Setting goals for the New Year is as much part of the Christmas holidays as all the lore and legend this time of the year entails. December is never the easiest time of the year to get things sorted out in your head… travel, family, reunions, a different setting, work piling up, coming up with gifting ideas — it may all prove a bit too much. Then, when it is all over, along comes January, which often goes down with a score of newness and impetus that produces too much noise and no clarity in your head at the outset.
So what to do with these New Year’s resolutions?
Before you even dig into actually laying down content, it is highly recommended that you organize your thoughts and priorities. That is, making them SMART.
The SMART approach is a result-driven method that holds you accountable for nominal goals that you can actually achieve. It is really an acronym that stands for:
Let’s use a popular personal favorite to see how this might work.
“I want to lose weight.”
Specificity demands that you push the ticket even further. I want to lose weight may seem specific enough, but the how (the why neither) is normally not computed. Instead, break your goal down into amounts and time lapses that are unambiguous. How about: “I want to lose 12 pounds within the next 3 months… and then work out a routine to maintain this weight drop throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall months to allow the body to create a long-standing memory of a healthier me.” Now that’s quite clear-cut: it defines not only a time frame for the weight loss, but what you want to do with it in the aftermath and why you are looking to make this goal happen.
Tracking is one of the keys that we normally forget to define and do in a consistent manner. And it all starts with a good definition of what result(s) you want. Once you have that, you can come up with a method allowing you to measure specifically and, preferably, over short periods or iterations. So, if you want to lose weight, and you know how much, and you know over what space of time, then it’s all a question of actually measuring that weight loss, say, once a week. It also means measuring the process: so, I want to lose weight may include things like I want to cut down on XXX (the things you know are fighting against that weight loss) this week, and YYY the upcoming week, etc.
This one is easy said, harder done. Are your goals attainable? Is losing 12 in 3 something you have done before? Does your goal depend on outside factors, like, for example, eating out? If 12 in 3 seems like too much, it is too much. Simplify it: start with a new pound number in a shorter span of time and then, renew your vows accordingly. In this category, the possibility of sharing with someone else is always a plus and a boost. Sharing your goal with a friend or family member might (and often does) help you along.
This one is tricky. But because life (and the goals you set) does not exist in a vacuum, the question is: does you goal fit in the frame of your life and of other goals you may have set for the new year? If devoting more time to reading, joining a book club, or upping your game in your computer-bound job are part of your New Year’s resolutions, you may have a problem with this other ‘losing weight’ goal… simply because it does not fit. It is not relevant. Reading and nominally tying yourself more and more to a computer are not conducive to this other goal. So, you either reframe it, or you make it a part of another set of goals which do hinge precisely on the overall Get Healthier theme. Then of course there is the question of time: you need to consistently allot time to your goals. Do you have it? Are you organizing your schedule correctly?
Also termed time-bound, this last element of the acronym is precisely what you thought it meant: setting deadlines within a schedule or a specific time frame. This is the single best recipe to achieve. Truly, not just here, but in general in life. This is specifically true of goals which might be pushed back until a future week, month, or undefined period.