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Your New Year's Resolution

January 1, 2016 12:54 PM

Make your goals SMART, small, and challenging

When you create a plan to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, it’s critically important that you make your goals SMART, small, and relatively challenging. Doing so will force you think about what accomplishing your goal will actually be like, and it will also help you define exactly what you want to accomplish.

Make your goals SMART

The “SMART” model to setting goals is very simple and very powerful. It’s a very simple framework for creating goals, and unfortunately for that reason it can be easy to gloss over. In practice, though, the framework is one of the most powerful techniques available to you to convert your vague New Year’s resolutions into goals that you can create a plan for. Now is a good time to take out a pen and paper if you don’t have them out already.

The SMART model says that for a goal to be a good one, it has to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Your goal should be as specific as possible. That means your plan should include:

  • What you want to accomplish, in as much detail as possible, as well as what the end result will look like
  • Who needs to be involved for you to reach your goal
  • Where you will accomplish the goal
  • Why you want to accomplish the goal, and what costs will be associated with the goal

The more specific you make your goal, the more powerful your plan will be, since you will know exactly what you want to accomplish.

For example, instead of making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, make your goal as specific as possible. For instance: “I’m going to lose 15 pounds, with a personal trainer, at the gym after work every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I want to accomplish the goal so I can look amazing in my sexy man-speedo when I go to Cuba in February. It will cost me four hours a week, and some willpower until I make a habit of going to the gym, but it will be worth it.”)

Next, define exactly how you will measure your progress in reaching your goal, and make sure the criteria you use to measure your goal’s progress are quantifiable. For example, if you plan to lose weight, know exactly how many pounds you will lose, and exactly how you will measure your progress.

If you don’t measure your progress toward your goal, it will be impossible for you to figure out if you’re on track to achieve it. In your plan, make sure you include exactly how you will measure your progress, as well as how often you will measure your progress (e.g. “by weighing myself before breakfast every morning”).

This is a biggie, and determining how attainable your goals are might require a bit of processing on your part. Is the resolution you’ve defined up to this point realistically attainable by you? What do you not have that you will need to accomplish your resolution? Will you have the energy/focus/time to achieve it?

The “attainability” of a goal is centered around you, and whether you have the focus, energy, time, and drive to achieve it.

A goal that is relevant is deeply connected to your values and priorities.

Relevance can also refer to whether it is the right time to follow through on a goal. Some resolutions might be worth following through on later in the year (e.g. training for a marathon later in the year after the weather is warmer).

Time creates urgency, and your goals should be time-based. For example, instead of making a goal to lose 10 pounds, make a goal to lose 2.5 pounds a month for four months.

It is also important to define the milestones you will reach along the way to reaching your big goal, and when exactly you plan to reach those milestones. Since you have already defined your goals to be measurable and attainable, you will be able to make realistic, real progress toward your milestones after you create your plan.

It’s often not an easy process to define milestones for a goal, but when you define measurable milestones along the way, your New Year’s resolutions will become a lot less vague and a lot more understandable and relatable.

Creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based is one of the most powerful strategies to define and stick to your goals. Defining SMART goals can be a tedious process, but if you’re serious about sticking to your resolutions, you absolutely have to include a SMART definition of your goals in your New Year’s plan.

Make your goals small

The key to making successful changes to your habits, behavior, and routines is to start small–very small, because that way the changes will actually stick. Small resolutions take less time, willpower, and motivation, which means you will actually keep them, and become more confident in your ability to change.

Smaller resolutions will also make you delightfully anxious. For example, if you make a New Year’s resolution to lose one pound a month for four months, create a plan to reach your goal and then only visit the gym once a week to start. If you care about making the resolution (that is, it’s aligned to your values), you will be incredibly anxious to ramp up how many times you hit the gym a week as the year rolls on.

It’s counterintuitive. But when you only have so much willpower, time, and energy to make changes to your habits, if you want your New Year’s resolutions to actually stick, make them as small as possible.

One idea is that you should go easy on yourself when you make resolutions. There is no sense being overly hard on yourself when you make your New Year’s resolutions, and when you respect yourself when you make them, you’re a lot likelier to actually achieve them. Making smaller resolutions is a great way to show more respect for yourself in the new year.

Make your goals challenging

Just because your New Year’s resolutions should be small doesn’t mean that they should be easy. Especially if your resolution is to learn a new skill (or you need a specific skill to achieve your goal), activities that pose a challenge roughly equal to your skill level will make you a lot happier.



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