Setting Goals: A New Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

Does the phrase New Year’s Resolutions make you want to hold your breath? Or run away and hide?

Resolutions can be a little intimidating.  You are promising to change something or do something or stick to an improvement for an entire year.

If I don’t stick to a resolution, I feel as though I’ve failed. That’s why I won’t be making any resolutions this year. Instead, I plan to spend some time thinking about more serious – and perhaps more short-term – goals.

Don’t stress about stress

Earlier this year, the American Diabetes Association published a book called Stress-Free Diabetes. Honestly, my first reaction at the title of the book was to say, “there’s no such thing!” but then I reminded myself that I should not to judge a book by its cover (or title).

I started to browse through the book. It is jam-packed with tips and ideas and worksheets and strategies and tactics to help people overcome some of the most stressful aspects of diabetes.

Changing the way you change

One section is about setting goals and making them work for you, so I wanted to share some of the tips and remarks from author Joseph Napora, PhD, LCSW-C:

How many times have you decided to change your behavior – with all good intentions – and it never happened or the change did not last very long? Although there are many reasons why good intentions go astray, there is a way to make certain that you get where you want to be.

I love this because he acknowledges that yes, sometimes we don’t achieve the goals we set (for me, this means New Year’s Resolutions for 2010, 2009, 2008 and – well, you get the point), but that doesn’t mean failure – and there are ways to achieve what you want to get done.

Step 1 – Determine a goal

Napora starts at the beginning:

Setting a goal is activating your mental compass. It establishes the direction you want to follow. Focusing on identifying a goal begins with knowing what you want.

Once you know your goal or purpose, you have a direction for every action that follows. There is a considerable difference between thinking that you want to have better control of your diabetes and setting the goal of reducing hyperglycemia events by lowering your A1C. Clearly, setting a well-defined objective has more meaning and provides more direction for pursing an important and complex change.

Step 2 – Make it happen

So now we know why setting a goal is important (instead of just thinking that you might, sort of, maybe want to get try to make an improvement in your diabetes care), how do we go about setting those goals effectively?  In Stress-Free Diabetes Napora provides a few tips:

  • Identify and prioritize: when setting your goals, be sure to ask yourself, “What do I want to change first to reduce stress and have better diabetes control?”
  • Be Specific: do you want to lower your A1C? By how much? In what time? Be sure to ask yourself, “What will it look like when I accomplish this goal?”
  • Be Realistic: don’t aim too low or too high – that will just discourage you.  Take some time to ask yourself, “What is my personal best for this goal?”
  • Make necessary adjustments: if you find that you’re struggling to meet a goal, ask yourself, “What is getting in my way? What strengths or resources can I draw on to make this work?”

Napora goes into more detail, complete with a list of goals for stress and diabetes control, writing contracts for yourself and questions to ask when reassessing your motivation or seeking help when you need it.  One reason I like this strategy is because you can define your own timeframe for a goal, rather than being obligated to stick to it (or spread it out) over the course of a year.

If you’re like me and New Year’s Resolutions make you want to hold your breath, try starting with something small, something you can accomplish within the first month or two, then move on to larger goals.

If you are interested in reading more from this book, or using it as a workbook to help reduce your own diabetes-related stress, check it out at the American Diabetes Association’s online store.

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2 Responses to Setting Goals: A New Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Peggy A. Lewis says:

    My husband is a type two diabetic and I am a border line diabetic.
    We just found out that my husbands sugars levels are 223. Not good.
    He has been watching what he eats but apparently it was not the right foods.
    Learning how to live with diabetis is going to be a whole new world for us.
    We are determined to lower his sugar levels and eat better and have less stress in our life.
    We are a young couple and we have many years left and they will be good ones from here on out.

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