Build a Better Resolution, Part 1: SMART Goals

It's mid-December, and you can feel it in the air. No, it's not the frost or the holiday spirit; it's the resolution mindset. Nearly everyone is gearing up for the beginning of 2017 with the hopes that it will be the year they finally accomplish everything they want to improve about themselves. Unfortunately, we all know that January brings a good bit of discouragement for many. Change is hard, and it can be really difficult to make a lasting change in our lives, even if it is for the better.

One of the reasons that so many resolutions fail is simply that people are setting vague goals. If you decide, say, to “lose weight,” that's great, but how much weight? When? How can you start to create a plan if you don't have a clear endgame? The same goes for loose goals like, “work out more,” “get a gym membership,” or “eat healthier.” If you are being vague about what you want, you can't know when you get there.

For better success, start with better goals. A good goal, one that is more likely to succeed, is one that is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-oriented.

Specific: Don't just say, “I want to lose weight.” Pick an amount. Your goal isn't to “work out more;” it's to go to the gym a certain amount of times per week, or to do yoga each morning, or whatever fits into your life.

Measurable: Decide exactly what amount of X is happening in your goal. You can't know if your goal is successful if you can't somehow know that you've achieved it. Set this as a number of pounds, days per week, hours, or whatever unit applies to your goal. You don't just want to “read more;” you're going to read a book a week.

Action-Oriented: Just as a better to-do list uses a verb for every task, a better goal focuses on the actions you can take to make it happen. Let the actions you would need to take to reach the goal become the outline of the plan to make it happen.

Realistic: Anyone can set a goal to lose 100 pounds this week or go from couch to Boston Marathon in a month. The problem is, these would not be achievable goals for almost anyone. When you're setting a goal, it is important to look at your skills, abilities, physicality, or whatever else directly impacts the goal and to honestly decide what you can achieve in your time frame. If you set the goal too easy, there is no sense of triumph when you get there, but if you set the bar over the moon, you're unlikely to even try because it's just too far out there.

Time-oriented: Your goal should be bound to a unit of time. Not only does this give you a deadline for the whole project, but it lets you break the goal down into smaller chunks, each with their own time frame. Maybe losing 30 pounds before your reunion seems too big to do, but if you break it down into losing 7 pounds a month or 2 pounds a week, suddenly it looks like it's much more achievable.

Many people joke about resolutions at this time of year because so many fail at reaching their goals. This doesn't need to be you. SMART goals can be the tool to jump-start your progress on the way to a new you.

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