Dr. Noelle Nelson

New Year Resolutions – Yikes!

Here we are, at another New Year, that time when we set resolutions for the coming 12 months. Or try to. But here’s the thing, even with our best intentions, research shows that our resolutions rarely make it past 3 months. Sometimes not even past 3 weeks, or even 3 days. Sigh. But come on, we’re human, right? So we didn’t make it to the gym every day, we didn’t get up an hour earlier in the morning, we didn’t lose those pounds, we ditched the savings plan in favor of buying a new techie what’s-it, so? The world did not come to an end.

True. Yet those resolutions were meaningful to us. We didn’t make them lightly. And we really wanted to accomplish whatever those resolutions represented. We’re not lazy or stupid or without ambition, at least not for the most part. What went wrong?

S.M.A.R.T. We forgot to adopt resolutions that were Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.). A process that management professionals have used for decades in facilitating not just goal-setting, but more importantly, goal-achieving.

How could this apply to New Year’s resolutions? Your resolution is to go to the gym every day. A laudable objective. Certainly, specific enough: “going to the gym” and “every day.” Is it measurable? Sure. “Every day” provides the measure. How about achievable? This is where most of us would stall. Every day? Hardly. There are days when you have to work early/late, days when you have to pick up/drop off the kids, days when a zillion other things interfere with “going to the gym.”

Maybe a back-track is in order. Instead, “specific” describes the time of day you set as your gym time, maybe the days of the week you intend to actually make it to the gym. Still measurable. Achievable? Much more so. Whew!

Next comes “relevant.” Uh . . . to what, you ask. Relevant to why do you want to get to the gym regularly in the first place? Surely, it’s not to show off your new Nike Ja-1 Chinese New Year sneakers? OK, maybe it is, but in addition to that, it’s because you’d like to be more fit, feel more energized. That’s why going to the gym regularly is relevant. Relevance is what motivates us. Relevance answers the “why” of why you set this resolution in the first place. Reminding yourself of the relevance of your gym resolution is what will support your ability to achieve your resolution.

Lastly, is your resolution time-bound? This is different from “measurable,” because “time-bound” will help you assess how you are doing with your resolution. Perhaps you set 3-month reviews of your success with your resolution. That not only shows how you stayed the course but in addition, can show how your success with your resolution contributes to the relevance of it. For example, are you more fit, do you feel more energized?  Setting periodic benchmarks to assess how you’re doing is important to keeping you motivated for the long haul.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? A New Year resolution that’s S.M.A.R.T., not just for day one of the New Year, but for every day of the year, so that you can enjoy the terrific feeling of accomplishing what’s important to you.

Happy New Year!

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