New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Goals

So it’s the first week in January, and everywhere you look are New Year’s Resolutions being made, simply because it’s the new year. I’ll bet you’ve even made a few of your own… maybe even the same ones from last year. This year, set New Year’s Resolutions that will actually stick!

To be honest, I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions… I think of them as something everyone just does because they’re “supposed to”. Come February, the gyms are empty again, and learning new languages have been replaced by Netflix and Doritos.

Let’s face it – when we set goals to fulfill other peoples’ ideas of what we “should” be doing, we inevitably never reach them. So this year, instead of creating a New Year’s Resolution just for the sake of creating a New Year’s Resolution, instead, think about your own personal, professional, and family goals. What is it you truly want to change?

Now let’s turn that vague New Year’s Resolution of work-life balance, more family time, reading more books, or getting into shape into something that will stick, by creating a SMART goal.

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals take those vague goals, like:

  • “I want to lose weight”
  • “I want to read more books”
  • “I want to work out more often”
  • “I want to spend more time with my kids”
  • “I want to be happier”
  • “I want to be a better mom”

…and dive a lot deeper into what it is you actually want to accomplish, how you will do it, and by when, so that you have a clear idea of what exactly it is that you want to accomplish, and a timeline to measure your progress.

People who set more detailed goals with timelines attached, are a lot more likely to reach them, or at least make some great progress trying.

The acronym SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Let’s look at each of these in more detail, and how we can take the common New Year’s Resolution to “work out more often”, and transforming it into a SMART goal, that will actually stick!

Specific

Your goal must be specific. Take a look at your New Year’s Resolution, and answer some questions about where your goal will take place, who will be involved, when you will do it, and how you will meet that goal. Use action words to help make your goal specific.

Taking the working out example, if you have the goal of working out more this year, when will you work out? How often? Where? What will you be doing? Will anybody else be working out with you?

We can take the goal of working out, and turn it into something that looks more like this:

I will go to [insert gym name here] in the mornings before the kids are awake, and either lift weights or run on the treadmill.

Now, your goal is a lot more specific. But we still have a few areas to address. Your goal must also be measurable.

Measurable

One of the biggest mistakes people make in goal setting, is not making the goal measurable. How will you know when you have achieved “working out more” or “reading more books”? You must have some way to evaluate whether you are actually meeting your goal. Numbers are the most common data used for measuring SMART goals, but be wary of what numbers you pay attention to!

Reading 52 books by the end of the year, is measurable. Losing 10 pounds – while a go-to for many people looking to work out more or lose weight – is not necessarily the best number to focus on. As muscle weighs more than fat, focusing on the number on the scale or a certain dress size could be setting you up for failure.

Instead, when it comes to these kinds of goals, what is it that you actually want to achieve?

For me, health-related goals are about making sustainable lifestyle changes, not about the end result of losing or gaining weight or dress sizes (these things fluctuate as soon as you quit whatever it was that you were doing, and in and of themselves, really don’t have a whole lot of meaning). A work out related goal for me, would be measurable instead in these terms:

I will consistently be going to [insert gym name here] five mornings per week before the kids are awake, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and running on the treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Now we have something we can measure. But even the most specific and measurable goals will fail if they don’t meet the next criteria.

Achievable

New Year’s Resolutions and other goals must be achievable if you are going to be able to meet them. Make sure your goal is something that you can actually achieve. Is it possible right now to be a better mom, or are you legitimately doing everything you can in this moment, given the circumstances?

Can you actually commit the time it will take to reach your goal of reading 52 books this year (that’s one per week!). That depends on how much time you have to devote to reading, your level of interest in reading, and how fast you read.

For working out, if you are already not getting enough sleep, it may not actually be achievable to go to the gym in the mornings. Alternatively, maybe you can’t actually get there five days a week if your husband is away at work. Maybe you have to look at getting to the gym versus working out at home.

In the case of working out, it can be extremely overwhelming for someone to go from not working out at all (or very randomly) to working out five mornings per week. So, it may be more realistic to start out with two or three days a week, and moving up from there. So our goal might look something like this:

I will consistently be going to [insert gym name here] three mornings per week before the kids are awake, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I will work my way up to consistently be going to [insert gym name here] five mornings per week before the kids are awake, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and running on the treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This is starting to look more like an achievable goal! Now, is it relevant?

Relevant

Does this goal actually have meaning for you? Or is it something you just said because all of your friends work out, or because you simply just know you “should” be working out and you don’t, so it was an easy New Year’s Resolution?

If your answer to this question, is that it’s not really something you fully embrace as your own personal goal, scratch that, and start over… What is it you TRULY want to achieve – not what everyone else is doing, or what you feel like you “should” be doing – but when you shut all of that out, what is it that YOU want? Start over with that goal in mind.

If you do feel this goal is relevant for you, and it will improve your personal, business, or family life in some way, then keep going.

Time-bound

This is not just about being measurable, but is about when you actually want to achieve these goals by. Do not confuse the two! I can read 52 books… anybody can read 52 books. In fact, I bet you already have! But we’re not talking about goals with no start or end. We are talking about short-term goals within a timeframe.

When will you start your goal? By when do you want to have achieved your goal? And are there transition periods in between? When will you reach those?

If we determine that the goal of working out is truly meaningful (i.e., it is something that you are personally driven to do, and will add value to your life), then the next step is to make it time-bound. Here’s how this goal might look once we do that:

By February 15th, I will be going to [insert gym name here] three mornings per week, every week, from 6:00-7:00am, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

By April 15th, I will be going to [insert gym name here] five mornings per week, every week, from 6:00-7:00am, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and running on the treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

New Year’s Resolutions versus SMART Goals

There simply is no comparison! We all have vague goals we want to achieve at some point, but by taking a few minutes to write them down, and really pick apart how to make them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, you will transform that vague goal of:

I want to work out more

Into an actionable goal of:

By February 15th, I will be going to [insert gym name here] three mornings per week, every week, from 6:00-7:00am, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

By April 15th, I will be going to [insert gym name here] five mornings per week, every week, from 6:00-7:00am, lifting weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and running on the treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

SMART goals are goals that are meaningful to you, that have a starting point, an end point, and specific, measurable, actionable steps to keep you on the right track, and to allow you to measure your progress.

So follow this outline to redefine your goals, or google a SMART goal template now (there are tons of different versions available online), and make this the year you finally achieve your New Year’s Resolutions!

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