Be honest: have you ever actually stuck to your New Year resolution?
For many of us, resolutions are vague or unattainable dreams that we go after a few times and then drop (and forget about) by mid-February.
But there is a way to turn vague resolutions into goals that we have a chance of achieving. They’re called S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Why traditional resolutions don’t work
There are several reasons why our New Year resolutions fail more often than not, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re failures. Resolutions don’t work often because of how we set and think about our goals.
A common example of a New Year’s resolution is “I want to lose weight.” While this is a fine sentiment, it’s unspecific and doesn’t do much to guide the goal setter towards achieving this goal.
- How much weight do you want to lose?
- Are you doing this to look better or feel better?
- Are you trying to lose fat or gain muscle?
- Will you achieve this with diet, exercise or both?
And here’s the biggest question. How will you know you have reached your goal?
We cannot set achievable goals if we aren’t clear on what we’re measuring. This is where S.M.A.R.T. goals can help us reclaim our resolutions and get those all-important results.
What is a S.M.A.R.T. goal?
A S.M.A.R.T. goal is an acronym to help narrow the scope of your goal and focus on the important details.
S = Specific
Make your goal specific. Having a clear goal helps you know how to start and where to go.
M = Measurable
Measurable goals can be tracked and allow you to see your progress. This will also indicate when you’ve completed your goal!
A = Attainable
Goals should be challenging, but they also must be attainable. Setting unrealistic goals isn’t helpful for anyone.
R = Relevant
Is this goal relevant to anything else going on in your life? Why is it important to achieve? You’re chances of reaching your goal increase the more aligned it is with your values.
T = Time Bound
Your goal should be time bound. You need a deadline! It could be a couple months, a few years or a even a year, but be sure to set a date where you will check in and evaluate your progress.
Following a S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting practice is common in the corporate and education worlds, so why not use this powerful tool in your daily life to reach your personal goals as well?
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals
Whatever you want to work on this year, you can set yourself up for success by turning your half-hearted resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal that’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Weak resolution: I want to lose weight.
- Specific: I will walk five days a week for at least 30 minutes each time
- Measurable: I will lose one pound each month for 12 months
- Attainable: I will use the walking paths around my neighbourhood or my treadmill
- Relevant: I want to be healthier and improve my stamina to keep up with my kids
- Time bound: by December 31 I will have lost 12 pounds
S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will walk at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, around my neighbourhood or on my treadmill to lose one pound a month, so I can become healthier and improve my stamina to keep up with my kids. I will know I have reached my goal if I have lost 12 pounds by December 31.
Weak resolution: I want to learn guitar.
- Specific: I will take weekly guitar lessons and practice at home at least 30 minutes a day, six days a week
- Measurable: I will learn to independently play one new song every eight weeks
- Attainable: I have a guitar and have signed up for weekly lessons
- Relevant: I want to be able to play a song on the guitar at my sister’s wedding in December
- Time bound: By my sister’s wedding on December 31 I will be able to play six songs on the guitar
S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will take one guitar lesson each week and practice at home 30 minutes a day, six days a week to learn a new song every eight weeks. I will know I have achieved my goal if I am confidently able to play a song on the guitar at my sister’s wedding on December 31.
To start setting your own S.M.A.R.T. goals today, use this template:
- Specific: what exactly do you want to do?
- Measurable: what metric will you use to measure your success?
- Attainable: will you actually do this?
- Relevant: why do you want to do this?
- Time bound: when will you be finished?
Setting a goal doesn’t mean reaching them will be easy. You will have to take the steps, put in the time and effort to build the skills or get the results you want. However, setting a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound goal to focus on gives you a clear, actionable roadmap that will set you up for success, which is half the battle.