Doesn’t the New Year give you a sense of new beginnings? That’s why a lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions. The New Year inspires them to shed bad habits or take-on good ones. Unfortunately, before the end of the month many resolutions are as long gone as the party hats and noisemakers. The main reason is that these resolutions aren’t really goals but just wishes.
Let me suggest that this year you consider setting SMART goals. It can make creating positive change a little easier. Here’s how to set SMART goals:
SPECIFIC. Often the biggest reason a goal isn’t achieved is that it isn’t detailed enough. For instance “I want to spend more time with my kids,” lacks specificity. How much time? Where? Doing what? When? I suggest you write down your goals and refer back to them regularly. In a famous study at an Ivy League college, graduates were asked if they had goals. At a reunion years later the 3% or so with written goals had achieved their goals. The ones with no goals or unwritten rules had not.
MEASURABLE. If you can’t measure your result it’s hard to see if you’re approaching your goal. Setting a goal allows you to see progress and tell when you’ve hit the mark. For instance, instead of “I want to walk more,” try writing “I want to start walking 2 miles, three days a week by the end of the year.” This way three months later when you’re walking a mile three days a week, you can see your progress.
ACTION-ORIENTED. Sometimes we set goals that we can’t have any influence on. For instance, “I’m going to make more money this year.” If your boss doesn’t want to give you a raise, you can’t do it. On the other hand, you could say: going to increase my sales commissions this year by making one more sales call a week.” Or “I’m going to look for a better paying job this year.” Or “I’m going back to school to study computers so I can get a promotion (or start looking for a better job.)”
REALISTIC. It’s good to aim high. However setting unreachable goals can be self-defeating. If you plan to lose 70 lbs. this year you’re probably aiming much too high. Although someone in a commercial you saw did, it’s not very realistic. Perhaps you can lose 35 lbs. this year and 35 lbs. next year. So if you lose 3 lbs. a month for three months you can see your goal in sight and continue to feel motivated. And if you hit your goal sooner, you can always set the next one.
TIME-SENSITIVE.Someone once said, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” That’s true. You want to be sure you give yourself a time frame to achieve your goal in. Usually I suggest six-months or a year. Sometimes change needs to happen quicker and you can set shorter-term goals. Other times a goal is so big it could take many years to achieve like saving for a house. I suggest you break your goal into “bite-sized pieces” so you can see continued progress and keep motivated by the results you see.
Write down your goals, keep them in a safe place and refer to them often. I have a friend who writes a list of work, family, friendship, and spiritual goals on a note card that he keeps in his desk drawer. He refers to it throughout the year. He feels the goals have helped him stay focused and balanced.
You’ll notice for the New Year, I’ve chosen a new format for the Growth & Wellness column. Rather than answer one specific question, I’ll cover a general topic. Don’t let that stop you from sending in your questions, however. If there is a reoccurring topic in the questions I get, I’ll try to address it.