Welcome to January. This is the month that most New Year’s Resolutions setting Americans will give up on their goals. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Hear us out.
First, you have to stop calling them resolutions and think of them as goals. More than half of all Americans will resolve to do something and it’s typically something big. We say we will lose weight or save money this year. We say we will stop smoking or get a promotion at work. What we don’t say is how we are going to accomplish these big resolutions.
If there’s something you really want to do, you need two things. The first is passion. If you are not passionate about your resolution the day you make it, you won’t be excited to keep going in six months and probably not even in two weeks.
The other thing you need is to break that resolution down into a SMART Goal. What’s a SMART Goal? We’re glad you asked! This is actually an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting and make goals that are actually productive. It stands for:
Specific. You have to make your goal as clear and specific as possible so that you can train your focus on what you really hope to achieve. What do you want to accomplish? Why is your goal important? Who will you need to involve to accomplish your goal? Where will it happen? What resources do you need at your fingertips and what limitations do you need to overcome? If you want to become an early riser in 2022, you need to know why it’s important to start getting up earlier and how you can do it. “I will become an early riser by going to bed one hour earlier than normal, by committing to not hitting snooze and by asking someone in my household to hold me accountable when I don’t get out of bed on time. My reward will be free time to do something I want to do in the morning.”
Measurable. It’s easier to stay motivated when you can track or measure your progress. It helps you set deadlines, stay focused and feel encouraged when you’re closing in on a milestone. If you’re failing to show progress, this isn’t a cue to get discouraged. Instead it’s a nudge to try tweaking your strategy. Measurability is crucial when it comes to things like losing weight. Instead of just saying you will lose fifty pounds, break the goal down into measureable chunks. You might say that you will lose five pounds per month for ten months. A weekly or monthly weigh-in will help you stay on track.
Achievable. You must set realistic goals. Big, lofty goals are fun to say out loud but it’s discouraging to reach for and fail at unattainable goals. Consider your restraints and limitations as you dream of the opportunities. Remember, as you work toward your goal, you still have to live in the world you wake up in. We all want a big, fat emergency fund to help us through a rainy day. However, we may not have a lot of extra income to save and may need to look for reasonable spending cuts or ways to earn money on the side. “I will open a savings account with the goal of saving $1,200 in 2022. I will save $100 each month by cutting expenses and reducing discretionary spending.”
Relevant. Before setting a goal you need to be sure that it’s relevant to your life and that the timing is right. Is it worth your time? Is it something you want or even need to work on to have a better life?
Time-bound. A deadline is the ultimate inspiration so it’s important to have a target date or a series of target dates. Set achievable milestone dates as well to make your goal more measureable and the process more rewarding. If your goal is to spend more time with family, you need to prioritize getting it on the calendar. “I will build better relationships with my parents by calling them twice a week and with my kids by planning a weekly outing for the entire family. I will do this for three months and then reevaluate to plan my next steps.”
You don’t need all the answers when you set your goals but you do need to give yourself a framework for getting started and checking in with yourself along the way. It’s that accountability, consistency and constant assessment of how you’re doing that will make all the difference!