Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
When I think of a New Year’s Resolutions, I tend to think about making a huge change in life, accomplishing a big goal. For some people, this is easy. These people are able to make a firm decision on how they would like their life to be and make the necessary changes with relative ease.
For others, there is a struggle to make changes. The struggles come from having conflicting views about the change. For example, someone might set the goal “giving up coffee.” In her mind, she has all the “shoulds” she picked up from others, telling her why coffee is evil and yet she has conflicting thoughts around her enjoyment of coffee and she disbelieves some parts of the “shoulds” that steered her to create the goal in the first place. This creates internal conflict, unhappiness, and feelings of failure over not attaining the set goal.
So, while my New Year’s Resolution is to lose 26 pounds, I know I have a lot of internal conflict around the many things I need to change to accomplish that huge goal. This is where S.M.A.R.T goals come in. I am going to start with a smaller goal. Something I know without a doubt is Achievable.
I am going to lose 5 pounds by January 31st by maintaining my current healthy exercise regimen, drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day, and removing sugar-laden foods from my diet.
SMART Goal Setting 101
SMART goals are easy to make. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused/Relevant, and Time-bound.
Specific – What is the goal you will accomplish and what are the specific things you are going to do to achieve it?
Let’s take a look at the goal example above
The “what” is “I am going to lose 5 pounds.”
The “how” is “by maintaining my current healthy exercise regimen, drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day, and removing sugar-laden foods from my diet.”
Measurable – In order to determine goal success, there needs to be a way to measure success.
For this goal, I chose to go with weight loss, so I can use a scale to determine my current weight and weigh myself again at the end of January to determine success.
Alternatively, I could have selected to decrease my waistline. I can measure the before and after results by using a tape measure.
Achievable – Is it possible to reach the goal? The way the goal is written, how likely are you to achieve it?
It is okay to have your goal be a little challenging, but not so much that it leads to frustration and failure.
For my goal, I selected things I know I can achieve. I am already exercising regularly, so I will keep on doing that. In addition, I know I fell behind on some healthy habits during the holidays. “Drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day” will be an easy habit to return to. I accomplish this by drinking 1-2 glasses every morning before I do anything else and making sure I have water and not other beverages easily available throughout the day. When I get bored of plain water, I have seltzer water, sparkling water, or lemon water.
I know I have successfully created the water drinking habit before and only recently stepped away from it during the holidays, so I have no doubt I can achieve this part of the goal.
I felt I could add more to the goal, so I added: “removing sugar-laden foods from my diet” to the goal. Normally, this would be an impossible goal for me to accomplish, but right now, I feel sick from all the sugary foods I have been eating. Feeling sick from the sugary foods changes the likelihood of my success from a 1 to an 8. As the month goes on, I know I will begin to feel better and the goal will become more challenging. I plan to keep magnesium on hand, which helps me curb sugar cravings; stay hydrated, which also helps to cut my cravings; and have healthy snacks on hand like carrots, apples, and peanut butter celery. With this plan in place, my goal is quite achievable!
You can use the goal success scale to help you determine whether or not you need to modify your goal. When thinking about all the aspects of your goal, on a scale from 0-10 with 0 being completely unlikely and 10 being definitely, how likely do you believe you are to achieve the goal as written?
- If your answer is between 8 and 10, you are ready to move ahead.
- If your answer is between 0 and 4, take a look at your goal and decide how you can break it down into smaller goals that will add up to the goal over time.
- If your answer is between 5 and 7, modify your goal so that you reach the 8-10 certainty range OR break it down into smaller goals.
Results-focused/Relevant – What is the result you wish to achieve? Is this goal relevant to what you wish to achieve?
In the example, weight loss is the primary objective. The goal is focused on weight loss, so yes, it is results-focused or in other words, it is relevant to what I wish to achieve. If my goal was “I am going to save $5000 by January 31st so I can go on a safari vacation and lift elephants.” then the goal is no longer results-focused/relevant to weight loss. (Coming up with examples can be hard. Work with me here.)
Time-bound – What date will you achieve your goal by?
In the example, “by January 31st ” creates the time-bound component of the SMART goal.
A Final Note On Goal Setting
Creating SMART goals sounds pretty simple, right? But, what happens if you fall off the horse? The solution is simple. Decide if you had a temporary lapse, in which case, climb back into the saddle or if the goal needs to be modified in a way that still moves you forward, but perhaps in a smaller way or different fashion.
Whatever your goal is, go get ’em!