The new year inspires people to reflect on where they’ve been, where they are, and where they want to be. There is a sense of excitement as people prepare to get fit, manage their money, travel more, eat healthier, etc. However, many people still find themselves falling back on old habits. Why do so many people fail their resolutions? Maybe we all need to be making SMARTer resolutions!
No, that’s not a capitalization error, and this has nothing to do with IQ levels. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Developed originally by George T. Doran, it is described as a guide to setting goals and objectives that may provide better results. How can you make SMARTer resolutions this year?
This Year, Make SMARTer Resolutions
There’s a children’s joke that asks the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.” Setting large, broad, and lofty resolutions is not uncommon, but it’s also not that SMART. Things like “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to save more money” are the equivalent of deciding to eat the elephant. Unless you have a plan and some specific strategies in place, you may find you have bitten off more than you can chew. That’s what causes people to quit before they’ve even gotten started.
As a fitness instructor, I see a giant surge in class attendance during the first two or three weeks of January. Unfortunately, the crowds begin to thin out after a few weeks as people become frustrated, discouraged, or hit obstacles they are unsure of how to overcome.
Using the SMART method can help you stay on track by giving you the tools to set yourself up for success. Therefore, when obstacles threaten to derail you from your goal, you are better able to deal with them and move forward. Below is a breakdown of the SMART steps and how to incorporate each one into your 2023 goal-setting.
You’ve got to get specific if you want to succeed. Just saying, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save money,” is a pretty broad stroke. Break it down to “I want to lose 20 pounds,” or I want to add “X” amount of dollars to my savings account. Being specific gives you a target. Once you’ve established the target, it’s easier to formulate a plan for hitting it.
For example, “I am going to strength train 2-3 times per week.” “I am going to start tracking my calories” or “I am going to put aside 5% of my paycheck” are all ways to put a specific plan into action with an endgame in mind. These steps also make it easier to track your progress, which leads to step two!
Being able to track your progress keeps you accountable and on course. Once you have set your specific goal and made specific plans to achieve it, you need to constantly check in to make sure you are going in the right direction.
Weight loss goals can involve jumping on the scale once a week or checking in at the gym. Check your bank account to see if you are putting aside enough to meet your money-saving objectives. Even a little bit of progress is still progress, so don’t get discouraged if things aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like. As long as you are moving forward, you are not failing.
Attainable & Realistic
Although these are two separate topics, they go hand in hand. There is no faster way to set yourself up for disappointment than to set a goal that is completely unrealistic and unattainable. For example, if you resolve to lose 50 pounds in two months, that is not only unrealistic, it is unhealthy. If you set a goal of completing a half-Ironman in six months, yet you’ve never exercised a day in your life, that’s probably unattainable. If you plan to put half of your paycheck in savings, yet you are drowning in debt, there’s a good chance that isn’t feasible. While aiming big is admirable, you have to remember that it’s not all or nothing. Just because you can’t do it now doesn’t mean you won’t do it ever. It just means you’ve got to build up to it.
Being too vague with the timeline for achieving a goal can lead to procrastination. Then, before you know it, another year has passed. Give yourself a deadline. Depending on the size of the goal, you might want to break it into mini-goals so you can celebrate the small victories along the way. If your overarching goal is to lose 20 pounds in a year, break it down to two pounds per month. Trying to reach a savings account balance of $500 in six months? Figure out how you want to break that down monthly. Never underestimate the power of a “win,” however small, to keep you motivated.
When used correctly, the SMART method can increase your productivity, motivation, and commitment to reaching your goals. However, don’t get so focused on each step that you forget the big picture. Not all goals will require all five steps, and that’s okay. Think of these as more of a guide or roadmap that can be tailored to fit your individual needs. Once you have your specific SMART plan in place, stick with it! Consistency is key in anything you hope to achieve. Cheers to reaching goals in the new year.