Store displays and music on the radio station seem to indicate that the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving feasts are being planned, December parties organized and in some cases end of the year resolutions considered. New Year’s resolutions are as common as apple pie. More than half of Americans consider exercising more while more than one third cite weight loss as their New Year’s resolution. Others double up the promise by committing to do both in the upcoming year. But despite all the good intentions, most resolutions are soon forgotten come spring.
Studies have shown time and time again that for a resolution to succeed certain parameters have to be in place. Probably the most important is how well our resolutions, goals or promises are articulated. Ideally goals should be S.M.A.R.T.
S = Specific
Vague goals will likely fail. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” consider making “I want to lose 15 pounds by June” or “I want to lose one pound a week” the goal. The more specific the goal, the better the results.
M = Measurable
Can you measure your success? Ask yourself “Is there anyway I can measure how I am doing?” or “How will I know that I have reached my goal?” For example: “I want to drink more water” does not really tell you how much more you want to drink. A better goal might be “I want to drink 8 cups of water each day,” or consider “I want to drink two more cups of water than what I am currently drinking every day.” These goals tell you exactly how much, and it will be easier for you to measure how well you are doing with this goal.
A = Achievable
Ask yourself: “What is important for me to achieve?” or “Is my goal too easy or too hard?” This is where you have to really know yourself and be honest with yourself. If you make the goal too easy you won’t really feel that you have accomplished much. If you make it too hard you might feel disappointed if you don’t reach it.
R = Realistic
Ask yourself: “Am I willing and able to work toward this goal?” and “How hard am I willing and able to work toward this goal?” If you truly believe that you can achieve your goal, you most likely will. You can make hard goals that are realistic but know how challenging your goal should be.
T = Time
Ask yourself: “Have I given myself enough time to reach my goal?” S.M.A.R.T. goals usually include some sort of deadline or timeline. “I will lose weight this year” does not really tell you much about when you will lose the weight. Will you lose all you want the first month or the last month of the year? Again, you have to be honest and be able to articulate how long you are willing to give yourself to reach your goal. Deadlines also give you something to look forward to during your efforts.
When resolving to change a habit, do it slowly. Focus on one habit at a time. Working on too many habits at once will likely be frustrating. Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to set just one big goal for the behavior you want to change. You can start by focusing on short term baby steps that lead to your overall goal. So you may want to focus on ways to cut down on evening snacking for example, which ties in to your overall resolution to lose weight. However, remember to make these short term goals S.M.A.R.T. goals as well for better results.