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5 Keys to Reaching Goals

The best way to pursue success, Kraus believes, is to focus on five techniques.

  • Adopt a realistic vision of success. "No one can safely lose 50 pounds in a month," Kraus says. "Yet these and other unrealistic expectations about weight loss abound."
  • Adopt an effective strategy. "Focus on relatively short-term goals," he says. "Instead of focusing on losing so many pounds over the coming year, tell yourself, 'I'm going to eat vegetables four times a day and do at least 20 minutes of cardio a day for the next two weeks.' A lot of research shows the benefits of such short-term goals."
  • Renew your commitment. "I think if there's a problem with resolutions it's that people don't make them often enough," Kraus says. "Once a year is not enough for you to step back and take a look at your life and say, 'this is working well,' or 'this is not working well.' Do this at least quarterly, and better yet, once a month."
  • Don't despair. "People are much more likely to overlook their success and to beat themselves up over setbacks," Kraus says. "Instead of saying, 'I did pretty well for two weeks so I'm going to forgive myself for this one little setback,' people start to think, 'I've failed.' That sets them up for the snowball effect where one little setback snowballs into a complete collapse."
  • Learn from your mistakes. "As if the failures in the first four steps weren't bad enough, a lot of people then repeat the entire process," Kraus says. "They return to their unrealistic vision, pursue the same strategy without modifying it, and give up when things go badly. That's why by March, all those gyms and health clubs that filled up with new members in January are pretty much back to normal."

Long-Term Strategy vs. Short-Term Fix

Diane Vives, owner of Vives Training Systems in Austin, Texas, tries to avoid working with clients who have made New Year's resolutions because their enthusiasm wanes so quickly.

"New Year's resolutions are a short-term fix, not a lifestyle change," said Vives, a strength and conditioning specialist certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. "They create a false sense of urgency. People tend to be more successful when they make the decision at some other time of the year."

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