Here’s a new year’s resolution quiz for you!
Which of the following New Year’s resolutions do you consider to be good goals?
a. Lose weight
b. Save money
c. Reduce stress
d. All the above
e. None of the above
If you answered e) None of the above, step forward to claim your prize! The bottom line is this: while losing weight, saving money, and reducing stress are generally viewed as positive outcomes, they’re not good New Year’s resolutions. Before we discuss how companies can use technology to help their employees keep their New Year’s resolutions, let’s review characteristics of good goals and why resolutions such as “losing weight” simply don’t fit the bill.
We’re a nation of goal setters, especially around this time of year. In fact, almost half of all Americans will set resolutions for 2016. In 2015, the top three New Year’s resolutions were 1) lose weight, 2) get organized, and 3) spend less and save more money. Unfortunately, only about 8% of individuals who set those goals achieved them. Why did so many people start the New Year with good intentions only to fail several weeks or months later? Quite simply, their resolutions were too ambitious or too vague to be achieved.
When it comes to creating objectives, professionals working in the field of behavior change commonly refer to setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that helps to guide goal setting by focusing on objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-limited. Let’s see how SMART goal setting and technology can help companies and their employees achieve lasting change in 2017.
Many people want to lose weight. In fact, it’s one of the most incented outcomes in corporate wellness. And for good reason – many controllable diseases and conditions are related to obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and more. When setting SMART weight loss goals—or any other goals—companies can help their employees by encouraging the following steps:
- Specific. Rather than committing to “lose weight,” specify EXACTLY how much weight you intend to lose in 2017. Commit to a number. Write it down. Tell friends and family. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Likewise, if your New Year’s resolution is to save money, analyze your budget and specify EXACTLY how much money you want to save in the New Year. If your goal is to reduce stress, commit to engaging in SPECIFIC activities that reduce stress and schedule them in a calendar application such as Outlook, Google Calendar, or Apple Calendar. No matter what your New Year’s resolution is, make it specific!
- Measurable. Setting measurable New Year’s resolutions goes hand in hand with setting specific goals. Virtually anything can be measured – pounds lost, miles walked, cigarettes smoked, dollars saved, and even your mood. Wearable devices, especially those that integrate with employee wellness portals, allow for specific goal setting and monitoring. Use technology to your advantage! Whether you’re logging progress by manually entering weight into an application or automatically tracking through a WiFi or Bluetooth-enabled scale, set a specific goal and regularly monitor progress. Measuring progress is an important component of behavior change and today’s technology has made it easier than ever.
- Actionable. New Year’s resolutions are of no value unless they require you to do something different. That’s why behavior change experts suggest setting goals that are actionable. How does someone turn a vague goal into something more doable? For starters, prioritize! Is it more important to you to lose weight, save money, or quit smoking? Pick one. Prioritize your broad-based resolutions and focus on them one at a time – don’t try to tackle them all at once.
Once you’ve identified your most important New Year’s resolution, identify milestones that are necessary for its achievement. For example, when losing weight, the first week of 2017 might be spent simply tracking how many calories are consumed each day. Use online food databases such as CalorieKing or applications such as MyFitnessPal. Once you have an accurate daily calorie count, look for opportunities to reduce intake, such as cutting back on soft drinks or fast food. By the end of week two, another milestone might be walking for 30 minutes every other day. And by the end of the first month of 2017, you might be tracking nutrition, walking every other day, and going to the gym for strength training 3 days per week. Setting milestones and building on small successes will help you stay motivated and on track.
- Realistic. One of the primary reasons why people don’t stick to New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t set realistic goals. When caught up in the emotion of New Year’s festivities, it’s easy to commit to sweeping changes such as losing 50 pounds without fully considering the smaller intermediate steps needed to achieve lasting change. Is it realistic for someone to lose 50 pounds? For some exceptionally motivated individuals, perhaps. But for the rest of us, it’s probably more realistic to engage in daily activities that result in losing one pound of body weight per week. For example, this can be accomplished by consuming 500 fewer calories per day, burning 500 additional calories through exercise, or a combination of the two. Rather than committing to going to the gym EVERY DAY in 2017, start small by going two or three days per week and building on that. Use applications such as Simple Workout Log to track your gym days and workouts.
- Time-specific. Finally, set New Year’s resolutions that are timely. Unless you set specific timelines for milestones and overall goal achievement, your good intentions will remain just that: open-ended good intentions that don’t result positive behavior change.
Throughout the entire process of setting and keeping SMART New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to enlist the support of family, friends, and co-workers. To the extent that you feel comfortable, make your goals public. Social networks such as Facebook and physical challenge platforms like Walker Tracker can offer support while helping with goal attainment. And finally, when you experience setbacks—and you will—don’t beat yourself up. Simply take the next opportunity to get back on track!