It’s getting to that time of the year that people start to reflect on all that has taken place in past 12 months. You may think about all you’ve accomplished, goals you’ve achieved, and hopefully you’ll spend some time thinking about how to continue to grow in the future.
I find that self-reflection and setting goals for growth is incredibly helpful and using the end of the year as nice maker for this type of reflection can be useful. However, studies show that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are not actually maintained after the first month or two.
There are any number of reasons why a resolution may never be put into action or why a person doesn’t stay consistent with a resolution. Some of the more prevalent reasons tend to be due to unrealistic, unclear, and ill-defined resolutions. Setting resolutions that use the SMART goals format can help you think through your resolutions a bit more and be more likely to stick with them into the next year.
What are SMART goals? Let’s start with the most common New Year’s resolution – to get in shape- and refine it using the SMART goal guidelines.
S- SPECIFIC. Getting into shape is a very non-specific goal. How do you know when you’ve gotten there? What does being in shapereally mean? Taking a moment to actually define what it is you want to do, can help you know where you need to go with a goal. A more specific goal in this same vein would be to lose weight.
M- MEASURABLE. So now we have a specific goal – to lose weight. But it’s not yet measurable. You need to define how much weight you would like to lose so you know when you’ve achieved this goal. A better way to state this goal would be, “I want to lose 5 pounds”.
A- ATTAINABLE. This is a big one that may people forget to consider. Is my goal actually attainable? If you goal is to lose 5 pounds and you’re underweight already or have a health condition that prevents you from losing weight this may not be a realistic goal for you. If you set a goal that is unattainable and then don’t meet that goal, it tends to decrease motivation to try again in the future. Take a moment to check-in with yourself and see if you need to adjust your goal to make it attainable.
R- RELEVANT. Is your goal relevant to your life? Does it serve a purpose and fit with your values? If not, there’s no motivation to keep working at a goal. If your goal is to lose 5 pounds to help reduce joint pain, due to high blood pressure or cholesterol this is a relevant goal that would better your health. This may help you remain motivated when trying to work toward your goal.
T- TIME BOUND. This is another important, but frequently missed, step. By what time point do you want this goal to be achieved? If you want to lose 5 pounds by next December, the actions you need to take look drastically different than losing 5 pounds by next month (at which point I would encourage you to go back to A and evaluate how attainable that goal may be).
After going through the SMART steps, the vague goal of “getting in shape” is now, “I’d like to lose 5 pounds to better my health by March of the coming year.” This helps you to plan the actions you would need to take to meet this goal and helps you know when you’ve accomplished it. Having a clear, well-defined goals sets you up for making an action plan that can encourage you to accomplish your resolutions this year.
Think about your resolutions/goals for the future. Are they SMART goals?