Happy New Year! We at Think Crucial hope that your 2017 is treating you a lot better so far than 2016 did. We’d like to talk to you about succeeding at New Year’s resolutions and making them work. Maybe it’s because we look over the past year and see things we wish we’d done, or we look toward the future and want to make a change. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Whatever it is, it’s a New Year, and it’s tradition for over 40 percent of Americans to make a vow to change something in the coming New Year.
Coincidentally, nearly half of all people who make resolutions each year fail. While that may seem daunting, look at it from the other side: Over half of those people succeed at New Year’s resolutions! Of course, there are things you can do to help make this year’s resolution a success. One big way is to make sure that you’re setting smart goals.
In the business world, you’ll hear people talk about SMART goals. That doesn’t mean you have to attend an Ivy League college to set yourself up; SMART is an acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. Essentially, any resolution you make should be SMART. Let’s look at what that means when it comes to resolutions.
The number one resolution that people make has always been to lose weight and/or eat healthier. But the question then becomes, how much? Eat Healthier? What does that even mean? If a resolution isn’t something that you can point to, it’s easy to fail because you don’t have a direction. It’s like asking someone how to get to the local mechanic when your car is spluttering. It doesn’t help much if they point East and say, “Head that way.” So, make your resolution specific. “I want to lose ten pounds,” or, “I want to run a race.” Those are both specific goals. If you can’t tell when you’ve succeeded at your resolution, you’re never going to make it.
This aspect of a SMART resolution gives you a goal to shoot for. Otherwise, you never know if you’re making progress to your goal. Have you ever been at the gym doing cardio and absolutely hating it? You look at your timer and see you have twenty minutes left? So you break it down into two sections of ten minutes. Then you break it down even further. That’s four bouts of five minutes each. Making a goal measurable makes it seem less Herculean and more doable for we common folk. Plus, as you achieve a milestone, you can celebrate a little bit! So make your New Year’s resolution to save an extra $5 per paycheck instead of “I want to save more money this year.” That way, you know every paycheck that you’ve succeeded at your New Year’s resolution.
You have to make your resolution something you can do. Otherwise, it just stays firmly in the realm of a pipe dream. That means you might have to think about how you’re going to accomplish it. Do you need to set time aside for it? If you want to work out three times per week (Specific and Measurable), what do you need to make that happen? When will you work out? Where will you work out? By identifying these parts of your resolution, you know what you have to do to make it happen. And once you know that, you can make your resolution happen, instead of being just something you wished you could have done.
This one is a big one, and it’s a reason many don’t succeed at their resolution. It’s a way of saying, “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” Once you’ve made your goal Actionable, you can decide if it’s realistic. Sometimes, as an adult, you have to make compromises with your time. Let’s say that you make your resolution to work out three times per week, and you’re going to do this by running for twenty minutes every morning. That means you have to wake up about an hour early three times per week. Can you realistically do that? Or do you tend to slap the snooze button about six times before you realize you have to leave for work/school right this second? Then you find yourself eating a cold pop-tart as you hop your way to the door putting on your shoes so you can make it into work just before you’re late? You’re the only one who can decide if something is realistic, by the way.
You’ve got an entire year ahead of you. But a year is a long time. So try to find a way to break your resolution down into a set time frame. Set a specific date to start your path on your new you. By the end of the week, you’re going to open a new savings account at your bank to sock away that extra $10 per paycheck. By the end of the month, you’ll have gotten the paperwork from HR to increase your 401k contribution. By making smaller goals for yourself that have a specific timeframe, you’re making it easier to achieve your big goal. And then, even if you don’t make your big goal, you’ll still have a string of consistent victories behind you.
In the end, there are three ways to handle New Year’s resolutions. The first is to never make them. The second is to pay them lip service and make them general enough that you know that you’re never going to succeed at your resolution. The last is to make the SMART and write them down. Once you do that, you’ve made the decision to make a change in the New Year. We at Think Crucial have our own resolution this year, by the way. We’re going to eat one more donut every week, because someone just introduced us to cronuts. And by the way, that goal is totally SMART, and FYI, we’re pretty sure that this is one resolution we’ve got nailed.