In the first part of this post, I highlighted some of the key reasons why New Year’s Resolutions don’t generally lead to real change for most people. I highlighted the fact that most resolutions tended to be vague and were often more like a vision or a dream than a concrete plan for achievement. In the second installment we looked at the importance of being clear about your why, i.e. knowing your purpose. In this segment, we will look at the SMART tool as a means for helping us become the better version of ourselves that we all desire.
A key difference between resolutions and goals, can be found in the acronym SMART, which, as you may know, refers to goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Generally most resolutions are big picture, non-specific, too big to be accomplished in the time frame allocated and made out of desperation. However, applying these principles to a resolution that you are setting for yourself could help you increase your chances of making it a reality.
- Being Specific
Specific means that you will state clearly what you are striving to accomplish. It is not specific to say that you want to get in shape or that you want to lose weight or that you want to take the next step in your career. Instead, you need to identify exactly what that means to you. Decide what is the specific outcome that you are hoping to achieve at the end of this engagement of your time and energy. Given that this is your future desired state, it needs to be clear enough to get you excited and to inspire you to start taking action and to stay on course as the journey continues. Being vague and imprecise will ruin that.
- Crafting Measurable Outcomes
You need to have a way of measuring your progress towards attaining your goal. Doing this up front lets you know from the outset, the kind of effort, time and other resources that you are likely to need in order to accomplish what you desire. It is also useful to consider that there may be hindrances along the way to you achieving each of the milestones on your path. Once you have made a goal that is measurable with clear marks for progression along the way, it will show you where adjustments are needed as you move along.
- Ensuring It’s Attainable
You have a clear vision of where you want to get to in the end. You have some milestones along the way and you are now set to start moving forward. However, as the proverbial rubber starts to hit the road, you may begin to realise that something else is missing. You may find that you do not really know how to get to your destination. You may not even know how to start. Your goal becomes attainable when it is within your ability to make it happen. If you do not have the knowledge or skills that are necessary then your goal becomes less attainable than if you did. However, if you do not have the skills or knowledge, it is possible for you to co-opt or acquire them from somewhere else. The important thing to know here is that this lack can contribute to failure to achieve what is envisioned. So ensure that you do what is needed to make your goal more attainable.
- Evaluating Whether It’s Realistic
Given the time that you have available to work on your goal, you have to decide whether it can realistically be achieved as it was envisioned. That is a good point to ponder. If this has been a goal of yours for sometime but you were never able to make it happen, you may want to start by examining the reasons behind that previous failure to act. Do you have other things that are competing for your time and which, in your estimation, are more important that this specific goal? If so, be honest with yourself. If there are competing priorities for your time, energy and other resources, then you will need to make some changes to your planning. Either you change the goal, you change the prioritization you have assigned it or you change the deadline for achieving your anticipated outcome. Taking these actions will enable you to be more realistic in recognizing what it takes to make your vision a reality.
- Making It Time Bound
Goals need a deadline. Human beings are motivated by a deadline. We need to know when we need to have something done and when we should be ready to roll it out. Some people like shorter and tighter deadline. Some people like softer and more flexible deadlines. However, we are all impacted by knowing the end point. It lets us begin to judge how fast we have to run, how much effort we need to put in, whether we can take it easy in some areas or whether we need to bring in help. Working with a specific date will allow you to evaluate your progress in relation to your end date. It may feel like you are making good progress but if it doesn’t allow you to get your tasks completed by your identified deadline then you know that it is not good enough and something will have to change.
As I wrap up the series, I would like to emphasise that there is a real benefit to taking your new year’s resolutions and rather than throwing them out or giving up on them, turn them into something that is more concrete, linked to your long term purpose for your life and with a plan for implementing it in the real world. Hopefully this will help you as you plan how you are going to make this your best year yet and the start of something incredible that you have always wanted to make a reality.
Happy New Year!
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live