The end of the year sneaks up on you, doesn’t it? In October, it feels like you have so much time left to reflect on the most recent revolution around the sun and prepare to enter the next one energetically and enthusiastically. Then the holidays bounce you around like a jingle bell with a sugar high, and suddenly, you come out of a holly jolly haze and realize you have one week left to make the resolutions that will (hopefully) guide you through the next twelve months.
Maybe you’re one of those lucky procrastinators who’s actually productive under pressure. If you’re like many of us, though, you have a moment of panic, then you proceed to overcompensate. We’re all about setting challenging goals. We want you to believe in yourself (because hey, you’re awesome). But when you’re scrambling to come up with resolution ideas, it’s easy for high expectations to end in low morale.
Using the five simple steps of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting may make it a little easier to balance resolve with realism as we head into this brave new year.
Before you commit to a New Year’s resolution, ask yourself if it’s: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound…in other words, SMART!
One huge obstacle to success may be goals that are too vague. Case in point: “exercise more” tops the list of popular New Year’s resolutions, but without further definition, it can be tough to stay on track.
A good way to create specific objectives is to ask yourself:
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Remember that trick from elementary school? Still useful, whether you’re writing a book report or making New Year’s resolutions. Let’s run through these questions for the example of “exercise more”.
Who wants to exercise more? Maybe it’s just you, or maybe you and your partner or your mom or a close friend who have mutual goals, in which case you may be able to support and motivate each other on the journey.
What do you hope to accomplish through increased exercise? Do you want to lose weight by burning fat or gain weight by building muscle? Are you using exercise as a means of stress reduction? Are you just trying to fit into your favorite jeans? There’s no wrong answer here, as long as your goals are healthy ones, but a well-defined objective can help keep you on track.
When will you make time to exercise? If you’re a morning person, maybe it’s 5am boot camp classes. If evenings are better, maybe you and your partner can alternate who goes to the gym after work and who goes home to cook dinner. An ideal schedule might feel impossible, but it’s important to find one that makes sense with all the other moving parts of your life.
Where will you work out? The gym? Your living room? A fitness studio? Outdoors? Maybe a combination of all those places? Choosing the right environment can go a long way in helping you reach your goals.
Why do you want to exercise more? Was it recommended by your doctor to help address a known health concern (e.g., high blood pressure)? Are you training for an event (e.g., your first 10K)? Or are you simply hoping to enjoy life more by improving your overall physical and mental health?
How will you exercise? Running? Lifting weights? Bicycling? Practicing yoga? Will you hire a trainer, attend classes, watch YouTube videos, or follow your own instincts? Whether you’re getting your steps in or flowing through sun salutations (or both), it’s important to find an approach that feels right for your body and mind.
There are plenty of different ways to measure success…but it’s pretty important that you find one. Celebrating progress can help you get through the inevitable discouraging moments that pop up as you work toward any achievement. It’s obviously easier to define milestones for some resolutions than others, but if it feels impossible, you may want to consider fine-tuning your goals.
This is a big one. Larger-than-life affirmations are a common practice in our society. “You can do anything you set your mind to!” “Reach for the stars!” “If you can dream it, you can do it!” On the surface, hyperbolic phrases like these may be encouraging, but the reality is, not every dream can or will come true. Reasonable resolutions are key to increasing the chances of success. So wish on the stars if you want to, but remember that progress just means reaching for something that’s more than an arm’s length away…and getting it.
Because part of our nature as humans is to compare ourselves to other humans, sometimes we end up hurdling toward goals that may not even be that meaningful in the context of our own principles and priorities. The thing about other people’s lives is that we’re just observing them, not actually living them, so we only see the surface of something that has many, many layers. So as you think about what you want from the upcoming year, make sure you’re setting intentions for YOUR life, not someone else’s.
Setting a realistic timeframe is another key element of stronger resolutions. Be really honest with yourself about how long you think each of your goals will take to achieve. The best deadlines are ones that are close enough to create a sense of urgency without being so close that you have to turn the rest of your life upside-down trying to meet them. For long-term or ongoing goals, check in with your progress/performance on a regular basis.
You might not succeed. Resolve anyway.
Out of all the New Year’s resolution tips we could offer, this may be the most important one: don’t skip the opportunity to make them! Yes, setting effective goals can be hard, and achieving them can be even harder. According to a study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually stick with them. But even with that 54% chance of “failure,” it may be worthwhile to make those resolutions.
Why? Because in that same study, only 4% of “non-resolvers” were successful at achieving their goals. So we’d encourage you to go ahead and put some intentions out there before the New Year begins, because who wouldn’t want a 42% higher chance of success?
If one of your resolutions is to strengthen your legacy and better protect your family’s financial future, you don’t even need to wait until January 1 to get started…you’re already just a few clicks away from a fast, no-obligation life insurance quote from Our Life Covered℠!
We wish you a New Year that’s bright, beautiful, and most of all…S.M.A.R.T.!
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