I’ll just say it. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, especially when it comes to health goals.
For one thing, how many people actually stick to them after the first month (or week, or day) of the new year? And for another thing, I can’t stand how so many resolutions focus on negativity and deprivation. “Lose 20 pounds.” “Stop eating sugar.” Ugh.
There are usually good intentions behind this type of resolution, but honestly, focusing on the negative, on what you have to take away in order to have a good life, is just setting you up for guilt, shame, and failure.
You might be asking yourself why I’m writing about setting health goals if I’m not a fan of resolutions. Fair question! Here’s why: While I’m not a fan of negative, deprivation-based “resolutions,” I am a HUGE fan of positive, achievable goals.
You see, goal setting is about taking the time to reflect on the last year – what went well, what didn’t work so well, and what you want to take with you into the new year. Goal setting doesn’t focus on some huge resolution that starts on January 1st and is supposed to magically be sustained throughout the whole year; instead, it focuses on little by little progress, slowly working toward something bigger that really matters to you.
True goal setting, when done well, is grace-filled.
With grace-filled goal setting, you commit to being intentional to take the steps, little by little, to achieve something that matters deeply to you. But, if you don’t get as far with achieving that goal as you’d hoped, there is no shame or guilt.
Good goal setting allows you to still work toward things that matter to you without feeling like you have to be perfect or do it all. I find so much freedom in that, and I hope you will too!
Setting Your Health Goals
So, as you sit down to contemplate your health goals for the new year, think about the goals you want to achieve. Try to focus on things that are positive and motivating, rather than negative and restrictive. Once you have your larger goal, try to write down 3-5 small, achievable steps you can take in the next month or two that will help you get closer to making that goal a reality.
Here’s a simple but totally real-life example:
Suppose initially your “resolution” was to eat healthier this year. That’s a really broad goal, which means that it will be difficult to achieve because you’re immediately going to feel overwhelmed by trying to do ALL THE HEALTHY THINGS at once.
So you change your goal to: I want to eat more vegetables on a daily basis. Great! Then, you write down the baby steps you’re going to take in the next couple of months to help you achieve this goal.
Goal: I want to eat more vegetables on a daily basis.
– I’m going to start adding a handful of greens to my breakfast smoothie.
– I’m going to substitute my usual sandwich for a salad at lunch 2 days per week.
– When I plan my family’s meals for the week, I’m going to make sure every dinner includes a vegetable.
This is brilliant. Now you have a specific, positive goal, and you have some reasonable steps you can start taking today! Maybe you start with the vegetable at dinner in January, and in February you start aiming to eat a salad for lunch a couple times per week.
You don’t have to do everything at once. If you can find success with the first baby step, you’ll be more motivated to move forward with the next ones.
If you get to the end of January and the goal you set isn’t working, just re-evaluate. Why isn’t it working? Consider whether the goal is important enough to try again, or perhaps there are other goals that need to take a higher priority for now.
NO guilt and NO shame.
Questions to Consider
Still stuck trying to figure out what you want your health goals to be this year? As you think about a possible goal, consider these questions to help guide you:
- Is the goal actually achievable? If not, is there a smaller goal I could start with?
- Is the goal sustainable? Will I be able to cultivate this goal as a lasting part of my lifestyle?
- Does it take something away from my life, or add something to it? This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I find that in general goals that add, rather than subtract, tend to be a lot more life-giving.
- Does it help me to be a positive, healthy role model for my kids (and friends and family)?
- Does the goal focus on my physical appearance or my weight? This generally isn’t a healthy place to start. While it may seem motivating, focusing on appearance or weight leads to feelings of guilt and shame when we aren’t successful. You can’t actually control your appearance, so try focusing instead on goals that are achievable and make you feel good.
- What is your motive, your WHY? As you write out your goals, write out your WHY for each goal. If you can’t come up with one, or if it feels like it’s coming from a place of negativity, guilt or shame, consider a different goal.
Try setting grace-filled health goals for yourself and your family this year. You won’t believe how much more motivated you’ll be to work towards positive goals compared to those negative “resolutions.” While your goals may seem small at first, remember it is truly the little by little progress towards the things that matter most to us that makes all the difference.