Be SMART About Your New Year's Resolutions

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

It's that time of year again. A fresh start to the calendar when we think to ourselves "OK, THIS YEAR is the year I will ..."

Perhaps it's to lose weight, improve a relationship or make a job change. We ring in the New Year and soon enough start to think about the resolutions we want to accomplish in the upcoming 365 days.

For many, though, those well-intentioned resolutions are a thing of the past by February or March. According to a study out of the University of Scranton, up to 40 per cent of people make resolutions for the New Year, but only eight per cent actually achieve these goals.

Much of why we struggle to meet our goals is in the way we set them. We create vague, sometimes unrealistic, and lofty goals that are difficult to measure or know when we are successful. If the goal isn't well defined, it's likely that the plan is also lacking clarity and makes it much easier to get off track or dismiss the goal completely over time.

A helpful tactic is to make sure our resolutions for the new year are SMART These types of goals are clear and help set us up to be successful. These SMART goals are fairly well known, and here is how the website Mindtools.com describes them:

— Specific: The goal should be clear and related to what precisely you want to achieve. It can be helpful sometimes to answer the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why) as related to your goal.

— Measurable: Be clear about how you will know you've achieved the goal or track your progress along the way. What is the end result? What are some markers along the way you can track to know you're still working toward the larger goal?

— Achievable: This is about being realistic with yourself and making sure the goal you're setting is actually attainable. You might need to break the goal down into a few separate, smaller goals to achieve this, or be sure your goal is something YOU can achieve, not dependant on others.

— Relevant: A very important factor in setting yourself up for success is making sure the goal is important to YOU. The goal should feel worthwhile to you and align with other goals and intentions you have for yourself. If it's not important to you, it's more likely you'll find an excuse to avoid the goal in the future.

— Time-bound: To be successful, you need to know you've accomplished something to completion. Set an end-date or a deadline for your goal so you have something to focus on and work toward. This helps us avoid everyday tasks taking priority over our long-term goals.

For example, a New Year's resolution often set is "I'm going to lose weight this year!" And yet after a peak in attendance in January and February, gyms often see a big drop in people continuing to work out come March.

This goal is ill-defined and vague. We can easily make it SMART with a few extra tweaks: "I'm going to lose 15 pounds (specific) by March 31 (time-bound) by going to the gym three times each week and having five servings of vegetables a day (measurable, achievable). I will feel healthier and have more energy by meeting this goal (relevant)."

Of course, these goals still take the hard work of committing ourselves and using some self-discipline to stay on track, but we can know that by using the SMART goals, we've done what we can to set ourselves up for success.

Happy goal-setting for 2018!

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This column was written by counsellor Abby Horst and first appeared in the New Hamburg Independent: www.newhamburgindependent.ca


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