January is a time of New Year's resolutions. Like the old adage goes, "Out with the old, in with the new." It's a time of cleanses, booze-free weekends, and good intentions. But that's just it: sometimes the good intentions don't translate to real changes and new behaviors.
If you go to a gym on January 1st, there is not one treadmill available. All you see are masses of sweaty people trying to get in shape. Go back to that same gym three weeks later and the numbers have dwindled down to one quarter. Why is that? What happened to all of those good-intentioned-new-year's-resolutions?
What about the influx of cleanses and juice fasts blasted on Facebook or other social media outlets? It's as if January 1st is this arbitrary light switch where people get on the health bandwagon, yet have a hard time staying on.
The hard truth is that good intentions, willpower, and the power of positive thinking will not lead to lasting change when it comes to your resolutions. Willpower alone only accounts for 10% of whether you will do or not do something. If I stare at a cookie jar long enough I will eventually eat that cookie. Unless...I have a solid plan and strategy in place.
Solid planning & strategizing
Let's take the gym scenario as an example. If I make a resolution to start working out as of January 1st and that's the extent of my resolution, sure I will go for a few weeks, and then I will fall back into old patterns and routines because there is nothing specific about my resolution. Life will get busy again, and old patterns and excuses will play into the conversations I have with myself. So my good intentions, as good as they are, will not get me into my lululemons and onto the treadmill.
Now, what if I were more specific about my resolutions? Like for example, instead of general statements like "I want to get healthier, or go to the gym more," I said "I want to lose 20 lbs by April 1st, and I'm committing to going to the gym 4 times a week." Wouldn't that affect your results and patterns? I think so.
The more specific you are about what you want, the more you give your brain the information it needs to direct you towards new behaviors via concrete strategies. It's like having a GPS that directs you to your destination.
That's why SMART goals make sense. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
An example of being SMART
So let's take our ‘getting in shape goal’ again. To make it specific it could look like "I will join a gym and workout 3 times a week." For it to be measurable, you can track your progress by weighing yourself and having a quantitative measure. For it to be attainable, you must start to develop attitudes, abilities and skills to reach your goals, as well as have a plan and strategy that brings you closer to your goal. For it to be realistic, your goal must be something you are both willing and able to accomplish. And for it to be timely or tangible, it has to be grounded within a time frame. Pretty SMART, eh?
So that's this week's homework; turn your New Year's resolution into a SMART goal. Set yourself up for success, and success will follow.
Good luck and Happy New Year!