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Achieving Your Goals

by Ronda Gates

There's a great holiday card at my local gift shop. The front says, "Start your New Year's Resolution now." Open the card and it reads, "Get out your eraser!!

I've this sense that everyone whose hands have lifted that card from the rack has shook his or her head, chuckled and thought, "I can relate." Nevertheless, I left with the same sense of optimism I believe those readers share. "This year it will be different. "

Because the past few years HAVE been different for me I have a new sense of optimism about achieving goals. Your commitment that "this time it will be different" can be a reality. You are motivated, you are committed. you are optimistic. You may also be afraid that your best intentions will be compromised by another relapse. If you've ever said, I already know what I need to do, I just haven't been able to do it," here are some specific techniques to keep your spark ignited:

SET GOALS (and OBJECTIVES)

Goal setting is the art that makes everything else possible. It adds aim to energy, focuses effort and, for some, structures time. Surveys show that people who plan ahead are much more successful over the long term than those who plunge in without knowing where they're going or how they'll get there. You wouldn't take a long road trip without a map so it makes good sense to have a compass (and road map) for your fitness objectives.

Goals Should Be Smart

S = Specific. Saying, "I'll go to exercise class," is not a specific goal. I have a clearer picture when I write, "Next week I will attend step class at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday."

M = Measurable. Set goals that are measurable in quality or quantity. Measuring body fat percentage, hip to waist ratio or journaling and record keeping of diet intake or workouts achieved or increases in heart rate reserve are powerful and motivating tools to assuring a new habit becomes a long term behavior. Instead, make plans for an individual workout that nurtures you. Many folks find they're more committed to measurable goals if they report to a friend or colleague willing to help monitor their progress.

A = Attainable. In the enthusiasm of the moment we often make promises that are difficult to keep when enthusiasm wanes. If you're looking for a magic bullet the chances are you'll end up shooting yourself in the foot. Realizing that change doesn't happen overnight will help you set realistic goals you can achieve. It's the SMALL changes that are the key to permanent lifestyle change. For example, if are trying to lose weight you should avoid the painful rebound of crash dieting by planning to lose no more than one or two pounds a week.

R = Realistic. Goals should reflective of your values and compatible with your lifestyle. If not they can be the source of distress. Success is about learning how to customize your activities to find the right fit for you. For example, if you don't enjoy working out with others it's unrealistic to join an aerobic exercise class. I enjoy being with people most of the time, but have learned that my new heart rate monitor based exercise program is much more fun when I stride out on my own where I can manage my pace without distraction and return with a sense of accomplishment in addition to the satisfaction of another completed workout.

T = Timely. It's not smart to plan too many changes at once-it's too threatening to your internal sense of balance. Before you begin be certain you can identify other areas of your life that might be stressful and prevent you from "doing what you want to do". For example, although a workout can be an important stress reducer if it makes your schedule more unmanageable you may have to postpone a new weight training program or fitness class until it's more in keeping with a balanced lifestyle.

Write Down Your Goals

It's important to put your goals in writing. Written goals are a tangible sign of a promise that you intend to keep. They can remind you of that promise when time is short or if other priorities become pressing. Written goals will also help you track your progress, make your accomplishments more obvious and help you identify problem areas that need more attention. Sadly, only 5% of Americans write down goals and objectives, but 95% of those who do succeed. (A survey of Fortune 500 executives indicates that they may be successful because they write down their goals and objectives

Identify Supporters And Saboteurs

Some of us can be the lone ranger, but most people need coaches, cheerleaders and people whose belief in and support of us reminds us of our commitment to change. The friendship and support of others will make it easier for you pass through the sometimes difficult transition from old to new behaviors. I know folks who have taken responsibility for themselves and embarked on a changed lifestyle only to discover that most beloved friends and family members feel they are being imposed upon. So, identify the people who will nurture you and help you maintain your well-being, as well as those (even your loved ones) who don't see your point of view. Those supporters will help you maintain your commitment during periods of stress

Plan for the Unexpected

Lack of time is the most frequently mentioned reason for discontinuing a fitness program. Life is filled with surprises so include strategies that assure you will make time for maintaining your commitment in the face of changing schedules, unexpected mini-crisis and external forces like long meetings, extra traffic, changes in car pools--you know what I mean!!

Affirm Your Behavior

Affirmations are powerful. Many people find that repeating certain sayings to themselves helps them accept things. They discover they are programming their sub-conscious to new beliefs. Affirmations should be positive such as "I am," "I have" as opposed to "I would like" or "I will try". Remind yourself daily, "I am a healthy person making changes in my lifestyle so I can live in the most healthy way."

Reward Your Success

Set up a reward system so you can reward yourself for changed behaviors. Each of us have different values for measuring success. Yours should be structured to satisfy you, not others. That reward should make you hum from head to toe! Good examples include extra time for yourself with a favorite book, a manicure or pedicure, a trip with a special friend or relative or a class or lecture or play that stimulates your mind. Avoid rewards related to food and drink that may be sabotaging in the long run.

Negotiating the path to new behaviors can be fulfilling and rewarding if we can hang in there for the weeks to months necessary to make new behaviors lifestyle habits. Then you are ready to actualize new potentials.

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