We all have the best of intentions when it comes to setting new resolutions, but often the reason these resolutions don’t stick is because we’re trying to change a habit overnight. For sustainable, realistic changes, these habits should be overcome gradually and consistently.

First establish your goals, for example, becoming physically active, eating more healthfully, dealing better with stress etc.  Don’t set these goals because someone else says you should. Your goals should be yours alone and in setting them, not only will you buy into them, but you’ll also be fully accountable for their achievement.

Long-term 

Something that excites you to think about completing, a long-term (LT) goal can be anything you feel is realistically achievable.  Examples might be working fewer hours, cycling across the continent (!) or losing 6kg.

Setting LT goals within a 4 to 12 month period should work well – anything longer and it may be hard to maintain motivation or commitment.  Anything shorter and you’re moving into dangerous territory, since dropout tends to be greater within the first three months of starting any new programme.

Medium-term

These help you achieve your LT goals.  For example, if your LT goal is to lose 6kg within a 4-month period, your medium-term (MT) goal may be to lose 1.5kg per month.  If your LT goal is to reduce by two hours, your working day, from 10 hours within a 6-month period, your MT goal may be to get home 15 minutes earlier every 2 weeks.

Short-term

These are immediate events that facilitate your MT goals and include things as simple as attempting to get to the gym three times a week; eating a good quality home-prepared lunch daily, meditating for 5 minutes every day etc. Once again, make sure these are realistic – if you don’t normally take a lunch break, don’t opt for a one-hour walk at that time; rather attempt a 10-minute power walk until you become used to the idea of taking time for yourself during your working day.

The above make up your action plan.  Write it down so that you can remind yourself of your goals regularly. If you hit a rough spot and don’t manage to complete your ST goals for the week, don’t panic; simply start up again as soon as you can (don’t wait till Monday!). If your lapse is happening frequently, revisit your ST and MT (and perhaps even your LT) goals, since they may not be as realistic as you thought they were.

Closing argument

Lastly, be sure to reward yourself when you do achieve your goals consistently.  Perhaps not with a piece of ‘Death by Chocolate’, but with a new item of clothing, a weekend away, time by yourself … whatever floats your boat and makes you feel good.  You’ll have deserved it!