As the year draws to an end, you may be hearing from some of your friends, family, and colleagues about goals they hope to achieve in the new year. The practice itself is a laudable one, but more often than not we see this exemplified in the gym activity during the first 10 days of January: completely packed – then back to “normal” again before too long. Why is this? Are all those people with good resolutions lazy? That’s a simple answer. But the more complete answer lies in how those well-meaning people set those goals in the first place. They weren’t SMART about them.
SMART is an acronym which stands for:
S – specific (“lose weight” is not specific)
M – measurable (“improve my situation at work” is not measurable)
A – achievable (it’s important to strike a balance between being aspirational and realistic)
R – relevant (are you revisiting the goals of the past you, or the present and future you?)
T – trackable (are you sharing these goals with people who will keep you accountable and will let you check in with them about them?)
More often that not, our New Year’s Resolutions, if we make them, read more like wishlists. We pick out things we don’t like about ourselves and that we want to improve but we don’t take the time to apply the SMART acronym to a resulting goal. For example, even “lose 10 pounds” is not a SMART goal. While specific and measurable, is it achievable? Meaning, why did you pick 10 pounds? Have you ever lost that much weight before? If not, why not start with something like losing 2 pounds?
Going back to the gym example – if you haven’t been to the gym all year, or even for years, a SMART goal would not be going to the gym three times per week for 30 minutes at a time. You might start going twice per week for 10 minutes at a time. You might say – that’s ridiculous – what can I do at a gym for 10 minutes? But that’s not the point – the point is setting yourself up for success by a) establishing a habit and b) getting small wins. You start a journey of ten thousand steps by taking the first one. You start going to the gym regularly by starting small.
Also, just because it’s a “New Year’s” Resolution doesn’t mean you have to wait until the New Year to begin. Give yourself a running start on the new year by starting in the old: there’s no time like the present to improve, and as you make that very first step in a new direction for yourself, I promise the beginning of the reward will be in the act itself.
Finally, limit yourself to three resolutions, and start on them one at a time rather than beginning all three simultaneously. Success and consistency are contagious, and as you begin and start to see some success with one goal, it will be that much easier to begin progress on the next one.
Remember, it’s not all or nothing. To begin is everything. Start that new year now.
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