We’re half way through January and some of our New Year’s Resolutions have yet to see the light of 2012. We knew they were faux resolutions when we named them, but we did it anyway. It’s not that we didn’t want to do things differently this year, we just weren’t sure how.
We made the mistake of sharing our resolution during a familiar holiday dinner; the type when everyone around the table is forced to pour out their heart. And of course, after hearing so many others proclaim their new gospel, we quickly came up with something far-fetched and impersonal, like,“ This year I’m going to the gym every day.” Or worse, in a state of angst-slash-slight depression after four champagne toasts too many, we resolve to do something unattainable e.g. “hug 11 strangers a day.”
Or perhaps you skipped that holiday dinner and instead took time to reflect on a serious resolution like getting a new job. But alas, here we are half way through January and for some reason you haven’t started to update your resume and your resolution hasn’t kicked in quite like you planned.
FACT: Unless you determine otherwise, the New Year will signify nothing more than a quick flip in your calendar. It’s our actions that will urge us towards a new life not when the clock strikes midnight. Many of us find ourselves stuck in the past and subsequently the same year—every year—because we’ve yet to unpack what’s truly behind our desired New Year’s resolutions and determine the specific and necessary actions to bring them into fruition.
A few years ago I facilitated a workshop for young women focused on developing a personal mission statement and establishing S.M.A.R.T goals that drive one closer to their purpose. Within this workshop the women were inspired to create vision boards using a variety of arts and crafts, and later, taught how to backwards plan their way into their vision by using the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework. While I won’t be able to recreate that workshop within this space, I am encouraged to share an example of how that same framework could be used to help us establish meaningful New Year’s resolutions.
Let’s take the commonly shared resolution “Be More Healthy” and re-frame it with the S.M.A.R.T acronym.
Specific: Be more healthy is a huge statement! What does that really mean to you? Instead of immediately joining Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig because J.Hud or Mariah told you to, did you consider visiting your doctor for a personal consultation? The more specific and personal we are about our goals the more confident we feel in our ability to achieve them. Remember, your New Year’s Resolution is just that, yours! Resist the temptation to conform your resolution to that of your neighbor’s. If you must make a resolution, I encourage you to make it specific to you life’s purpose, and the things that will truly move you towards your longer term goals.
Ex: Work out 4x a week with a partner (specific)
Measurable: With a broad resolution like “Be More Healthy” it’s tough to know if one’s being successful with out defined measures of achievement. This measure of success can easily be identified when we add numerical or quantifiable values to our goals. Measures help us clearly see and assess our path to our goal. This part of goal setting is integral because if we can’t see the progression of our success, we will likely get discouraged when things get tough. It’s when we see our success that we keep focused and become even more inspired to keep going.
Ex: I will take a multivitamin at least 5 times a week (measurable)
Attainable: As you reflect on the first two aspects of S.M.A.R.T goal setting, you certainly don’t want to leave the ‘attainable’ piece out. If you set a specific, measurable but however, unreasonable goal – you’re setting your self up for inevitable failure. “I will lose 25 lbs in a week” is specific and measurable, but yet unattainable. Is your resolution something you can do in a healthy and safe way? Is your resolution something that you have control over? We should look at our goals as motivation and not distant milestones that we’ll never reach. If your resolutions depend solely on someone else’s actions I encourage you to reconsider that resolution’s purpose and attainability.
Ex: I will lose the 2lbs a week my doctor suggests (attainable)
Realistic: Similar to how we think about setting attainable goals, we should indeed set goals that are realistic. If french fries are your favorite food (and you eat them 4x a week), setting a goal to quit them cold turkey may not be realistic for you. Especially when you refuse to stop visiting the same restaurants where you would order fries in the past. Find the balance between setting a goal that will push you, but that’s always within your reach.
Ex: I will only have french fries once a week for the month of January. (realistic)
Timely: Set a time frame for your resolution or goal. Who said a New Year’s resolution had to last all year? Perhaps your resolution is only focused on the first quarter. Example: “In order to be more healthy, I will visit all of my primary doctors by April.” By setting this time-frame you’re increasing your sense of urgency to get things moving. If you don’t set a time frame, you’ll slowly lose your momentum and by June, you won’t remember what your resolution was in the first place.
By making our New Year’s resolutions S.M.A.R.T we’re no longer in a position to feel helpless come April, but instead, empowered by actions that will positively impact our lives. S.M.A.R.T is one of many frameworks created to improve productivity. If this doesn’t work for you see what else is out there and try it! Just don’t give up. Take some time to reflect on what’s most important to you in 2012, and start getting smart!