Goal Setting for the New Year

It’s that time of year again, New Year’s has come and gone, and we have already flown past the first Monday of the year and are starting to think about our Resolutions for 2021. Are you going to set any this year? Or maybe you’ve set them already? And possibly haven’t done anything about them because they just seem so unachievable?

Every website, blog post, social medica platform and influencer is telling you to set your resolutions, and often they come with a “30 day” end date. Fantastic! you think. Only 30 day’s to kick start the new diet, new fitness regime, new health and wellbeing goals! This will be a breeze, a 30 day commitment and then your resolutions are done for the year! But….wait….what about the next 335 days? How will you reach and maintain your yearly goals if they end in 30 days?

This is a common misconception around New Years Resolutions, that they have to be fast and easy, and if you don’t achieve that 5kg weight loss or complete 10 minutes of meditation every day in January then you have failed, and you may as well give up for the rest of the year and try again next year. But what about if you did it differently THIS year? What would you say if I told you that you could set specific, realistic, achievable goals for the WHOLE year, that didn’t make you feel like you’ve failed yourself?

It’s easy – throw the 30 days out of the window and remember that a year has 365 days. That seems like a long time, right? Which is exactly what we want, because it means that all of those health and wellbeing goals can not only be achieved but can be maintained over a longer period of time. It gives you more time to turn occasional into regular, turn once off’s into habits, and make lifelong changes about your health. We need time to make healthy habits, and trying to cram it all into a 30 day challenge doesn’t teach you anything about how to maintain those results for the rest of the year.

So how do you actually go about setting a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goals for the whole year? I’ve written a few simple steps that can hopefully help.

  1. Decide what your year long goal or goals will be – maybe it’s running 5km non-stop, or eating healthier to lose 5kg. That might seem like a lot right now, but let’s break it down into smaller achievable parts below
  2. If we specifically use running 5km non-stop as our example, it might look something like this:
    1. Walk/run 1-2 x 30 minutes per week. Be realistic, if you set yourself the goal of running every second day you are likely to cause yourself injury, so trying for 1-2 per week may be more realistic for you! You also may not go for 2 x runs every week due to life’s normal interruptions and that’s OK, no one is perfect! Or maybe you start out by walking the majority of your run, which is the sensible thing to do if you are starting from nothing and don’t want an injury. Missing a few odd runs or walking instead of running shouldn’t make you feel guilty or like you’ve failed, there’s always tomorrow to continue progressing.
    2. Schedule your runs for 2 x specific days of the week, maybe Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 6am before work. Scheduling and writing your runs into your diary makes you accountable to yourself, you can visualise it’s there and you can plan around it to make sure it happens
    3. Start with running shorter distances and measure how far you’ve gone – like 500m – non-stop. As that becomes easy, increase to 1km non-stop, and continue adding 500m as your endurance and running fitness increases. This may take months – that’s OK! Remember you have a whole year to achieve this goal!
    4. If you achieve your 5km non-stop goal earlier than the year, you can progress your goal to challenge yourself further
      1. Maybe run your 5km in a faster time
      2. Increase the distance (but make it realistic) – aim for 6km!
    5. Now if we wrote this goal down in one sentence, it might look something like this: “I would like to run 5km non-stop within the next 12 months, by completing 2 x runs per week on most weeks of the year”

A few key things to keep in the back of your mind when choosing your goals and sticking to them during the year. You should NEVER associate missing a day of exercise/meditation/”unhealthy” eating with guilt – these are all parts of normal life! If you asked any athlete or health professional if they were “perfect” with their mental and physical health and wellbeing on EVERY day of the year, not one of them would say yes. Everyone’s health and wellbeing looks different, and missing one day of your “perfect health” will not make you fail, nor will it change your ability to achieve your goals in the same time. Looking after our minds and bodies should be something that we look forward to and enjoy, and if we continue to associate this with guilt then we enter an unhealthy cycle of blaming ourselves for a “bad” day. I like to look at it as there are no bad days, only life, and some days life can be more challenging than others, but progress can still be made on any day of the year.

Lastly, if you don’t believe in New Years Resolutions there’s also nothing wrong with that! A lot of people like to make their health and wellbeing goals a life-long commitment rather than a once a year event, but goal setting can still be an effective way to break down a big task into smaller, specific tasks over the year to keep you on track.

If you are still struggling get the motivation to set your goals, contact one of our lovely Allied Health Professionals – no matter our individual occupations, we are all trained to listen and assist with goal setting, and we can help to plan them with you and make resources to help you achieve them over the course of the year. Happy New Year to you all 😊

Written by Physiotherapist Lexi Ironside

Following her passion for helping others achieve their optimal quality of life, Lexi completed her Doctor of Physiotherapy at Bond University in early 2016. In the years since she has gained experience across a wide variety of hospital wards including inpatient and outpatient orthopedics, cardiac and pain management programs, and surgical rehabilitation.

Lexi has made the transition to Community Care to help engage her clients and create lifelong health benefits through individualised treatment plans that provide lasting independence in the home.