Every year in January, we hear people talking about New Year’s resolutions that often revolve around health and lifestyle habits. Perhaps you’re even in the habit of setting some for yourself like I am.
We all have a fantasy version of our best self. In it, we have the strongest willpower and as a result, behave exactly the way we want to at all times.
Setting realistic goals
Envisioning a healthier, happier and more accomplished self can motivate us to spring into action. But on the other side, aiming to reach such a big goal in twelve months can also be overwhelming. And with good reason… Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were we! Remember how long it took you to become who you are today. Healthy lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight either.
I remember back when I used to smoke cigarettes daily many years ago. I considered quitting on a very regular basis. I would get out of breath every time I ran for the bus (most days!) and would develop bronchitis and sinusitis every winter. I would dream of a smoke-free me and hope one day would come when I would feel strong enough to quit for good.
Do you also want to bring changes to your lifestyle because of the negative consequences of your habits? Are you waiting for a sign that today is the day to make it happen for good like I did? Well, you don’t have to wait for that magical day when you’ll suddenly have astronomical amounts of willpower anymore. You can start working on your goals today.
Slowly but surely
I quit smoking cigarettes on December 27, 1999, and haven’t smoked since. But can you guess how many times I cut down on cigarettes before succeeding for good? Countless times. I wasn’t aware of it back then, but those time spans became stepping stones toward quitting. As a matter of fact, research shows that when people reduce their smoking, they increase the probabilities that they’ll achieve smoking cessation. (Source)
Almost 2/3 of Americans set New Year resolutions in 2018 but only 9% of them actually feel they succeeded at the ones they set for 2017! (Source) Behind that low success rate hides the fact that most of us, like I used to, set big goals for themselves. As they say: “Go big or go Home,” right? Wrong. The key in reaching goals? Gradual changes.
Small goals’ surprising efficiency
You probably think you’ll get very few benefits from small gradual changes. Social and mass media show us so many fast and phenomenal transformations—with plastic surgery more popular and affordable than ever—that they’re perceived as the new normal. Well, our bodies and psyche didn’t get that memo! In order to transform changes into lasting ones, you need to be patient. After all, it probably took you a long time to develop your current lifestyle habits.
Contrary to popular belief, small goals can yield significant results. For example:
For people who sleep an average of seven hours a night, adding just one hour of sleep a night can cut their risk of getting cold symptoms in three (Source)
You can burn up to 1,000 additional calories a week and decrease fat tissue by simply adding just 5 minutes of light-intensity exercise per hour like walking around the office or going for a quick walk. (Source and source)
It’s possible to reduce insulin sensitivity, triglyceride concentrations, blood pressure and heart rate by losing just 5 percent of your body weight (Source)
Building your self-confidence
As essential as long-term goals are, smaller starter ones are just as important. Experimenting with small short-term goals give you a chance to get to know how you react to them, what works well for you, and what your own personal challenges are. Experimenting with modest gradual goals increases your chances for success. Moreover, that will help you build up your confidence. And greater confidence is linked to greater consistency. Win—win!
Get started today by setting some small and easy steps after taking stock of your lifestyle habits. It’s a first step that could take you far on your wellness journey!
To your health!