Making Resolutions Stick Through SMART Goals
(This blog post is provided for informational purposes only; the information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes, and no guarantees are made.)
Tis’ the season. Whether you like New Year’s resolutions or not, everyone is talking about them. Some of us are doing great, while some of us have already given up. This week’s post focuses on making your resolutions stick. While I think it is great to set resolutions or intentions for the year, if you really want results, it is time to shift from resolutions or intentions to S.M.A.R.T. goals. Developed in the 1980s by management consultants as a business tool, SMART goals are now used by businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to set and achieve objectives.
The SMART acronym and system for developing goals is fairly straightforward. If you want to achieve something in any realm, set goals, and these goals should be S.M.A.R.T.:
Specific. For example, setting an intention to be more present in the new year is wonderful, but what are the practical goals that will get you there? For example: I will put my phone, work, and other distractions away and fully focus on being present the first 30 minutes the kids get home from school.
Measurable. If you can’t measure it, how do you know if you did it? Going back to our being present resolution, a practical goal to achieve this state of being might be to meditate for 10 minutes/day. Notice how specific and measurable this goal is and how easy it would be to track if it was done or not.
Achievable. Set yourself up for success! This sounds so trite, but how often do we set totally unrealistic expectations for ourselves? Try not to set goals that are impossible to achieve. Start small and build mastery from there. For example, meditating for 10 minutes a day seems doable to me, but even 5 minutes more would not. You can always add more time as you are able to consistently achieve your goal of 10 minutes/day, for example.
Another question to ask yourself is how am I going to achieve this goal? As yourself, under what circumstances do you meditate [you can insert any goal here] best? In the quiet, with music, with a guided meditation? I find meditating difficult unless I use a guided meditation. I love the Calm subscription-based app (as always, #not an ad) for this (their approximately 10-minute Daily Calm guided meditation is a perfect fit for this goal). Calm offers a free subscription option, but for unlimited access you have to sign up for a paid subscription. Another free, guided meditation option that is quite good is Meditation Oasis.
Realistic. Did you just have a baby? Maybe setting a meditation goal is not realistic for you right now because perhaps you are overwhelmed and fall asleep the minute your eyes close. Maybe simply sleeping as much as possible and taking care of yourself and the baby are the perfect goals for now. You can always set a meditation goal when things in your life slow down a bit more and you are not so chronically sleep-deprived.
Time-bound. This is very important. Note that not only does our meditation goal state how often (daily) we will do the activity, we have also defined the duration of the activity (10 minutes). Furthermore, by when do you want to achieve mastery of this goal? Set a date, maybe three months from now, by which you want to be consistently meditating 10-minutes a day at least 3-4 times a week. Once you accomplish this goal, maybe you aim for 5-6 days a week, and so on.
While I have used meditation as an example, you can use SMART goals for any number of resultions, such as exercise, eating healthy, engaging in more self-care activities, et cetera. You can also use SMART goals to set professional objectives. The key is walking through the steps above for each goal. Then, set self-accountability mechanisms — be sure to write down your goals, track them (Productive - Habit Tracker is a good, free iOS app that tracks your goals), and set reminders to assess your progress regularly.
Another key recommendation I have for you is to practice grace with yourself when it comes to setting and achieving your goals. Be realistic and go through the process outlined above, but give yourself some understanding if you don’t quite meet your goals one day or for a few days. Don’t give up. Just keep moving forward and practice achieving the goal. For example, take a self-care intention. Self-care doesn't have to be complicated nor does it need to be expensive. We would all love a spa day, but we can also create a relaxing spa experience at home with a candlelight bubble bath after the kids are asleep. Choose specific self-care routines to focus on (they can be short-term or long-term goals - routines that you feel will make the biggest difference in your day-to-day life or those that will create longer-term health benefits) and make them a priority by scheduling them and sticking to that schedule as much as possible. I suggest starting out simply and to focus on not overwhelming yourself (in the past, I have been guilty of being the queen of setting unrealistically high and undoable expectations; not surprisingly, I was not very successful in achieving my goals). Insert small self-care routines into your week (like a weekly bubble bath) and also choose one larger self-care area to focus on at a time (such as regular exercise) and don't add a new self-care area until exercise, for example, is firmly part of your weekly routine (at whatever frequency goal you have set for yourself).
Last year, my self-care focus was on regular, daily exercise (30 minutes), when at all possible. It doesn't always happen, but many days it does. This year, now that I feel like regular exercise is pretty seamlessly integrated into my life, I am trying to focus on getting more sleep and on daily mindfulness activities (such as meditation, thankfulness journaling, et cetera). Some days I meet my goals and others I do not even get close, but sitting down to plan out my goals, making sure they are SMART, and scheduling them in my calendar (with reminders) makes it far more likely that they will actually happen. And before you know it, hopefully my ten-minutes-a-day initial goal of mindfulness activity will become a routine part of my day (and I may just get eight hours of sleep a few days a week).
You can do it and good luck!
*Remember, if you ever want help with planning or implementing individual, family, or professional organizational goals and strategies, Enriched Family is here to support you. I offer a free, 20-minute initial phone consultation to all new clients to discuss matching your needs and priorities with my services. In addition, I am offering a 15% discount to clients in January and February 2019. I invite you to click the "Let's Get Started!" button below to contact me with any questions.