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5 healthy habits to start before 2011

The New Year is almost here. Time for a fresh start. As a part-time fitness instructor, every year I observe people who start strong in January and disappear by February. In my other job as a career services professional, I see the same behavior in those searching for employment. While I know it's not easy, I often wonder: Why do these individuals give up so quickly? I believe one key reason they is because most resolutions are not framed around SMART goals and action steps. While I don't make resolutions, I do refresh my life goals each year.

Life goals should be consistent with your personal brand. Start by asking yourself a few questions: What three words represent who you are or where you want to be in your life? How will you get there? Who do you need in your life to help you get there?

I typically set no more than three major life goals each year. There is no real magic in the number but research indicates that trying to focus on more than three goals decreases your chance for success. Each goal I set affects one broad area of my life. This year, I have set specific, measurable goals in these broad areas: faith, fitness and career. You most likely already know what you want to improve or change, just make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound (SMART). Instead of saying: I will lose weight this year. Why not say: I will lose 10 pounds by February 28, 2011 by exercising five times per week. When stated and written that way, the goal passes the SMART test.

Whether it’s your health or career, here a few things you can do right now to set you on a path to frame your goals and set action steps for 2011:

#1 – Volunteer for a cause that matters to you.
Whether you are out of work or even if you work fulltime, it is refreshing to help others. Not just during the holidays but all year long. Do it without expecting anything in return. From serving as tutor, to helping at your local Alzheimers Assocation event, the opportunities are endless for you to give of your time and talents. This especially true when you are out of work or looking for a job. We all have some life experience or unique talent that can help someone else. Take your mind off yourself for a while and watch what happens.

#2 – Become wiser about social media.
Many of us have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Some of us even blog. Each of these tools can and should be used in different yet complimentary ways. Ask yourself how you will use social media more effectively and strategically in your job search this year. What does your digital footprint say about you? If you are in an active job 70% of recruiters will perform a Google seach of your name or check you out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. What will they find?

#3 –Avoid toxic conversations.
Be deliberate in avoiding people who gossip, complain and constantly criticize. While economic times have been difficult for many, change your focus by counting the blessings you have that money can't buy. Encourage others who are trying to do positive things at work, at home or in your community. I am disturbed by people have no depth to their conversation unless they are criticizing others, gossiping or discouraging possibility thinking. Seek to avoid these conversations and those who initiate them.Try to encourage whenever possible, but make a choice to deflect when people gossip, become critical or negative. No one wins in those conversations and its just wrong. Find ways to surround yourself with nutritious people.

#4-Go spiritually deep.
If you already have a strong faith, go deeper. If you go to church, try practicing some of the principles and concepts discussed by your pastor, preacher or spiritual leader. I find this especially important at work or while you are searching for work. Typically these are very basic things like: kindness, integrity, honesty, encouragement, forgiveness, etc. Go to a place where you can share in healthy fellowship with others and grow spiritually. Don't focus on a religion, focus on your relationship with God. Believe in that which is greater than our human minds can conceive.

#5-Move your body.

According to the CDC website, Americans don’t get enough exercise. We all know we need to exercise. I could offer many specific tips here but you know it all comes down to: eat less, exercise more. Not always easy yet if we make it a priority we can find the time to do it. Be consistent, commit to exercsing 4-5 times per week.Try to do both cardio and weight bearing exercises. Try to eat fewer sweets and processed foods. You don't need to buy elaborate fitness equipment or cut out all carbs. Walk, skip, dance. Start strong and finish strong in your commitment to move! Make it a priority, add it to your to-do list. Then do it.

Set your goals now, start by using these tips to gain focus, energy and more joy in 2011! It's possible! I love hearing from you, leave your comments below...

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