Yes, folks, it's that time of year again: time to formulate your new year resolutions. What do you want to accomplish in 2012? Some of the most common resolutions are related to exercising more, eating better, and quitting smoking--three of the most effective lifestyle changes to improve your health. Assuming you have similar resolutions, here are a few tips. However, I think many of the tips can be generalized and applied to achieving any goal.
1. Steven Covey says to begin with the end in mind. You need to know where you're going. So, set defined and specific goals, both short-term and long-term.
Lose weight = good
Lose 50 pounds in 2012 = better
Lose 50 pounds in 2012, starting with 4 pounds in January = best
2. Goals without a plan are pointless. You need a method to achieve your goals, and you may need some professional assistance. If you don't have previous experience with exercise or if you don't know how to eat healthy, consult an exercise professional or a nutritionist. There is a load of information out there, but not all of it is helpful. A professional can help you get through it a bit quicker. If you're going to begin an exercise program or nutrition plan based on your own research, please consider the source of the information. The healthiest change many people can make is to quit smoking. This book is a helpful guide in that endeavor; it provides a daily plan to maintain focus.
3. Don't try to change everything at once, e.g. throw out all the junk food and replace it with fruit and vegetables, empty your wet bar, throw away your cigarettes, buy a roomful of fitness equipment, exercise twice a day every day, etc. This is a sure path to failure. It's too much too soon. Start with one or two changes, develop good habits, then change something else. Make small changes that you can live with. For instance, drink more water every day or eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetables at every meal or start exercising for 15 minutes three days each week. When you can do this consistently for two or three weeks, then change something else. Incrementally progressive habit change will lead to a new lifestyle which is exactly what the typical American needs.
4. Now for the hard part: consistency, discipline, staying motivated and focused. Some people can manage great things independently, but many need help, someone to hold them accountable. Join a training group or a club or an organization like Weight Watchers. Go to group exercise classes or get a personal trainer or just a training partner.
Find an activity you like. Initially, you may want to try a variety of activities to see what is available and what you might enjoy. If you hate cycling, do something else. If you love the water, go for a swim. If you hate the activity you won't do it.
5. Remember why you set your goals. Are you trying to stay healthy for your children? To set a good example for them? Do you want a "beach body?" Do you have a special event this year? Would you like to stop taking medications for blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol? Is there some special activity on your "bucket list" you want to be able to do? Whatever it is, you need to KNOW what that is. You don't necessarily need to share it with anyone, but you have to have a reason for these changes. When it gets hard, you can reflect on your "why" to help you stay focused.
Specific goals + a solid plan + incremental change + consistency + focus = SUCCESS in 2012. Now, get to work! You can do it!