By Irazema Garcia, First Mile Care DPP Coach

It’s resolution time! As a First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) coach, I am trained to support people through significant lifestyle change using the Center For Disease Control’s (CDC) clinically proven methods. In my DPP classes, I have noticed that come January, people customarily set out to make big changes for the upcoming year. They optimistically hope that this will be the year those good habits stick. Gym memberships are purchased. Healthy groceries are hauled home. New running shoes appear by the door.

Unfortunately, an estimated 80% of resolutions fall to the wayside by mid-February. How is it that the people who ooze with excitement for change on New Year’s Day give-up by Valentine’s? I’ve learned that people simply need to shift their mindset ever so slightly to achieve success.

Oftentimes, the reasons resolutions don’t stick long-term fall into three categories:

  1. Too Unrealistic: The “over” in overachieving plays its part. People sometimes make resolutions that are very challenging to accomplish. If the goal is to run a marathon having never run before, it’s awfully difficult for most folks to hit those 26.2 miles. Disappointment makes it all that much easier to give up.

  2. Lack of Intrinsic Motivation: Creating resolutions because “it’s what you do on January 1st” is not always the best option. Doing something because you feel you should rather than because you genuinely want to often yields unsuccessful results. In one exercise study, participants who exercised for extrinsic reasons (seeking an “outside” reward or outcome, such as improving appearance or reducing clothing size) were less likely to continue exercising long-term than the participants who exercised for intrinsic reasons (enjoyment of the activity, desire to achieve competence, etc.). Starting something when your heart is not in it might make it easier to stop doing it.

  3. Too Vague: “I am going to lose weight” is a statement almost everyone utters in life at one point or another. Although it sounds perfectly doable, the fact that it is very vague can stand in the way of actually achieving the goal. How much weight? What is the marker of success? Is there ever an end to the weight loss? Without clear guidelines, it becomes easy to get frustrated or lose interest — not because you can’t succeed, but because you never defined what success would look like.

Action Planning

Committing to goal setting and action planning rather than resolutions can help solve these problems. Goal setting is different than making resolutions. It is effective because it focuses on actionable steps and creates a roadmap to follow for achieving a purpose, making the process clear and understandable. Using action plans, like those prescribed in DPP, leverages small and achievable goals to set up success long-term and fulfill larger goals.

So how can you ensure you are setting actionable goals rather than resolutions? Follow this three-step approach set yourself up for long-term success:

  1. Get Real: Set yourself up for success by choosing realistic goals. A goal must be doable in order to be successful. If you are new to exercising at the gym, then perhaps your action plan should be 2 times a week for the first few months in order to get acclimated — not all seven days. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle. And if you have weeks where you do make it to the gym all seven days, then that is just a bonus. It is better to plan realistically and sometimes surpass the goal you set for yourself than to set unreasonably high expectations and court failure. Your self-esteem will thank you for it.

  2. Identify Your Drive: Pinpoint internal motivation before setting out on your goal. Are you giving up donuts (even though you love a good chocolate cruller Sunday mornings) solely because your coworker swears he lost 10 pounds doing so? What’s really fueling your drive? Is it external or your own? Determine why you are trying to accomplish your goal (Reduce the risk of diabetes? Better quality of life? Be there for your family?). Find that intrinsic motivation and embrace it. Write it down, post it on the mirror — whatever it takes to remind you of your own “why.”

  3. Focus on the Process: When you set a goal, don’t obsess on the endgame. Instead, focus on the journey you will take to reach that goal. Don’t fixate on dropping 5% of your weight. Concentrate on changes you can make that will result in 5% weight loss. Immerse yourself in the process that needs to occur for weight loss to happen. It may mean reexamining portion sizes, zeroing in on nutrition information, or planning a break-time group walk with coworkers to increase your daily physical activity. Make action plans to support progress. When the focus shifts to actual steps, rather than the goal itself, the process becomes easier to navigate. These action plans will snowball week to week and reinforce your commitment, steadily advancing toward long-term success.

Perhaps most importantly, use your support network! DPP with First Mile Care is all about personal action planning tailored to the individual coupled with the fundamental truth that people have the greatest impact on other people. As every DPP coach I know will attest: The best way to propel positive action is to leverage positive support.