Happy New Year! Around Thanksgiving, I wrote a blog about how the holidays are difficult for many people. However, most folks I work with tend to feel increasingly optimistic as the calendar rolls over to a new year. Even though there is nothing objectively different between December 31 and January 1, the new year represents a fresh start. Many people also identify areas they want to change and things they want to accomplish, aka “resolutions.”
If you want to change something in your life, not having goals is like setting out on a road trip without a map (or smartphone!). It’s a lot of aimless driving, confusion, frustration, and ultimately not ending up where you want to. When I have used this analogy in the past, some folks have told me “that sounds really fun!” However, the analogy is meant to illustrate that without goals, we are less likely to succeed at making positive changes and moving toward living the life we want to live.
Have you ever heard of SMART goals? SMART is an acronym (more on that in a minute) that outlines criteria for setting effective goals. Adhering to these criteria when setting your goals ensures that you are clear on what you want to achieve, when you will accomplish it by, and how you will make it happen. In other words, it sets you up for a greater likelihood of success! So, let’s walk through what each of the letters stands for and look at an example:
Your goal should be simple and clearly define what you want to do.
Your goal should be able to be objectively measured, so it is crystal clear if you accomplished it or not.
Your goal should be a stretch, but not so challenging that it is not realistic to accomplish.
Your goal should be related to what you actually want to accomplish.
Set a date by when you will accomplish your goal. Be as specific as possible.
Example: Let’s say you want to get healthier. Health is something that is aspirational in nature (i.e., there is no definitive way to know we have accomplished it, but instead we continue to work toward), but you will likely set several SMART goals to help you achieve better health. One goal may be to lose weight. If we set our goal for that consistent with SMART criteria, we would say “I want to lose 15 pounds by June 1.” Or, another goal may be to get better sleep. A SMART goal would be “I am going to meditate using Headspace for 15 minutes each night before bed.”
Here are some other tips for successful goal setting and achieving those goals:
Consider setting “mini goals.”
If you want to quit smoking, maybe your goal is to completely quit by August. In addition to that “end” goal, each month you set a “mini” goal to reduce the number of cigarettes you have per day by 2. This provides you with more frequent, tangible evidence of your progress, and reinforces your efforts!
Don’t set too many goals.
You may be entering the new year with lots of things you want to change. And, that’s great! However, trying to change too much sets you up for failure (again, the A in SMART is for achievable!). You’re much more likely to succeed if you pick 1 or 2 things you want to accomplish, and also use my previous tip to set mini goals along the way.
Be kind to yourself.
Change is hard. Really hard. And, most of the time when we are working toward something, we experience setbacks. It is easy when these setbacks happen to start to believe we are back at square one, so continue to remind yourself that they are normal and part of the process. Something that helps with this is to journal or write down your progress as you go so you can review it when this happens.
As I said above, change is hard. And, with anything that is hard, support helps. See if a friend or family member wants to make the change with you. Or, if they have another goal, you can check in with each other on how it is going. Technology is also a great resource – there is an app for just about anything these days. Lastly, consider finding a therapist to help you with the process.
If you are in the Austin area and would benefit from extra support in identifying and sticking with goals for 2019 (and beyond!), I’d love to talk with you and see if I am a good fit. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-521-1531.