Well, a New Year is almost here (again!). Have you been thinking about some New Year’s Resolutions? I have already seen a couple of people in the practice who are quitting smoking for the New Year. I spoke on the radio the other night about my own resolutions around fitness and writing more books. What are you thinking about? Probably the most common ones are weight loss and quitting smoking.
The quote on my calendar for January, however, reminds me that a resolution may not be about such practical aspects of life. The quote for January reads “Joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart” (Buddha). Maybe your resolutions are related to showing more kindness to others or yourself, or doing things that bring you joy.
In relation to the books I plan to write, one is about building more resilient families, and the other is about the activities we do in life and the challenges and joy they bring to us. As a doctor I am focused on mental health, but as a writer, I am writing about life. I have learnt a lot about life so far, with still lots to learn, and so writing is one way of exploring life further!
It is great to have goals, and it is even better to achieve them. Firstly, always think about what you care about or what is important to you in life before setting goals. Consider the different areas in life, such as your health, work, education or relationships (with partner, children, friends…), for example. Goals based on your values are more meaningful to you, and you are more likely to work towards them. An example would be ‘health.’ If being and feeling healthy is important to you, then maybe some goals focused around your nutrition and fitness would fit for you. If relationships are important, then focusing on the relationship with your partner or friends might be as, or more, important.
Always write down your ideas on paper – what would you like to happen, and how would life be different if it did? Determine your goals and put them in your diary or up on the fridge to act as a reminder. Or you might like to create a ‘vision board’ for 2014 with pictures of what you want to come into your life or what you want to achieve this year on it. It is great to look back at the end of the year, and see all that you have done.
You will often hear about setting SMART goals. The acronym stands for:
S = specific (define exactly what you want, for example, rather than ‘being happy,’ a more specific goal might be noticing that I have a positive outlook and feel happy at least once a day.
M = measurable or my own (how will you know when you reach your goal, and is it your goal rather than someone else’s)
A = action-based (goals are about doing, so what WILL you do?)
R = realistic (maybe losing 5kgs rather than 35kgs to start with)
T = time-defined (when are you going to complete it)
An example of a SMART goal in relation to weight loss would be:
“I will aim to lose 10kgs over the next 6 months. At the start I will aim for 2 kgs and I will celebrate when these first 2 kgs have come off. To achieve this I will eat less carbohydrates and more protein, and I will exercise 3-4 times a week for about 30 minutes. I will start with twice a week. I will make sure to get some support from my friends to help me along the way.”
You then need to think about STEPS to achieve your goal. Here is an example for weight loss:
1. Getting started by clearing the cupboards and fridge out of unhealthy foods.
2. Stocking up with plenty of fruit and vegies.
3. Drinking plenty of water.
4. Having green tea instead of lattes.
5. Walking at least once or twice a week for 10minutes initially (but aiming for 30 minute walks or swims at least three times a week).
6. Getting my family on board to support me, or my girlfriends.
7. Exploring online programs that can support me in losing weight.
8. Keeping a record of my walking and my weight loss.
9. Celebrating the first 2 kilos by meeting a friend for coffee.
10. Keep on going – be persistent!
Sometimes our beliefs about ourselves (such as “I’ll never be able to do it” or “I don’t have any willpower”) can get in the way or making changes. So consider whether you have any beliefs that need to be identified or tackled. You might also want to:
• Think about any obstacles to moving forward, and address these.
• Review your progress regularly.
• Say ‘well done you’ to yourself along the way.
• Not be too self-critical if you are off track, but rather, focus on getting back on track.
• Be kind and compassionate to yourself in your thoughts and actions.
• Garner support – who or what can help?
• Stick to working on one goal instead of too many at once, and you can adjust them if need be.
• Recognise and celebrate your successes (no matter how small)!
Remember to take care of you this year and be kind and compassionate in your thoughts. Foster the belief that you can achieve what you want to for yourself, baby step by step. Go for it in 2014 and see those New Year’s Resolutions come into being.