With a new year comes new resolutions. Reflecting on our difficulties maintaining resolutions is often discouraging; however, we likely set ourselves up for failure before even beginning Often times the resolutions we set are not well defined (e.g., “I will exercise” or “I plan to lose weight”), unrealistic, and/or difficult to maintain. Thankfully, there is a clever acronym to help set us up for success and to guide in the creation of realistic resolutions. The acronym is S.M.A.R.T. and it stands for Specific (simplistically written and clearly defined), Measurable (provides evidence we are meeting or not met our resolution), Achievable (resolution should be slightly challenging, but also bring a sense of confidence it can be achieved), Results-focused (resolution should lead to the desired result), and Time-bound (provides a timeframe that creates a sense of tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal).
To give an example of what this would look like, we will use one of the most common resolutions, exercise. A S.M.A.R.T. resolution might sound something like this, “I will complete 30-minutes of light-moderate exercise three days a week. I will track progress towards this goal through use of a calendar and by the end of the first month I will have created a routine I can maintain. By the end of the sixth months, I will be completing 30-minutes of light-moderate exercise 4 days a week and by the end of the first year, I will maintain 30-minutes of light- moderate exercise 5 days a week.” This example highlights the various parts of the S.M.A.R.T. goal, but we recommend personalizing it for yourself. For example, maybe instead of increasing the number of days you exercise, you could increase the amount of time you exercise on the three days. The key is to make goals that are realistic for you – and do not be afraid to start out with small goals. If you find these goals are too easy and do not provide a sense of challenge, you can always increase the difficulty! Alternatively, if you find your initial goals were a little ambitious, reduce them to a more appropriate level. As a last note, if you have several desired resolutions, we recommend prioritizing only one or two before incorporating the others. In this coming New Year, work S.M.A.R.T., not hard!