We have all made New Years resolutions. We have all failed miserably at them. How long did we stop drinking? 4 days? One week? Maybe we lasted until February? How about that year you said you would cut carbs? How were you doing at that gym routine (at least before COVID)? My point is not that we are failures, my point is that we have set ourselves up to miss the mark on making realistic changes where needed.
New Years has this weird placebo effect on us. We often act as if the turning of the calendar allows us to go for some extraordinary changes to our lives. The problem is our bodies and our minds do not like big change. We respond much better to smaller, incremental changes, and therefore we should plan and address resolutions from that perspective.
Ultimately our resolutions we make for ourselves on New Years should be no different than any decision or resolution we make any other time of year. The turning of the clock does not give extra powers or strength, it does not mean we are capable of any more (WE prove our capability, not the clock), and it certainly should not be a reason for us to put off change. We should be thinking about improving our lives continuously, and if the decision to change coincides with New Years, awesome. But it is time that we stop referring to lifestyle changes as a New Years resolution. It is time to take action on these decisions and resolutions when we recognize the need and prove to ourselves our own power to enact change in our lives. For success, these resolutions, the conscious decisions to alter the course of how we live and practice the aspects of our lives, should be done thoughtfully and SMARTly.
For those of you who have worked in a project oriented environment, you may role your eyes that I am bringing in the SMART acronym… but hear me out. For those who are unfamiliar, S.M.A.R.T. stands for “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based.” This is a goal setting exercise to best set ourselves up for success. So the relationship between SMART goals and successful lifestyle changes is that it makes us think and draft plans in an incremental and realistic fashion.
Our goals need to be pointed. No goals like, “I will be better about eating healthy.” What does that even mean? A specific goal is not only pointed, but it is specific enough that we know exactly what to do. “I will make sure 2/3 of my plate is vegetables for 5 dinners per week.” “I am aiming for X, Y, and Z macro ratio for my weekly meal plan.” By specifically calling out goals, you set yourself up to succeed.
What good is a goal if it is too hard to know if we have succeeded at it. These goals need to be recognizable when we achieve them. “I want to squat my bodyweight.”
Is this goal realistic? I feel this is where New Years resolutions get us so often. Whether it is talking about carbs, sugar, alcohol, or anything, our goals need to be realistic and possible for us to accomplish. I will go a step beyond this to say that not only should they be attainable, but some should be easy to allow us that boost and motivation that comes from success. Think “I will run 1 mile, then 2, then 3” as opposed to “I will run a half marathon this year”.
This seems pretty simple and self-explanatory. What are you trying to get at and what goals do you need to reach your finish line? If our goals are not closely related to our true desire and the resolution at hand, they can distract us from the direction we need to be concentrating on.
Goals and lifestyle changes need to have time constraints that are practical. Set some for a week, set some for a month. Placing a time constraint allows us to plan out how we attack the challenge at hand and how we push towards our goals to get there.
With all of this said, my new years resolution is not a new years resolution at all. It is a lifestyle adjustment and a continuation of the decisions I have already made outside of a new year. I have found a formula that works for me and I will strive to continue with that. I hope you all will not wait for New years or not feel like you missed the boat if it is after New Years to make good decisions for yourself. If you have a dream, a desire, a resolution, take the steps today and design SMART goals to help you get there. When you do this, you can have the joy and pride of knowing your strength and success year round, when everything else is saying to wait for January 1st.