New Year resolutions get a reputation for sometimes being pointless or frivolous when it comes to actually achieving goals and making ambitious progress in your life, however, they can truly be great starting points for setting up your next year (or even the next decade) for success. While setting new goals for yourself- like finally getting a promotion or working out more- is admirable and important in order to progress in your life (if those are areas you want to change) and step out of your comfort zone, New Year resolutions typically aren’t S.M.A.R.T, which is why 43% of people expect to give up their goal after just one month and only 10% of people think their resolution will last.
Designing your goals around the S.M.A.R.T model turns your resolutions into usable, focused, and clear objectives that you can track progress on and be able to achieve without questioning what success actually looks like. The S.M.A.R.T model is built around five pillars that all define portions of the goal. In order to be S.M.A.R.T, the goal must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
The most popular New Year resolution in 2019 was ‘exercise to get in shape’, while this goal gives us a generic idea of what the work behind the goal needs to be (exercise) and what success looks like (you are in shape) generic goals like this are sure to die quickly due to a lack of details and measurements. To turn this resolution into a S.M.A.R.T goal, more details need to be added to the resolution.
Specific goals clearly answer questions such as:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why is this important?
- Are there (and what) resources or people involved?
- Is there a limitation?
Specific versions of the above resolution would be “I want to be able to run a half marathon, so that I can play soccer with my kids without getting tired within the first few minutes of playing” or “I want to be able to complete XYZ workout in less than eight minutes, so that I can set my own personal record for time.”
Adding in the “so that” portion of the goal not only sets a reminder for you as to why you started the goal to begin with, but it also helps provide a motivational factor for you that will help you keep pushing forward when it feels easier to just give up on your goal (which it often will) than to keep working hard.
Goals that are measurable have clear indicators (e.g.: how much, how many, etc) that clearly define how you will know when success has been accomplished. An improvement that would make the above examples measurable would be:
“I want to be able to run a half marathon in 2 hours by June 1st, so that I can play soccer with my kids without getting tired within the first few minutes of playing”
“I want to be able to complete XYZ workout in five minutes by the end of the year, so that I can set my own personal record for time.”
While originally, the goals were specific in what you were achieving (finishing that specific workout and running a half marathon) adding in the parameters of time and the deadline helps you begin to form a plan to achieve that goal since you know exactly what you are measuring success with.
While aiming high when setting goals helps you push yourself farther out of your comfort zone so that you can really see what you are made of, aiming too high to the point of your goal not being realistic or achievable can cause you to put yourself into unsafe situations (especially when it comes to fitness) or cause you to feel like a failure when progress isn’t being made in the needed timeframe.
Taking into consideration the time, money, and energy you have available to you to dedicate to your goal is important to do before you get too busy pushing yourself down a path that is not attainable. Answering the question of “how realistic is this goal, based upon current restraints and resources that I have?” followed by an adjustment of your goal metrics will aid in setting you up for achievable and sustainable success, instead of failure.
A goal is only as good as its relevancy, otherwise, it just becomes another thing to do on you seemingly never ending to-do list. While running a half marathon in two hours seems achievable, you must work to understand if the goal you are pushing for is even relevant to your life and what you are working towards. Asking yourself questions such as:
- Does this goal seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time for me?
- Will this cause my other goals of higher priority to have to be pushed to the side?
- Am I really the right person for this?
Taking the marathon goal as an example again, do you really need to be able to run a half marathon in two hours in order to be able to play soccer with your kids without getting winded? Or could a better goal to meet your measurement of success be to run a mile twice a week for the entire year?
Including a time frame for your overarching goal gives you a starting point for planning out the bite-sized chunks of tasks that you’ll have to take on in order to achieve your goal. Identifying the end point (weekly, monthly, mid-year, end of year, etc) or success measurement gives you the guidance needed to be able to answer questions like:
- When do I need to start this goal?
- What can I do daily, weekly, monthly to make it happen?
- What can I do today?
Understanding how long it will take you to complete the tasks that will build up to your completed goal answers the ultimate question: can I achieve this in my desired time frame?
Turning your resolutions into S.M.A.R.T goals is an effective way to design the new year that you kept telling yourself you’d have last year. Getting specific, adding measurements, ensuring what you’re aiming for is achievable and realistic, and figuring out your time frame, gives you the tools needed to crush this next year with clarity and focus.