Why is it that when we wake up on January 1st we think we are going to miraculously become perfect in every way? Often we have high hopes for ourselves come the New Year: No eating after dinner, sweets are out of the question, work out for 2 hours every day, take time to meditate/pray morning and night, stick to our budget and reconcile our checkbook daily, and the list goes on. You know how it is. You have made these lists. Then we wake up on January 2nd only to discover that we haven’t magically transformed into the flawless person we hoped to be. FAIL. So, now what? Throw in the towel? Or maybe just throw out the New Year’s Resolutions? I vote for the latter.I have never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, probably because I have failed every time. To me, resolutions have an underlying implication of “perfection in a day.” So, I say, “Just don’t.” Don’t resolve to be perfect on January 1st. It is just setting yourself up for failure.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love setting goals for myself and working toward them, but I’m not under any delusion that I will be perfect in one day. For me, I have to break it down into attainable goals.
While in college studying to be a special education teacher, I learned a lot about how to set goals. One thing I still remember and have used time and time again is the idea of setting SMART goals (George T. Doran is often credited with the first published reference to the concept in 1981). This is an easy way to remember the principles of good goal-setting.
S – Specific. Pick something very specific rather than a vague, general goal. An example of a non-specific goal is “I will run this year.” A specific goal is “I will run a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving 2016.”
M – Measurable. How will you know if you accomplished your goal? You have to choose a goal that you can actually measure in a clear and concise way. There is no question about the distance of a 5k. That’s measurable.
A – Attainable. Is it possible? There is no sense in setting a goal that is impossible to achieve. Maybe running a marathon isn’t the right goal for you this year, since you haven’t run in 20 years and may have a few extra pounds left over from the holidays, or the last 5 holidays. But maybe a 5k is possible.
R – Relevant. Is this goal something that is right for you at this time? If you are anticipating knee surgery in the next few months, maybe a running goal isn‘t the best choice. Set a goal that is something that is relevant to you and will help you in your life right now.
T – Time-bound. Make sure you have a time-frame to accomplish your goal. Open-ended goals leave too much room for procrastination. Set a date by which to achieve your goal and stick to it!
Now that you have created SMART goals for yourself, here are some DO’s and DON’T’s that will help you be successful:
DO share your goals with someone. This can be a spouse, a co-worker, a friend, anyone (except a stranger – that won’t help). You are much more likely to accomplish your goals if you are held accountable by someone.
DON’T overwhelm yourself with long lists of goals. Perhaps you could pick one for each of the areas of your life: spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, social to work on the whole year. Or maybe pick one this month, give it a good solid month of focus, then pick a new one next month.
DO allow for failure! You are not going to be perfect at it the first week. You just won’t. But hopefully you’ll be better at it toward the end of the week than you were at the beginning. Forgiveness is the best gift you can give yourself as you gradually turn your weaknesses into strengths.
So bag the New Year’s Resolutions this year and do something SMART instead.