The reason why so many people don’t reach their New Year’s resolution health goals is probably not what you think. We often blame a lack of willpower for not sticking to our resolutions. More often than not, it comes down to one of these three things:

  1. Our goals are unrealistic.
  2. The goals we set are vague or undefined.
  3. We set a goal, but we don’t make a plan.

When it comes to reaching your goals, they need to be something that doesn’t set you up for automatic failure. Whether it’s losing weight, improving your heart health, drinking more water or whatever it may be, success usually comes down to setting specific but achievable goals. You also need to create a roadmap for how to reach them.

Take the goal of drinking more water, for example. If saying you’re going to drink more water is the totality of your goal setting and planning, you’re likely to fail. If you set a goal for a specific number of glasses each day (let’s say 8), plan exactly when you’re going to have them. Set an alarm to remind yourself to have them at the set times, and track your progress. You will drink more water each day. Once the habit of drinking 8 glasses a day is firmly entrenched, you can most likely do away with the reminders and tracking. You can then move your efforts to a new goal.

Approaches To Goal Setting And Planning

A number of approaches exist that can be helpful in reaching your goals. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it: only ways that are successful or unsuccessful for you and your particular goal. Some of the most effective methods are listed below.

  • Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

This popular method for achieving goals is an acronym of the five key components to include in your goal setting. Your goal should be:

  • Specific: For example, “eat five vegetables every day” rather than “eat more vegetables.”
  • Measurable: Similar to the first step, the goal should be something trackable like getting 10,000 steps a day vs. a vague goal like “more walking.”
  • Attainable: Your goal should be challenging but not impossible.
  • Relevant: It needs to be something you really care about achieving or that is integral to meeting a bigger goal that is important to you.
  • Time-based: Set a date to complete your goal.
  • Use short-term goals to reach long-term goals.

Rather than singularly focusing on the long-term goal (e.g., running a marathon or losing 10 pounds), focus on the steps you need to take to reach the end goal. Then, turn those into short-term goals.

If your goal is to lose weight, you might create a progressive exercise goal. Perhaps your first goal is to walk for 30 minutes three times a week for one month. For month two, your goal might be walking 30 minutes every day. In month three, you might add in two resistance workouts per week.

  • Try a 30-day challenge.

Focusing on one goal at a time is often more achievable than attempting larger goals or trying to change too many things at once. Perhaps this month, you add two extra vegetables into your diet each day. Next month, you go for a 15-minute stroll after dinner and so forth. If you adopt one new health habit every day for 30 days, you will be surprised at how those small changes become lifelong habits and provide lasting change in your health outcomes.

  • Make it public.

For some people, telling family and friends about their goals helps them stick to them. It’s not just about holding yourself accountable. It’s also about surrounding yourself with a cheer squad to help keep you motivated.

  • Plan, plan, plan.

Map out exactly what you need to do each day, week or month to meet your goal. Set aside time in your schedule for the tasks required. In the case of weight loss, this might include meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prep and workouts.

  • Track your progress.

One of the best ways to reach your goals is to track your progress. Whether you track one action or multiple actions, it can really help keep you motivated. It can also be helpful if you’re not seeing progress, as you can go back to the data. You’ll be able to see if there’s a target you aren’t hitting that may be the cause. Tracking can be done in a notebook, a spreadsheet or an app. The method you will use consistently is the right one.

Remember that even small changes can have a big impact on your overall health and (in turn) your heart health. Your goals don’t have to be radical to see positive changes in your health. Keep making healthy choices, and your heart will thank you for many years to come.

The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.