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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to set achievable New Year's resolutions

It is that time of year again when people look at what they accomplished this past year and try to set some goals to see if they can do things “better” in the New Year. Are you one of those people? I heard recently that only about 10% of us still do this! Maybe that is because, as part of our super achieving society, we try to set too many goals. Or maybe the goals we set are unrealistic.

Here are a few tips, to help you set some goals at the New Year or at any time of the year, that I learned from Christi Hegstad, Ph.D., from MAP Professional Development, Inc., a life coach who has a website at I assume most people have heard about setting “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. [Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives." Management Review, Volume 70, Issue 11(AMA FORUM), pp. 35-36.] This concept has been around since this article was written on 1981 and many people have quoted it, refined it, built on it and some have even rejected it. The five steps in setting S.M.A.R.T. goals are: 1) make your goals Specific, 2) make your goals Measurable, 3) make them Attainable or realistic, 4) make them Relevant and 5) set a Time frame in which to achieve them.

This is a lot to do when thinking about New Year’s resolutions but some thought along these lines is necessary if you are to achieve them and therefore, enjoy the success that such a task can give you. To make sure that you have good, achievable goals, you should start early. Don’t just pick a few vague ideas out of the back of your mind while partying on New Year’s Eve. Start now and make them realistic. First, you should prioritize. Look at where you are in life to determine what is important to you right now. Dr. Hegstad says to think about “what positive change would make the biggest difference in your life.”

Don’t set too many goals. Be specific about what you want to accomplish and make a time frame part of the specification of the goal. Make the goal measurable, attainable and relevant. For example, don’t just say you want to loose weight, say something like you will lose a pound a week until you have lost “x- number” of pounds. A goal phrased in this way is specific, measurable, realistically possible, high on your priority list (to make it relevant) and set in a time frame. Remember, you can’t improve all areas of your life at once. Pick the areas that are most important to you at this time in your life and know that you will get to the other aspects in time.

Once you have set two or three of these specific goals, make sure that you track your progress. Don’t make an easy goal unattainable by complicating the tracking progress. You don’t need to record specifics (unless you want to). Just marking in your calendar that you did what you set out to do in the time frame you set to do it in (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) is enough. But make sure that you are able to get an overall view of your progress so that you can make adjustments if necessary or bask in your success. Make it positive – put a smiley sticker in your calendar when the goal is met and see how many of those little reinforcements start to add up.

The final thing you can do to be successful is to get support for your efforts, either from a professional or from a trusted friend. “Make your goals public,” Dr. Hegstad advises, “so that someone else can helping you be successful.”

It has been said that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year for many because that is the day they realize that they have already broken their resolutions perhaps because they were made in haste without proper planning or thought, or they were too vague or perhaps they were too unrealistic from the outset. If you do your homework, you won’t set yourself up for failure; you will make the third Monday and every Monday thereafter a celebration, knowing that you are making a positive difference in your life!

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

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