Resolutions are so last year.
How many years have you made a resolution, only to forget, fall off or fail in a couple weeks? How often have you rung in a new year without any kind of goal to get excited about, since "I never follow through anyways?" You aren't alone. As a matter of fact, 2 out of 3 people who make a resolution don't achieve their goal. There's a number of reasons why someone might not take that trip, or lose those 10 pounds or get that new job; Studies have shown that common obstacles include shrinking willpower, lack of accountability and even just forgetting about your resolution over the course of a year. The majority of people who make resolutions don't even have a plan of action to help them get there! But that's the real problem, most resolutions are too broad to have a clear trajectory of action and a year is too long a time to stay focused on a single goal.
One answer to this problem is not to make one or two year-long resolutions, but to instead make monthly SMART goals.
Get SMART and get going.
Goal-setting is a powerful tool for change, but you have to make the right kinds of targets to be able to hit them. Try focusing on Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based goals this year and set yourself up for success in all 12 months! Let's break down the components for better understanding.
Specific- This means a non-general goal. For example, rather than just "losing weight," you could set a target of losing 10 pounds. Having specific target gives you a bulls eye to aim for.
Measurable- Something you can track and look back on. If I wanted to get stronger, what does that mean? Where would I start? How should I work at it? But if I wanted to add (Specifically!) 15 lbs to my bench press, I can see where I'm going and how far I've progressed.
Attainable- Let's say I want to develop an 11-foot vertical leap. This is specific and measurable, but is it attainable? Not really. Adding 4 inches to my vert is specific, measured AND humanly possible!
Realistic- Realistic really is the culmination of the other SMART principles and how they work together. If everything gels together, you have a realistic goal. Like if I wanted to start a podcast in 2019, I can look at the steps I'd have to take and begin working on it, but if I said I want to start from 0 and build the most-downloaded podcast of the year that's a little less realistic.
Time based- This is my favorite component because it's the one that can make or break a good goal. Having a realistic time constraint can either light a fire under you and fuel great changes or it can make an accomplishment feel either too close to achieve or so far off into the future that you put it off and forget about it. These strategic limitations are the ingredients to setting a resolution that you can achieve and set you up for subsequent successes, so why make just one a year? Let's make a new resolution every month!
The How and Why of your monthly resolutions.
In December 2017 I made a goal to lose 10 pounds in January of 2018 and if I failed, I'd donate $100 to Donald Trump. Luckily, I crushed my weight loss goal and kept my money. My goal was SMART, but that's not all it took to hit my target; I was also able to ask and answer the "How" and "Why" of my goals and I had social support to keep me accountable. Losing 10 lbs in a month wasn't easy, but doing it felt great and having just a month to get there was motivating and felt manageable at the same time. The next month I made it a goal to do more "adulting" (I got my first credit card, went to the dentist for the first time in... many years, etc.) and in March vowed to go outside my comfort zone at least five times.
Some of these goals started out not so SMART, like going outside my comfort zone. So I had to ask questions about them to dial in more specificity. What does it mean to be uncomfortable and what's the benefit? How would I go about it? What is the spirit of the goal and why is it important to me? With help from my wife and a few friends I settled on these five:
1. Get a massage / take intentional time for self-care
2. Update my wardrobe / spend money on "nice things" for myself
3. Make a friend at the bar
4. Attend group meditation with a local Buddhist group
5. Be open about my feelings. (The fact these things are outside of my comfort zone probably says a lot about me!)
Once I had specific targets I was able track, my progress towards attaining each mini-goal through the month was measurable and realistic for the time allotted. I did manage to get each item done and while it didn't feel like it changed my life, I do think it was important to examine my own habits and push myself outside my norms with the help those closest to me. Finding your social support system is an integral part of success since accountability is the number one missing piece for people who don't make it to their resolution goals. Having a friend, coworker or coach who is on board with you makes the journey feel smoother and when you have someone that wants to hear about your victories and accomplishments, staying motivated is much easier! Keep these in mind as you think about what goals and adventures you're setting off for next.
So find your group and pick your goal. Be SMART. Ask How and Why. Get out there and get after it in the new year!