How to Set a SMART New Year’s Resolution

The start of a New Year brings possibility, excitement, and enthusiasm, which is why many of us set highly optimistic goals. New Year’s Resolutions have the best of intentions, but they’re also synonymous with short-lived goals of bettering ourselves.

While I dread the influx in participants at my favorite gym classes, I love to see a newbie still at the gym come May. It’s hard to start a new habit, or stop an old one, yet we all think that the New Year will make these things easier. You hate going to the gym now, but convince yourself that once it’s January you’ll love it! You’ve never turned down fries, but next week you won’t even want them!

We often don’t take much time to realistically think through our New Year’s Resolutions, instead spouting off something that sounds good like, “I’ll get to the gym more”, or, “I’ll eat healthier this year”, or, “I’m going to cook more often”. These aren’t bad resolutions, but merely stating a hurried goal won’t give it staying power. This year, take time to really think about how you want to improve your life in 2017, by setting a resolution using the SMART goal method.

Start with an intrinsic Why:

Your resolution needs to be an intrinsic goal, it must mean something to you. Your motivation for achieving this goal should come from your wants, not something external. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, and your motivator is fitting into a dress for an event or slimming down for a vacation, what happens after the event passes? Extrinsic goals are great to have for the short-term, but internal motivators (intrinsic goals) like having more energy to keep up with your toddler, or lowering your blood pressure to lessen your risk of heart disease, will keep you on track long term because they are set with the intension of a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.

Take a few minutes to think about your Why. If you’re considering becoming a vegan, think or list out why. Extrinsic reasons like losing weight or social status will only get you so far. If you don’t lose weight immediately, and no one seems impressed that you’ve gone vegan, it’s likely you won’t find it worth the effort. However if becoming vegan aligns with your moral values – a deeply intrinsic motivator – you won’t feel you’re sacrificing, rather you’re living a life you idealize.

Now set a SMART resolution:

Think about what bothers you most about how you’re living now. Do you not have enough time with your family? Have you stopped a hobby you once lived for? Is your sedentary lifestyle dragging your energy down? Do you not take care of yourself, always putting others first? Pick the area that you feel will improve your life the most, and outline a resolution that tackles just that by using the SMART goal blueprint.

Specific – Vague goals are hard to accomplish. If you want to work on the area of self-care, a resolution of, “taking better care of myself” doesn’t give you a specific action. Does that mean getting more sleep, working out regularly, getting monthly massages? Pin point exactly how you want to improve in this area in 2017, and how you aim to get there. Resolutions like, “I will set aside 45 minutes each day to meditate to improve my focus”, or, “I will get more sleep by going to bed by 10:30 on weeknights”, give you a specific action. Having multiple actions is OK, it’s knowing exactly what you need to do that is important.

Measurable – If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’re there. Tracking your progress is a big motivator, and will tell you if you’re on track. A specific goal like, “practicing yoga regularly by going 2 times each week”, can be measured by logging your sessions in a calendar or taking pictures of a challenging pose to see if your form is improving.

Attainable – It’s good practice to set a high-bar goal, but setting it too high will most likely end in failure. Your resolution should be feasibly attainable or you risk losing motivation if it seems too out of reach. If the area you wish to improve is your nutrition, asses where you are now. If you eat fast food 4 times a week, a resolution of “no fast food” is pretty drastic. Be honest with yourself in what is within your reach. Maybe, “only eating fast food once a week”, or, “finding healthy items when I eat fast food” is where you can start in 2017.

Relevant – This goes back to your Why. Make sure your resolution is relevant to you and the area you want to improve. If you want to work on your fitness, a resolution to start running when you hate running isn’t relevant to you. There are many ways to accomplish fitness gains, maybe weight lifting, spin class, or Barre fits your life and interests better.

Time-Bound – New Year’s Resolutions have a hint of being time-bound, but a year is a long time so setting smaller time-sensitive check points can help you stay the course. A good new year’s resolution creates a lifestyle change, since your aim is to do it all year, set benchmarks to help you measure your progress and keep up your motivation throughout 2017. If your resolution is get to a healthy weight by losing 30 pounds, set a smaller goal of 2-3 pounds a month. A goal of decluttering your home can be broken down into monthly tasks; January focus on the bedroom, February concern yourself with your closets, etc.

Make your new year’s resolutions stick by spending a little time in 2016 to set a concrete plan. Pick one that is truly important to you, and go through the SMART formula to ensure you’ve thought it through.

If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed with where to start and how to get there, let’s talk! My Health Coaching programs are designed to help you set SMART goals and give you the accountability you need to make them stick.

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