New Year – New you?

Sharon Howard, an administrative support officer with NHS England, outlines a SMART way for sticking to our resolutions:

2014 is almost upon us. And it’s time of year when we all over-indulge in everything – even those of us that pride ourselves on healthy living let go a little.

Eating too much, drinking too much (alcohol), late nights partying and so on…

Then to make up for it we promise ourselves we will make up for it with a New Year’s resolution to go on a diet, join a gym, stop drinking, and stop smoking. Two weeks in to the New Year and where are we with these resolutions? Yes, almost certainly most of us have already failed by this point and slipped back into our old ways, but why? Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep? Because they are too lofty an ambition, not structured and far to generalised; we’ll come back to this shortly.

Personally, I don’t make New Year resolutions anyway. I prefer to make a list of new things to try. As a result of this I’ve done some great fun and interesting things that I may not otherwise have done, many of which have had positive impacts on other aspects of my life, such as health, as well as being fun.

Just a few examples of things I have tried over the years to give you some ideas – Flying lesson, drum lessons, creative writing retreat, a solo trip, joining a karate class, joining British Military Fitness classes, archery lessons, painting and decorating course, the list goes on. Inspired yet?

Why not make your own list of new things to try for 2014 instead of making resolutions? Maybe you can look at it like a yearly bucket list?

By even doing this you have to think carefully, plan and prepare if you want to succeed in achieving your challenges, just like if you really want to do a New Year’s resolution – you have to make it something you can do.

The best way to do this is to ensure your goals are SMART. I’m pretty sure most of you will know what SMART objectives are, so I’m sorry if I’m teaching you to suck eggs here, but there is always someone who hasn’t heard of SMART and even those that have may not think about using them in a non-business context; but they really are the best way to ensure success in all aspects of your life not just for business purposes. So, for those that don’t know I will just briefly explain SMART (You can Google it for more detail!).

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed (there are few variations on the wording but they all mean pretty much the same thing). Put simply, this means be specific in your goals (what, where, why), make sure you can measure your progress/success (how will you know you’ve been successful?), is it something you can actually achieve? Is it relevant to you and your aspirations? And finally when will you have completed the goal?

Simple? But clearly we don’t think of this when making those New Year’s resolutions and this is why we fail. Take ‘Go on a diet’ as an example, to me it’s clear this will fail straight away it’s just go far too many variables, yeah it’s short and to the point but a SMART resolution would be more like ‘Lose 6lbs in weight by April for my holiday so I can wear my bikini, by eating more healthily (make a separate goal on how to do this) and joining Zumba class on Tuesday evenings. Can you see how that is a much smarter goal? This is much more likely to be successful and be something you will stick at!

Me, I’m going to stick to my new things to try list, the first item on it for 2014 – ‘Learn the basics of how to surf by having an introductory lesson while on holiday in Newquay in June’ – why? Because I want to learn how to surf. If it goes well then I’ll have more lessons J

If you do decide to go with a traditional New Year resolution such as losing weight, why not check out the NHS Guide which links to further articles to help you achieve your goal!

Happy New Year everyone! And good luck with your SMART resolutions!

Sharon Howard

Sharon Howard is an Administrative Support Officer for NHS England’s Strategic Clinical Networks in the Thames Valley. She has worked for the NHS since 2010, starting as a Medical Laboratory Assistant in Biochemistry. She also worked as a Healthcare Assistant in Radiology before moving into her first administrative role in Clinical Genetics.