It’s time for that annual event: coming up with your New Year’s resolutions. Most people probably have one or two in mind. I’m guessing that most resolutions are related to DIET and EXERCISE, and experience leads me to believe that today (or perhaps Monday) will be a very crowded day at the local gym. If you check back a month later in February, the gyms will be back to their normal capacities. WHY?
New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure if you do not set SMART Goals. Making vague statements such as "I'm going to exercise more in 2013" or "I want to lose weight in 2013" is setting yourself up for failure, because these statements are missing key elements of the goal setting process.
- Specific: Be specific by stating the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of the goal. Instead of making the vague statement "I will lose weight", add the specifics: "I will lose 4 pounds each month, starting in January, by running 30 minutes, 4 times per week, so I can reach my goal weight and improve my blood pressure."
- Measurable: You need to have concrete criteria to measure your goals so you know if you are on track. This is the "how much", "how far" or "how many" of your goal. This part of the goal is easily logged in a calendar, day planner, or smart phone and can be tracked to determine your success. "I will do 100 sit-ups, 50 push-ups, and jump rope for 10 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings before work."
- Attainable: When you set goals that are important and reachable, you start to figure out ways to make them happen. You develop a positive attitude, learn skills, and plan the financial aspects related to the goals. Keep in mind that if you set goals that seem too far out of reach (i.e. "I want to lose 50 pounds") you probably won’t commit to doing them because they seem overwhelming. Setting a more attainable goal of 5 pounds per month is not so overwhelming.
- Realistic: Get Real! “I’m going to stop eating ice cream this year” is probably not realistic if it is one of your favorite treats. Instead, cut back a little bit if you eat it frequently. “I will have one ½ cup serving of ice cream only on Saturdays and Sundays instead of every night like I do now”.
- Timely: Set a time frame for the goal: “by March 1st”, “for 3 weeks”, “in one month”, etc. Once you have included a time schedule with your goal, you have a time point to work towards, and you can reevaluate your goal once you get to that point. Keep the time frame realistic by setting the goal date closer rather than far away. Shorter, more frequent milestones will keep the goal fresh in your mind, and early successes will motivate you even more.