Every year as we ring in the New Year, we feel compelled to set a New Year’s Resolution. Why do some people "fall off the wagon" right away while others are able to stick with their resolutions?
Often it is the way the person has set the goal.
Many people experience difficulty because they have not gone through the process of self-assessment— reviewing problems and possible solutions, and then setting a goal. Others choose goals that are not realistic or goals that are set by someone else.
Here are some keys to successful goal setting:
- Take time to think through what you want for yourself and the possible solutions.
- Make sure your goal is YOURS; don’t let someone else set it for you, but don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it from healthcare providers, friends or family.
- Identify barriers you may encounter trying to reach the goal and imagine how you would overcome them. Barriers might be physical, cognitive, emotional, financial or social.
- Be optimistic but realistic (don’t set your sights too low or too high).
- Write your goal down. This actually SETS it and makes it real.
- Share your goal with the people who will support you in achieving it.
- Work on an “I can do it!” attitude. Your confidence will grow if you encourage yourself.
- Be committed!
- Don’t be discouraged if you slip backwards now and then; think long-term.
Try the SMART technique for setting your goals.
Specific: goals can not be vague
Measurable: otherwise how will you know when you succeed?
Relevant: to the problem you identified
Time-based: so that it doesn’t get “put off” forever
For example, a goal of exercising everyday would not be a SMART goal. Using the SMART technique you might arrive at these goals instead:
S: Swimming (specific type of activity).
M: 30 minutes, 2 x/week (measurable).This is a goal you can work toward, because 10 minutes is all you can do right now.
A: You’ve planned on pool access and transportation (realistic). If not, you may need to decrease time, frequency, or even change specific activity.
R: You’ve identified your basic problem as decreased activity (swimming is relevant).
T: You look to accomplishing your measurement goal within 2 months (time).
Goal-setting requires some real consideration. Taking the time to assess things up front will improve your chance for success. And remember, You CAN set new goals any day of the year!
Contributing editors: Staff, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis