Here we are, already at January 12...how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? I don’t know about you, but, historically, my attempts at them have been less than stellar. In fact, I gave up on even setting them a few years ago in anticipation of my failure. Sound familiar? Perhaps a mindset shift is in order to reclaim the beauty of turning over a new leaf this year…
Resolutions vs. Goals
Think about the word “resolution” for a minute. Perhaps because of the connotation it has with New Years, it feels romantic and full of grandeur, doesn’t it? When I think about “resolution”, I am filled with a feeling of excitement and wonder at the possibilities of something new. But New Year’s Resolutions have a way of filling us with hope in the theoretical and disappointment in the practical. Now think about the idea of “goal setting” – it has a more down-to-earth feel to it, doesn’t it? To me, this idea isn’t quite as exciting. However, sometimes emotional excitement doesn’t translate into practical application. As less exciting as it may seem, I know that “goal setting” entails all the practical tools I need to achieve the result I desire.
Goals are really just resolutions if they aren’t “SMART”. I mean to say, when setting goals, aim to make it Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Oriented. As an example, let’s take the common New Year’s Resolution of losing weight into this model.
Specific: Instead of saying “I’d like to lose weight”, say “I’d like to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year”. Resolutions are often big-picture oriented and don’t have the specificity of goals.
Measurable: By specifying an amount of weight you’d like to lose, you are giving yourself something to measure. You can practically compare any weight loss to your initial scale reading. It is often hard to know whether or not New Year’s Resolutions have been met because they are broad, vague, and immeasurable.
Attainable: Essentially, don’t set yourself up for failure. If losing weight is your goal, don’t set a broad goal of 100lbs. A better way would be to break your larger goal into smaller, more easily achievable ones. With our example, you may say you’d like to lose 5 lbs in 2 weeks to start you off. Aim for a “success snowball” – once you’ve felt the satisfaction of achieving a smaller, more attainable goal, you’ll be more motivated to continue setting goals and ultimately reach your larger goal.
Realistic: Be honest with yourself about what your situation will allow you to achieve. Aiming to lose 50lbs by summer is near impossible for most, if not dangerous. Be honest about the time you have to go to the gym, for example, or to make healthy meals. Plan ahead and set the bar high, while being honest about what you’re able to do to reach your goal.
Time Oriented: If you don’t give yourself a timeframe, other things will creep in and take priority. By giving yourself a deadline, a goal becomes more certain and more of an expectation you have for yourself.
The best part of setting goals instead of making New Year’s Resolutions is you don’t have to wait until January to start or until next January to recover a mistake. Whatever your goal, be SMART. Best wishes to you and yours this year.