Be SMART and you really can achieve goals in 2020
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Thinking of making a new year's resolution? Be positive and realistic and you can get there, says Christine Webber
It's almost the new year - traditionally, a time for change and fresh beginnings.
Perhaps you've already heard yourself say that you're going to be happier next year, or more organised, or slimmer, or fitter. You're not alone! For many of us, January 1 is a landmark day, when we resolve to kickstart improvement in ourselves.
Is this a good idea? Well, we all have personal aspects we long to alter, so it's certainly not a bad one. But frequently, resolutions fall apart before we've removed the Christmas decorations, which can lead to us feeling a failure, instead of full of optimism and ready to take 2020 by storm.
So, is there a sure way to stick with our good intentions?
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To be honest, there are no guarantees when it comes to change, but there are strategies we can use to give ourselves a better chance of persevering.
My best advice is to make sure you're SMART about your 2020 goals.
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SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. If you test your own resolutions against each of those words, you should be able to come up with something that will work.
Don't have a vague objective, such as: I'd kind of like to lose some weight. This is far too airy-fairy. It hasn't got a timetable, it's not nearly specific or measurable enough and it needs to be much more precise. For example: I want to lose half a stone before my daughter gets married in June. That is specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic - and there's a schedule built into it too. In other words, it ticks all the boxes.
Don't be too ambitious! It's madness to decide you're going to run a marathon in three months if you've never even jogged round the block. You're just going to injure yourself and end up more unfit than you are now. It would be much more achievable and realistic to begin by doing some gentle running with a friend, and then maybe aiming to do a parkrun of five kilometres after Easter, and if that goes well, a half-marathon in the autumn. If you take things at a realistic and safe pace, you may even run a full marathon in 2021! Why not take a look on the internet for stories of people who have taken up running long after the first flush of youth? It's really inspiring. But if running's not your thing, have a think about different ways to exercise that could be more up your street - activities you'd enjoy enough to turn them into a good habit. I am hopeless at running, and I find swimming a huge bore, but I took up ballet at 63 and it was the best thing I ever did. You could always join me at the barre at The Garage in Norwich! Actually, wherever you're based in East Anglia there's almost certainly some sort of dance class near you - tap, Scottish, Irish, ballroom, contemporary, hip hop, square dancing… the possibilities are endless. If you're lucky enough to live near Ipswich, for instance, check out the wonderful schedule and facilities at Dance East.
Don't pick punishing resolutions. If you're a sugar addict, it probably won't work if you vow never, ever again to eat sweets or chocolate. I mean, how likely is it you'll keep to that? There's something about human nature that craves what we insist it can't have! By all means, aim to reduce the amount of confectionary you consume, but don't be so rigid that you're bound to fail.
Is there anything else you can do to help your good intentions? Personally, I think that it's easier to keep self-improvements going if you think of them as positive and life-enhancing rather than a boring sacrifice.
Perhaps you're keen to give your liver a rest by abstaining from alcohol in January. Now, you might regard this as little short of purgatory and decide that the world is going to be a bleaker, greyer, duller place without alcohol. On the other hand, you could try focusing on the benefits of a dry January, which are likely to include:
waking up every day with a clearer head
more money in your pocket because you're not buying booze, or shelling out for taxis after a riotous night out with friends
better quality of sleep
When it comes to making improvements to our lives, a positive attitude really helps.
By the way, if you have tips of your own on keeping resolutions, do share them with the rest of us. I wish you all the very best that 2020 has to offer. Good luck!