Are you someone who has set some New Years resolutions? If so, perhaps this year, you might consider a different approach to meeting your objectives, with science on your side!
With resolutions, I find they tend to be general and hard to measure. In fact the most common resolutions I hear are “I want to eat better”, “get more exercise” or “save more money”. They are general and hard to measure and therefore not likely to be implemented.
Goals are more concrete and as a result, you can break them down into more actionable steps. By identifying the small steps needed to reach your goals and planning it out you can significantly improve the chances of reaching your goals. For example, instead of setting a resolution that you want to get more exercise, you could set a goal: I want to walk for 30 minutes three times per week before work. The specificity of the goal, including identifying when you will do it (before work) increases the likelihood of completing it.
The also research shows there is more we can do to improve the odds of us reaching our goals. One of those approaches is to set goals using the SMART acronym. It stands for Specific, Measureable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time-dated.
Specific: well defined, clear to everyone.
This is one of the most important components of goals setting theory. If the goal isn't clear, you can't be sure you have met it.
Measurable: concretely know when the goal is achieved or how far away from completion it is.
Measurements are necessary to know if the goal is accomplished.
Short-term measures that are incorporated into the greater goal are most effective so you could track your progress.
Example of an un-measurable goal: “I’m going to exercise more.”
How to make it better: “I am going to walk for 30 minutes three times a week.”
Agreed Upon: all the stakeholders agree what the goal should be.
Some of your goals may involve commitment and/or support from others – take the time to get the buy-in necessary.
Realistic: within reach and attainable given skill, resources and time.
Realistic means the goal is doable.
If the goal difficulty overly exceeds ability, there will be anxiety.
If the goal difficulty is grossly below ability, there will be boredom.
Reach for a goal that balances skill and attainability.
Timely: enough time to achieve the goal without hindering performance.
Having an end point gives you a clear target to work towards.
If the time frame of the goal exceeds 1 month, create micro-goals that support that larger goal.
So in this case our working out resolution might become a SMART goal like this:
I will walk for 30 minutes before work on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays starting the week of January 7.
If you wanted to increase your chances of reaching it, perhaps you arrange to walk with a friend, partner or neighbour. Having a companion is especially effective in helping people keep on track with exercise goals.
The accountability of having someone to show up with is important. Alternatively, you could have someone keep you accountable to your goal by sharing your goal and reporting back to them on your progress. By having this support, you are more likely to keep your commitments to yourself.
I don't see a lot of value in setting New Years resolutions but I do so value in setting clear goals for yourself. I can't wait to hear what you accomplish in 2019!