Having a goal that is in line with your priorities may be an important foundation – after all, if it isn’t something that is important to you, you’re probably not going to spend too much time on trying to achieve it – but making sure that your goal is realistic is also about making sure that you are able to achieve it.
There’s no sense in setting yourself a goal to lose 5-10 kg a week or stick to eating 1000 calories everyday. Aside from being unhealthy and unsustainable goals, unless you’re living in a weight loss bubble like a TV show contestant, you’re likely to have other things going on in your life that require your time, focus and energy and having goals like these is doing nothing but setting yourself up for failure. While we are told from a young age to stretch ourselves and aim high, taking these things to the extreme can mean that many of us are left feeling like we are hopeless, when really it is our expectations that are failing us. If you’re serious about achieving your goals, you need to set yourself up for success – its not cheating, it’s being smart about things!
Now, I’m not saying that you should rule out those big changes altogether. If you have 20kg that you want to lose or you want to be able to run a marathon, that is great – just be realistic about how you’re going to get there and how long it is going to take you. Having a (flexible) plan is half the battle to achieving your goals, so here are some tips to help you make achievable and sustainable lifestyle changes.
5 tips to setting yourself achievable lifestyle goals:
- Break it down. Want to lose 20kg? Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Achieving smaller goals can help keep you motivated and stay on track, so set yourself some smaller goal posts along the way. Focus on the first 5kg (or 2kg if that still sounds like too much!) and give yourself a pat on the back when you get there.
- Focus on what works for you. Your goals should be personal and meaningful to you, as should the way that you go about meeting them. For any one goal there may be many hundreds of ways to reach it. Just because some plan worked for your neighbour/sister/colleague/father/mother-in-law, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Reflecting on what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past will help you understand what may work better for you this time. If cutting out all chocolate just makes you crave it more, then making a plan to go completely chocolate free for the next month is probably not a good goal for you. However, allowing yourself a small square or two a couple of times a week may mean that you will cut down your overall chocolate consumption (and calories) without feeling deprived. Likewise, just because someone else lost 20kg doesn’t mean that this is a realistic goal for you. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and start focusing on ourselves.
- You can’t do it all (at once). As much as many of us would like to be able to change everything in a short space of time, it is fairly hard to achieve this in reality. With all the other demands on our time (work, family, social commitments), focusing on 1-2 small changes at a time is best. Give yourself a couple of easy changes to work on first – having some easy wins will give you a confidence boost to help you make further changes. Once those changes become habit you can make a couple more changes – it all adds up over time!
- Give yourself a deadline. It’s human nature to give more attention to things that have a due date. If you don’t have a date in mind to achieve your goals you’re less likely to meet them, so set yourself a date to reach your target by. Keep it realistic – you can’t expect yourself to lose 5kg in a month and be able to keep it off. For weight loss a good rule of thumb is 0.5kg a week or 2kg a month. So if you’re aiming to lose 5kg you should give yourself 2-3 months to do so.
- Think long term. If you want to lose weight or live in a more healthy way you need to make changes that are sustainable for the long term. Before you start making crazy changes, have a good think if this would be something you would be happy to do for a long term. Cutting out an entire food group may well help you lose weight now, but if you can only keep it up for a month or two then the weight is unlikely to stay off after you go back to your ‘regular’ eating habits. Focus on building yourself a healthier lifestyle rather than on ‘dieting’.
So, if you’ve found it hard to keep up your resolutions in the past, maybe you were unknowingly setting yourself up for failure from the start by making hard to achieve goals!
Which of the above tips could help you tweak your goals or plans to help you stick to them?
This is part 2 of a 3 part series on making realistic resolutions. The first part can be found here, come back later this week for the final part on keeping up your changes and staying on track to your goals.