It’s that time of year again when we set resolutions and put forth our intentions to make our lives better. It’s an annual tradition, but is it worth the effort? As I often set resolutions that I quickly abandon, I wonder why I do so when I’m more likely to realize my goals.
Is there a difference?
Does it matter?
In search of answers, I turned to Holistic Health and Wellness Coach and professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, Aubrey Mast for guidance. She had several insightful and incredibly helpful responses to my questions about designing resolutions (or rather goals) that you will actually keep.
Why do we set resolutions? “We set resolutions to give ourselves goals. We are driven by the aspiration to do and be better; but goals are more important than resolutions,” says Aubrey. “Resolutions are often not continued. Resolving to be a better human requires details, we need to be clear about the how and why and that’s where goals with time stamps can help to provide long term changes rather than the resolution to loose ten pounds. That can be done and then we can go back to the way we were before hand. If we set the goal of to feel the best in my body by loosing ten pounds, eating better, exercising twice a week and maintaining social support we have details in place that we can put into real actionable items that have the potential to lead to long term lifestyle changes.”
How do we design good goals? “A good goal is one that (SMART) is specific, it’s measurable, we know where we are going and by when; and it’s attainable,” says Aubrey.
“I often have clients and students set goals like loosing 25 pounds in two weeks or working out seven days a week from a sedentary lifestyle. These are not attainable. In order to make changes through resolutions and goals we need to recognize that they take small steps. One small step at a time. We may want to ultimately loose 25 pounds and we can but it happens a pound at a time which is actually making an attainable choice daily about what to eat, how to exercise and how to manage stress.”
“This means that the resolutions and goals also have to be realistic. We should not be setting ourselves up to fail but to succeed. In the success we have increased motivation to keep moving forward and attain our resolutions. We also need to set a time to the resolutions. Cutting back to three cigarettes a week in a month. The more specific we can be not only with the goal we are trying to achieve but by when then we can keep the motivation moving forward to attain them.”
Does complexity matter when setting a SMART goal? “Too complex of a resolution can complicate things quickly,” says Aubrey. “The more complex it is, the more time we need to rearrange it in our minds so we can grapple with an understanding of how to achieve it. Simplicity is best. I want to loose weight to feel better in my body. I want to meditate so I am less stressed. I want to quit vaping so I can take deeper breaths. The more direct of an understanding we have of the why in a resolution, the easier it is for us to stand behind it. “
So if we set simplistic and SMART goals then why don’t we always meet them? “We don’t keep resolutions because a lot of times we set them out of a story of what we should be doing,” reminds Aubrey.
“We should be working out. We should be quitting smoking or loosing weight. We should, all of these stories discount what we are doing and who we actually are. We are set up to not succeed if we are operating from the ‘shoulds’ of who we are ’supposed’ to be rather than who we are. We also set these resolutions that are not realistic. I don’t like to run, I can say that I want to loose weight for my resolution and that I am going to start running so I can do it. I already am set up to fail. I don’t like running, I am not going to want to sustain it. This is the problem with the ‘shoulds’ we need to first be in allowance and appreciation of who we are and where we are falling short of who we would like to be. Then set an attainable goal of baby steps in getting us there.”
What could we do to change that habit and actually keep them? “The more allowance we can be of ourselves the better we are,” suggest Aubrey. “As a society we are so often looking at what is wrong with us. Diets, workouts, clothes, foods, mental health—we are bombarded with messages of how we should be different. We rarely engage in a personal and introspective conversation of what is right with us. Looking at what we like about ourselves. Crowding out the things we don’t like and want to change with the ways that we are showing up for our best selves is a great way to not only honor the work we are doing to be present with ourselves, but it also helps us acknowledge how hard of work we have to put in to change into a better version of ourselves.“
You mentioned accountability. Does that really help? “Yes. Working with people is so important,” states Aubrey. “Life coaches, personal trainers, nutritionists, wellness coaches. Accountability is essential and a lot of times that means finding someone you can trust to be vulnerable with that understands where you are trying to get to and how they can best support you in that journey.”
“You are also able to cut yourself some slack then. Say you miss a workout or eat fast food one day. When we choose to see that as a choice we are able to more easily say we can choose differently tomorrow rather than throw our hands up and give in. “
What about resources? “There are little resources actually needed for change,” says Aubrey. “The biggest one is personal grit and commitment. Being held accountable and being willing to see each day as a choice in choosing how you would like to change towards your end goal is really the only resource you need.”
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.