It’s that time of year again, the time for New Year’s resolutions. Rather than make some unrealistic proclamation that you know you’re going to forget about by February, why not set a real and achievable goal for yourself, and plan out the steps you will take to reach it?
A great way to help you make and maintain your resolutions is to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for the criteria you need to follow when setting and following you goals. It stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Roadblocks, and Timetable.
First, Specific: you want to make your goals as specific as possible. The more detailed the better. Don’t just say you want to lose weight. Say how much weight you want to lose. Say how you’re going to lose it. How many times a week are you going to exercise? For how long? What diet changes are you doing to make? By being specific you not only give yourself a clear vision of you goal, you also lay out the steps you will take to achieve it.
You want to make sure your goal is Measureable. By this I mean you can look back and say definitively whether or not you achieved your goal. If your goal is to spend more time with family, it’s difficult to look back at the end of the year and say whether or not you achieved that. To make your goal more measureable, you might say, “I want to spend three extra hours with my family each week by having a family dinner every Sunday.” At the end of the month, it’s easy to say whether you did that or not. By making goals measureable you give yourself a tool to see if you are staying on track, and an opportunity to decide what to change if you are not.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals is being to general or by trying to achieve too large a goal all at once. This is how we become easily discouraged. You want to make sure your goals are Attainable, that they are really things you can achieve within the realm of possibility. That’s not to say you should limit yourself; quite the contrary. By setting attainable goals you are setting yourself up for success. For example, your goal for 2013 shouldn’t be getting your PHD if you never went to college. Getting your PHD could be a goal you eventually have, but there’s no way you’re going to achieve that right now. An attainable goal would be to get into a college degree program, or take the necessary exams to apply to a degree program. It’s easier to focus on smaller goals as a means to reaching an end goal than to try to achieve everything at once.
When you’re thinking about ways to keep your resolutions, you also want to consider the Roadblocks that will stand in your way. Consider what will be difficult about the task you have set yourself, not to talk yourself out of it, but to come up with ways around these roadblocks before they actually occur. If your goal is to run a half marathon, but you know you have trouble getting out of bed to go running before work, figure out a way to deal with that roadblock before the alarm is buzzing at 5:30 am, whether that’s running later in the day or buying an incredibly loud alarm clock that you keep on the other end of the room so the snooze button is out of reach. By preparing ahead of time, you’ll be able to deal with obstacles easily and continue on your path to success.
Lastly, you want to set a Timetable within which to complete your goal. This goes hand-in-hand with specificity. You have to put that pressure on yourself to act NOW, or nothing will ever get done. You want to take more vacations… when? In 10 years? When you’re retired? If you say instead I want to take another vacation by the end of the year, now you have a deadline for when to have your funds saved up and a reason to save those vacation days at work. Setting a timetable makes you accountable for taking action.
So when you’re watching the ball drop and thinking about what you want to be doing by the time 2014 rolls around, remember to make sure your resolutions are SMART.
Contributed by Solomon Brenner master instructor of Action Karate and author of Success Secrets of Black Belt Masters. For more info call 215.355.5003