By Helaine Krasner, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN
The start of a New Year is a time when most of us reflect on how we’re doing and what we hope for in the future. It’s a natural time of assessment and self-reflection as well as an opportunity to consider our hopes and dreams. The New Year is commonly viewed as a time for making resolutions and setting goals. If goal setting is part of your new year’s plan it’s important to go about the process in a way that is positive, productive, and proven to produce results.
Having the desire to change a behavior is not enough to make it happen. Although it’s important to be invested in the desired outcome, our behaviors are deeply engrained in our routines and often occur without conscious awareness. Our bodies have learned to respond automatically to certain triggers and those habits can be challenging to unlearn.
Once we have selected a new habit that we are trying to develop the next step is to formulate an action plan! One method to increase the chance that your attempt at behavior change will be successful is to define your goal using the SMART goal format. Each letter of the acronym represents an important aspect of your plan. Use this tool to map out the details of exactly what you plan to do. Try to anticipate and plan for obstacles that may get in the way.
- Specific – clearly define you goal to describe exactly what you will do and what you are trying to accomplish – this is the what, why and how of your plan.
- Measurable – decide how to quantify your goal so you can track your progress – self-monitoring is essential for accountability and raising awareness.
- Attainable – determine if you have the skills, tools, and resources necessary to perform the task – look for potential holes in the plan so you can adjust your goal or arrange for what’s missing.
- Relevant – objectively evaluate if the chosen activity will help you reach your goal and is consistent with what is important to you – this takes honest assessment of your values.
- Time-bound – select a short-term time frame to evaluate how the plan is working so far – expect hiccups along the way and use this information to adjust your goal or the actions you are taking.
Finally, be patient with yourself and the process. It takes time and consistency to develop new habits. Think progress, not perfection. Believe that change is possible.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Helaine Krasner, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist who takes great pride in helping our bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients achieve their health and weight loss goals.