Set Goals...Not Resolutions?
Every new year, we tell ourselves, "This year I'm going to …." And then the new year ends, and we repeat the cycle over again. Research shows that 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by the beginning of February. Why? Because New Year's resolutions seldom have actionable steps. They are created out of peer pressure based on an arbitrary date.
It is well known that eating better or dieting and exercising top the list of resolutions, yet these are not achievable. What does eating better mean? And what constitutes exercise?
This year, I encourage you to set SMART goals, not resolutions. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
Follow these five steps to achieve your 2023 goals.
1. Reflect over all areas of your life to determine where you are –and where you want to go. Strictly speaking, goals are the object of your ambition or effort. They are personal. Our lives are not centered around one common axis. We are complex beings. Reflect on the personal (relationships, health), professional (money, career coals), emotional (mental health), and spiritual (self-actualization, self-care) areas of your life.
Reflection will be different for everyone. You can do this alone or with friends and family. This is the first step to determining your goals. If your goals have no meaning, you're unlikely to achieve them. Also, if you have too many goals, you’re unlikely to achieve them. Pick your top five to get started.
2. Write down your SMART goals for the areas in your life you are committed to changing. Use the SMART acronym to set goals.
- Be specific. Your goals should answer the questions of what you want to accomplish and why it is important to you.
- Make sure it's measurable. Quantify your goal in a way you have control. Don't rely on someone else to measure your success such as receiving a raise. That is outside of your control.
- Make sure your goal is achievable. Even the loftiest goals can be accomplished. It all starts with a single step.
- Determine its relevance. Why is this important to you now? Is this goal relevant in your life right now? Relevance is particularly important when setting professional goals.
- Time bound means setting a specific deadline for accomplishment. A deadline creates a sense of urgency to motivate us to act.
Here's an example: I will lose 5 lbs. (specific and measurable) before my wellness exam (relevance) in February (time bound) by substituting a piece of fruit (achievable) for my morning muffin.
3. Post your goals where you can see them. I'm a true believer in affirmations, vision boards, and visualization. I believe you should post your goals where you can see them every day. There’s a reason famous athletes visualize– and it’s because even science affirms that it makes an impact and moves the needle forward. When we write down our goals and then close the notebook, weeks go by without ever seeing or revisiting our goals. Posting them where you can see them keeps them top-of-mind.
4. Tell a friend. New research shows that if you tell the right people your goals, you're more likely to keep them. Accountability, right?You need to tell someone you trust – a friend or mentor. However, that same research found that talking about your plan to achieve the goal is more effective than telling someone your goal. And then keep them informed of your progress.
Interestingly, however, is that when you go public with your goals, studies show you get the same satisfaction as completing your goals and you are, therefore, less likely to stick with it. So, don't tell everyone!
5. Be flexible. Sometimes our goals become outdated or irrelevant. Ditch those. Write new goals if it is relevant or see how you might tweak the other goals you've written.
In a study led by professor Dr. Gail Matthews, respondents were 42% more likely to accomplish their goals when they were in writing. The success rate for achieving goals was 76% when study participants wrote down their goals, developed a plan, told a friend, and kept the friend in the loop.
So, this year as you ring in the New Year, take some time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Set your big hairy audacious goals for 2023. Write them down and divide them into manageable bit-sized pieces you can share with a trusted mentor. And don't forget to celebrate your wins.
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