Happy New Year! I hope you're off to a solid start toward your weight management goals, starting with solid SMART goals. We've talked about SMART goals before, but it's worth your time to double-check that your goals are indeed SMART before we move on to two common traps that can trip you up.
So, be sure that your goals are Specific (you know exactly what, when, and how much you expect yourself to do), Measurable (something you can objectively count or measure), Achievable (things that you can actually accomplish), Reasonable (things that you can realistically accomplish, given your lifestyle, health, etc.), and Time-Oriented (your goals should have a reasonable, relatively short time frame -- a day, a week, a month, at which time you re-evaluate and re-set your goals).
Now, let's take a look at two common traps to SMART goal success:
The False-Hope Syndrome
Have you heard the expression, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst"? When many people develop their SMART weight loss goals, they tend to lean toward hoping for the best. That's reasonable, as feeling full of hope for the future makes it easier to launch new goals. Unfortunately, it also means that it's all-too-easy for new goals to be unrealistic. Then, when those unrealistic goals aren't reached, it's easy to get discouraged and give up, rather than re-evaluate the goals.
Closely related to false-hope syndrome, planning fallacy is when we fail to take into account just how challenging it will be to accomplish a particular task. In the construction industry, it's common to add an additional 30% to any estimate, whether it's materials, labor, or time. If you've ever painted your living room, remodeled the kitchen, or overhauled your backyard, you've probably discovered the truth of this estimate.
There's no guesstimate for how much additional time and effort you'll need to put into weight management goals, but consider some of the common challenges to successful weight management: If you decide to walk the dog every afternoon, how will you handle rain or snow? What will you do if it's snowing or raining or windy? What if your dog is sick or injured, or you're sick or injured? It takes time and energy to work through the challenges that you can predict --- and be prepared to manage the challenges you can't predict right now, too.
So, how can you avoid false-hope syndrome and planning fallacy? First, be certain that your goals are Achievable, and avoid goals like "lose 10 pounds by the end of January," which you may or may not be able to achieve. Although you can influence weight loss, you're not actually in complete control of when or how much weight you can lose, particularly in a specific time frame.
Then, double-check that your goals are Realistic by thinking about the consequences of each of your goals. For example, if you're upping your water intake, you'll need to plan ahead for when and where to get and drink more water, but you'll also need to think about when and where you'll go to the restroom more often.
Finally, be sure you have a Time-Oriented goal -- and your time frame truly works for you. If a particular task is especially challenging for you, then working toward accomplishing it day-by-day, for three days, or perhaps for seven days is appropriate. If you're reasonably skilled at a task, or you're committed to it, then following through for a longer period of time can work. Either way, set aside a day and time to evaluate how things have been going, and re-set your goals.