We have all been there before. Another year has drawn to an end and we still haven’t lost those pesky 20 lbs. or run that marathon. Year after year, we spend money on a gym pass that we won’t use beyond Valentine’s Day and instead choose to gorge ourselves with chocolate, wine, etc. and figure, “there’s always next year!”

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you haven’t been successful in keeping your New Year’s goals? One of the reasons is that we set ourselves up for failure before we even begin our journey towards change by setting unrealistic goals. Here is a list of suggestions that can help you stay accountable on your path to change this New Year and beyond.

  1. Establish a specific goal: Instead of setting vague goals such as “eating healthier” or “getting more sleep” try being specific and saying, “this year I will only eat fast food 1x a week” or “I will go to bed at 10pm every night.”
  2. Be realistic: Remember when you felt depressed because you never lost those 20lbs or ran that marathon? Let’s be honest; were those even realistic goals to begin with? The key to successful change is to take baby steps toward your end goal. Instead of quantifying your success with a number on a scale, aim to make small changes such as cutting down your 3 sugary drinks a day to 1 per day or taking a 30 minute walk twice a week. Not only are these goals more realistic, they are specific and attainable and can be scaled back or increased along with your success or need to improvise.
  3. Visualize your success: I don’t know about you my dear reader, but I am a dreamer. I dream about the day I will have the stamina of a triathlete and body of an Olympian. However, there is a difference between dreaming and visualizing success. Dreams don’t come true without working towards them. Once we have a specific goal in mind, we visualize ourselves accomplishing this goal. This is where being realistic in our goal setting comes in handy. For example, if your goal is to drink at least 64oz a day of water, visualize how happy and healthy your kidneys will be!
  4. Be accountable to someone: Life is better with friends! There is a reason that group weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers™ and Jenny Craig™ are so successful; people from different walks of life come together and support each other in their weight loss journeys. With the popularity of online chatrooms and forums, there are now even more opportunities for people to find opportunities to connect and support one another. So once you set that goal of taking a 30 minute walk twice a week, ask a friend, family member or online friend to hold you accountable!
  5. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone: Are you one of those people who “hates salads” or “doesn’t do mornings”? To this day I am surprised at how many people I meet who have created a narrative about themselves that they think they have to live by. Just because you haven’t created a routine to incorporate more green vegetables into your diet, or you aren’t getting to bed early enough the night before doesn’t mean you have to live by these “rules” for the rest of your life. Next time you go out to eat, try ordering something from the “healthy options” menu or substitute the veggie of the day for fries. Better yet, next time a friend invites you try that new turbo kick class, give it a chance. You just might surprise yourself and find your new favorite hobby or food!
  6. Go easy on yourself: The most important thing to remember whenever you are making a lifelong change is that all change is gradual. It is unrealistic to expect immediate results so give yourself a break when you skip that 30 minute walk or drink a couple of extra sodas. Remember that you are aiming to make lasting changes so it is the long term goal that counts. Focus on the end goal and whatever motivates you to want to change such as family, health, finances, etc. and give yourself positive reaffirmations on why the change is important. You can do it – I have faith in you!