As December wanes, we look towards the New Year. What will the it hold for us? Will it be better or worse than last year? How can I be better than last year?
It’s logical and healthy to think and plan for the coming year. We humans are aspirational. We strive to be better. We work harder to achieve more. The problem is that by Valentine’s Day, most of us have reverted to our old ways, previous year’s ways. This isn’t because we’re bad people or that we don’t care.
Time for a new resolution
Come February, ask anyone how they’re succeeding with their New Year’s Resolutions. To those who tell you they’re not succeeding, ask them if they simply don’t care about their goals anymore. More than likely they do still care about them. They do still want to lose their extra weight. Or, they do still want to pay off their credit card balance.
We exercise pretty religiously. We’re not as faithful as we used to be, but still make it to the gym quite regularly. It’s common for those who are really fit; we mean those with the sculpted bodies and 2% body fat, to take the month of January off from going to the gym to avoid “resolutionists”. Resolutionists are those who show up the first Monday in January and are gone by February.
These people aren’t bad. In most cases, their goals haven’t changed. The problem is that our aspiring nature often paints a rosy picture when we’re setting goals for the future. We envision that we’ll unearth hidden motivations to help us overcome insurmountable obstacles of yore, such as long hours at the office, a sick child or bad weather.
How can we ensure success with the coming year’s resolutions? How can we make achieving this year’s goals better than last year’s achievements?
In business, we often use “SMART” goals to help employees grow and improve year over year. SMART goals detail what the goal is, how it will be achieved, measured and its definition of success. SMART stands for:
- Specific – Being specific with goals provides detail. It’s not elusive. Wanting to pay off your credit card debt is a resolution, but isn’t specific. Answer the five “W”s: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Saying, “I will pay off my $3,319.21 Barclay’s credit card balance by December 31, by putting $298 a month towards my balance and not adding to the balance, to alleviate financial stress”, is specific.
- Measurable – Having a measurable goals, means you’re able to quantify successes. Saying, “I want to lose weight this year” means nothing and defining the success of that is abstract. You’ll know when you’re cheating yourself. Saying “I will lose 10 pounds this year” is more specific and everyone knows what that means. Saying, “I will lose 4% body fat” is even more specific. Consider setting smaller, measurable goals throughout the year, such as, “I will lose 4 pounds by February 14th and 8 lbs by July 4th.”
- Attainable – Attainable, means the goal is something that is possible to achieve. You could set the goal of landing on the moon, but it’s likely not attainable for you. Maybe if you’re Richard Branson, but most likely not. Paying off all your debt, if you have a mortgage, student loans, a car payment and credit cards, may not be attainable without a windfall of cash. Be realistic and don’t set yourself up for failure.
- Realistic – This ties with attainable. It matches up with how attainable that goal is for you. Basically, be down-to-earth with your resolutions. If you’re credit card balances are several thousands of dollars, paying them off in one year may be impossible. If this is the case, set a goal of paying off a portion of your debt, while still being specific. If you have $21,984.87 in credit card debt and realistically can pay off $5,367.64 make the latter number your goal. If you have more than one credit card, shoot for paying off one of them while not missing payments on the others.
- Timely – All goals should have a timeframe to achieve them. This being a “new year’s resolution” the inherent timeframe is December 31. To make achieving the long-term goal easier, consider setting short-term goals. Divide the ten pounds you want to lose over the course of 12 months. Or, make your resolution a six month goal and set a new goal on July 1.
Setting these parameters on your resolutions will make you more likely to achieve them. Achieving goals is much more rewarding than attempting the same goals year after year and failing.
Once you’ve created your SMART goals, write them down and share them someone. Writing them down makes them real and allows you to see them on a regular basis, especially if you post them somewhere, such as your bathroom mirror or bedroom door. Sharing them makes you accountable to someone and also gives you a support system.
Achieving Success Feels Good
Finally, don’t make too many resolutions at one time. This is why we suggest setting new goals on July 1. If you put too much on your plate at one time, basically trying to create a whole new you overnight, you’ll likely become exhausted and unmotivated, similar to trying to run a marathon on your first attempt. You’ll just give up. Attempting one or two goals at a time is easier and more attainable.