To start, don’t call it a resolution. (More on that in a minute.)
It’s January 4. How’s it going with your resolutions? Have you broken any yet? I don’t ask to be mean — it’s just kind of how resolutions go. According to research in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions — but only 8 percent are successful in accomplishing them. Those aren’t promising odds!
First, I’d like to share an idea by fitness expert Chris Freytag (an ACE colleague with whom I worked on Team Prevention), who advises: “Don’t make resolutions… Set intentions.”
I like the spin this puts on goal-setting. It adds a mindfulness approach that can be quite inspiring.
Another great idea comes from my friend Melanie A. In 2013, she set monthly resolutions instead of yearly ones. As she noted, “If I can change one necessary thing about my life each month, 12 positive changes will equal big victory!” And who doesn’t like achieving 12 goals instead of just one?
Melanie’s idea ties into the best advice I can give about resolutions. To help ensure that you achieve your goals, they should be SMART. That is:
Specific: The more specific, the better. Break it down. “Get in shape in 2015” is a good goal, sure. But “Go to the gym three days a week” is even better, and more likely to help you achieve the original intent.
Measurable: How will you measure achievement? Keeping a food or exercise journal, for instance? Tracking your spending and saving, if your goal is financial?
Attainable: This is similar to the specificity factor. Again, break it down. Can you visualize yourself achieving your goal? This step is closely related to the next…
Realistic: Shooting for the moon is inspiring but not always easily achieved. Deciding to do a triathlon might sound great, but have you done as much as a 5K? Is your goal something you can achieve with current resources and/or knowledge? If not, can you easily obtain the resources needed?
Timely: The goal should include a time frame in which the goal will/can be achieved.
With all these factors, you also will want to ask the W questions: Who, what, where, when, which, why? Asking yourself those questions about your goal can help you make your goal a SMART one.
Here’s an example. A common resolution is: Get in shape this year.
But how and when will you do so? A SMART version of this goal might be: Join a gym and work out three days a week.
Or perhaps your goal is: I will lose weight this year. The SMART version: I will cut out processed foods and lose 5 pounds by spring. That gives it specificity, makes it measurable, and adds a time frame.
Breaking goals into smaller, specific pieces doesn’t dilute the original goal. It helps make your goal more achievable. Here’s wishing you luck and success in 2015!