Chris Zellers, MPP -Assistant Professor/Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences Department
It may still be 2021 but starting the new year off right is important. New Year’s resolutions are not always easy to keep but being prepared by setting goals could support success. Finding resources now to make those resolutions a reality is key to carrying them out. For example, if you are thinking about exercising more and want to join a gym, start looking at options and prices now by comparing costs and what the gym offers in relation to your needs. Think about changes you might want to make in the new year now to make those goals more binding and obtainable. It’s important to remember healthy changes aren’t temporary but rather a lifestyle change, don’t strive to lose 40 pounds in two months and then plan to return to habits that don’t support a healthy living pattern. Being prepared now for what you want to accomplish in 2022 is a good way to be successful.
When thinking about setting goals for the New Year try using the S.M.A.R.T system. The S.M.A.R.T system was created by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham. This method of obtaining what you want can be used to support most goals even though the original model was developed to accomplish management objectives. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic, and Time. First, set a specific goal to stay motivated, for instance add one healthy food in a day for the next 6 weeks if eating healthy is your resolution. Secondly, make the goal measurable, if aiming to exercise more then look at how far you are walking or biking and make a goal by keeping track of the distance or amount of time you are moving. The goal should be easy to measure or track. Next, the resolution needs to be achievable and something you can aspire to do that is relevant to you. If you want to quit smoking that is certainly achievable, but you may need to seek help for this by calling a Quit Center to get support. In Atlantic County, Atlantic Prevention Resources offers free Smoking Cessation services, 609-804-QUIT and in Cape May County, Cape Assist, 609-522-5960. These agencies can help you achieve living a smoke or vape free lifestyle. Finally, set a defined timeline for starting the goal and how long it could take to meet that goal. Running a marathon if you don’t currently exercise can be a goal but, be realistic in the amount of time it could take you to train to achieve that. Setting S.M.A.R.T goals for the New Year will make them easier to track and attain.
No matter what changes you may want to make in the New Year remember to be kind to yourself and take small steps to success. Making changes is not easy and could take a while, don’t think about them as short-term but as things to make life better from now on. Bad days may happen, remember tomorrow is a new day to start those goals over. Everyone has days that its hard to stay on track, forgive yourself and start over. It can take six weeks to make a resolution a habit and it may take each person a little longer or less time. Make a reward system for yourself to support goals. For example if you meet your goal to exercise 150 minutes per week the first month, then do something you enjoy like reading a new book or watching a favorite movie. Try to focus your reward on positive things you enjoy rather than habits you may need to break in the future. No matter what your goals, ring in the New Year prepared to make the changes that are best for you in 2022.