Alex Harris, dietitian at New Leaf Nutrition, cuts an orange

Ah, 2021. A new year. It’s hard to believe we made it here after what felt like the longest year ever. For many, the start of a new year is the time for setting new goals and planning for the next 12 months. Hundreds of thousands of people every year design some sort of goal this time of year.  However, some statistics show that nearly 80% of goals that are set end up failing. Why is that? When it comes to goal setting, there are some common themes as to why they are unsuccessful. 

  • The goals you’re trying to reach aren’t realistic. 
  • You aren’t seeing results soon enough (I know it’s annoying, but most of us can’t completely change our habits in just a few days or even a few weeks). 
  • Lack of support.
  • It isn’t enjoyable.
  • Negative thinking (We usually are our own worst enemy). 

When trying to design goals, you should aim to make your goals SMART. That means the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Ask yourself, what exactly do you want to accomplish? Is it something you can actually measure, such as serving sizes, lab values, or body weight? Can you realistically see yourself doing this? Why are these results important to you? When will this be accomplished? Within 3 months, 6 months, a year?

These are all questions you should ask yourself when planning your goals. An example of a SMART goal for someone that wants to eat a more healthful diet would be something like: “I will eat 3 servings of vegetables on at least 4 days this week.” You know exactly what you’re going to do, it is something that you can measure, it is something that can realistically be attained, it is relevant to your desire to eat a more healthful diet, and there is a time frame for it. 

Here are some additional tips for being successful with your goals. 

  1. Write it down. One study found those who wrote down their goals were 33% more successful. Put it somewhere you’ll see it regularly. 
  2. Challenge yourself. Push yourself to become a better you. Make your goal a realistic challenge.
  3. Be accountable. Find ways to help yourself stay accountable. That can be things like making a checklist, sharing your goals with your friends or family, or posting about it on social media.
  4. Address barriers. What are some thing that may hinder your progress? The more prepared you are for things that could potentially be a setback, the better equipped you are to handle it when it happens. 

Blood orange being sliced into quarters

One important thing to remember is that goal setting can be very individualized. There is so much discussion out there about how others have reached their goals. People love to share how they found success. And that’s awesome! But what works for them, won’t always work for you. If you want your goal to be journaling every day, you don’t necessarily have to physically write stuff down in a book. For some people, it’s easier to journal on your phone or on your computer. If your goal is to exercise more, find ways to get that in while doing things you actually enjoy. Don’t force yourself to run if you know don’t like running. Instead, try new things and find what works best for you. Maybe it’s weight training, kickboxing, or even just walking around the park. 

When it comes to tracking your goals, there are many ways to do so. Canva, google docs, and Microsoft word have templates for goal tracking sheets that you can print if you prefer having a physical document to mark on. Many stores like Walmart, Target, and Five Below have good goal planners that you can buy. Additionally, apps like Strides, Way of Life, and Chains.cc are great virtual goal trackers. Or even just keeping some notes on your phone or in a plain notebook! 

At the end of the day, what matters most is finding the ways that work for you. It may take some trial-and-error, but it is important to set and track goals in ways that best fit you and your lifestyle. 

-Alex Harris, MA, RD, LD, CPT

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