How Do Our Habits Get In The Way Of Our Goals

Yay, it’s the holiday season, a time to celebrate and enjoy some quality time with our family and friends. It can be extremely difficult to stay on track with your goals during this time of the year. It’s hard to eat in moderation, get enough exercise, sleep as much as we need to and also enjoy all the things that this time of year has to offer. Or is it???

The definition of a goal is “the end toward which effort is directed”. I think it’s important to define what a habit is as well, because habits can slow down our progress towards our goals. The definition of a habit is “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary”. On paper it is easy to see the difference between these two terms; however, in real life they are intertwined as frequently our goals include changing a habit.

One of your goals may be to make better choices when faced with a huge buffet table of delicious holiday food. But if by habit you choose the more decadent options you will be left with unhappiness that you didn’t meet your goal. Conversely, you may make good choices but are still unhappy because your choices were not habitual and didn’t satisfy your palate or your hunger. In this case the goal of making healthy choices didn’t work because it was too broad.

You may be asking yourself “how can I set a goal that I can achieve?” A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. If I reframe the above scenario in the S.M.A.R.T. goal format it looks like this:

Specific – I will choose low calorie options, such as fresh vegetables and fruit at my next holiday gathering.

Measurable – I will fill up at least a third of my plate with the above foods.

Attainable – I will still have room on my plate for less healthy options which will keep me from feeling deprived.

Relevant – Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories than most other choices at this event.

Time-Bound – I will try this at my next gathering.

Keep in mind that if your ultimate goal is ambitious, that goal will be easier to achieve if you set smaller goals that stair-step to your main goal. Just like with habit change, we tend to aim for the stars when we set goals and get discouraged when we can’t quite reach them. Make sure your goals are well defined and celebrate your successes along the way. Lifestyle change is difficult and complex but it is definitely doable.

You can read a little more information about S.M.A.R.T. goals here:

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/smart-weight-loss-fitness-device

http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/smart-diabetes-goals

http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/how-to-set-s-m-a-r-t-goals

I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season!