What is your New Year’s Resolution? Is to quit smoking? Lose weight? Exercise more? Or is it to spend more time with loved ones? While we can make a change on any day of the year, most people use the transition of the years as a circuit breaker or an opportunity to start fresh. Whatever your resolution may be, psychological principals of goal setting can make a big difference in achieving your resolution. Following these simple tips will give the best possible chance to reach your New Year’s goals. Let’s take the SMART approach…
S – Specific
Losing weight is vague. Drinking less alcohol is ambiguous. When goals are not specific, they are difficult to achieve. If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of achieving your New Year’s resolution, make sure the goal is specific. A specific goal may be fitting into a particular dress which means losing weight. Or instead of having a vague goal of “getting fit”, set specific goals around calorie intake, minutes of exercise, and water consumption. When you know what the goal is, you’re on your way to achieving it.
M – Measurable
A SMART goal must also be measurable. It is impossible to know if you have achieved your New Year’s resolution if the goal cannot be measured. It is wonderful to want to focus on work-life balance, but what does that really mean? How can you measure that? If work-life balance means a two-week vacation with the family each year or even turning your emails off on the weekend, then you know once that resolution has been achieved. Measurable targets will keep you on track and help you stay motivated.
A – Achievable
It is very unlikely that you will complete the Hawaiian Ironman by the end of the year if you have never trained. Losing 37 Kilos in 6 months is overwhelming and will likely stifle your early motivation. Keeping your New Year’s resolution achievable will give you the best possible chance of fulfilling it. Walking around the block for 15 minutes three times a week is definitely achievable. Drinking two litres of water each day is also very achievable. The consequences of reaching these achievable goals will be increased motivation to set further goals.
R – Realistic / Relevant
Make sure your SMART goal is realistic and relevant to you. Your New Year’s resolution needs to align with your character and values, otherwise you will never meet your own expectations. If your goal is to gain a promotion at work, decide how this is relevant to you. Striving for a promotion for personal accomplishment is a different motivation to striving for promotion to provide for your family. If your New Year’s resolution does not relate to you and your value set, it may be worth reviewing your goals.
T – Time-bound
Most people neglect to set a time-frame around their New Year’s resolution. Losing two kilos or calling your mother weekly is specific, measurable, achievable and (hopefully) relevant, however without a time-bound motivator, it is difficult to get moving. The time-frame also needs to be specific, realistic and achievable. Not placing a time-frame around your goal increases ambivalence. Making your New Year’s resolution time-bound increases motivation.
In addition to setting SMART goals, it is important to remember to be kind to yourself. Placing too much pressure on yourself to achieve goals turns our good intentions into chores. When this occurs, it becomes a battle. Indeed, our goals can be perceived as a battle if they are not specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, nor time-bound. That being said, be brave and continue to challenge yourself. Taking action to improve your life and wellbeing is only positive.