The Power of Self-Monitoring

The New Year always brings such promise for a fresh start, doesn’t it? This year could be the year you lose weight or get promoted or buy a new house or take that dream trip. But how do you actually follow through on your goals? Self-monitoring may be one of the keys to your success.

You’re probably already a pro at monitoring something in your life—your blood sugar, your bank balance, your collection of suede booties—but did you know paying attention to your goals can really give you a boost when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes stick?

Self-monitoring is pretty straightforward: You pick a goal, write it down, then check in with yourself, either daily or weekly (or even monthly, depending on the goal), and assess whether or not you’re doing what you said you’d do. When you check off that box you really get a little hit of satisfaction and pride, which is bound to keep up your momentum.

Here’s how to make self-monitoring part of your game plan for 2017:

Always write it down!

For instance, if you decide you want to exercise 4 times a week for 30 minutes, get out a notebook just for this purpose and write down the goal at the top of the page. Below it, make four boxes or circles or whatever you like in row to represent one week, then below that repeat, until you’ve filled up a whole month’s worth of intended exercise sessions. That way you’re able to do the “monitoring” part of self-monitoring. Without some sort of written goal, there’s no way to follow through.

Check in on yourself.

This is where the “self” part of the equation comes in: Every time you exercise, check off the box and write the date you completed the exercise. See how you’re doing with your goal: are you on track? Do you need to make adjustments for a trip next week? Every time you look at the notebook, you’re assessing yourself. You’re not depending on a boss to check your work—you’re the one in charge.

Reap the benefits of self-monitoring.

If you had set this same goal and didn’t bother to monitor it, you’re kind of just out there with no rope. If you were to just keep track of your sessions loosely in your head (or not at all), you’re more likely to skip it because no one will notice, not to mention you don’t get the thrill of seeing that you’re achieving your goals. Once exercise (or whatever else) becomes a habit, self-monitoring may not be necessary, but it can be a great help in getting started.

Figure out where else you can use self-monitoring.

It works for all sorts of healthy habits, including eating better. Take getting more fruits and vegetables in each day, for example. Have you decided you want to eat five servings each day? Do the same as above or make it even more fun by creating a little sticker chart for yourself in a notebook. Every time you eat a fruit or veggie serving, put a sticker in. Again, it’s amazing how looking over a whole row of shiny stars or smiley faces will help you feel like you’re making a habit that will stick for life. You can do this with drinking water, getting enough fiber, even limiting foods. Give yourself a check mark every time you achieve your goal, and keep looking back over your achievements and taking note where you need to improve.

Give self-monitoring a try. It’s very powerful to watch yourself making healthy choices and changes, and you’re almost guaranteed to have positive results.

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