who will help you get back on track or just lis­ten to you is all you that you actu­al­ly need­ed.
  • Remind your­self – why did you set this goal and what was so impor­tant about it in the first place?
  • Be kind – don’t say any­thing to your­self that you would not say to your best friend!

Final­ly, if you have already start­ed your 2019 goals and are hav­ing a few hic­cups, don’t wor­ry, you can always use some of these sim­ple tips to help you get back on track. Some­times, you just need to take a step back to be able to move for­ward again.

Next time, we’ll look at sleep, some­thing we increas­ing­ly strug­gle with yet if we can get it right, has major impacts on our over­all well­be­ing.

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