We’ve put together a strategy for making New Year’s Resolutions stick. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals, and we recommend them as a great way to make your New Year’s Resolutions work for you, particularly if you spread your targets over the year and get the difficulty level right.
SMART goals are:
- Timely (timebound)
SMART goals are, primarily, highly specific. You need to get really exact about what you want to achieve! Visualise what’s going to happen the way you want it to, and get it down on paper.
This means committing to paper a one-page plan which states your goals in the SMART format – with your stated goal qualifying for every one of the SMART features ie. “My SMART goal is, with a net income of £50k per annum, to save £1000 by Jan 1st 2019 so that I can take my entire extended family on holiday in December 2019.” This goal is specific, with a measurable outcome, entirely achievable on a net income of £50k, realistic and time-bound. But that’s not Job Done – quite yet!
It pays to go into as much detail as you can with SMART goals. This is to ensure that they actually happen. You need to be able to envisage in detail following your SMART goals through, which is why it is so important that they are realistic and achievable. If you can’t see how you’re going to do it, it’s a lot harder to get it done! So each of your SMART goals for the New Year should be broken down into a plan for the year detailing sub-goals per week and month. Even if you don’t follow your plan, your plan does show that the main SMART goal is achievable – and that’s very motivating!
Once you’ve plotted your SMART goals, you need to share them with somebody else to keep you honest throughout the year; it’s all too easy to give up if there’s just youto be disappointed!
Do it properly, and SMART works. But why? Well, look at the characteristics of SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely – a SMART goal is a credible goal. SMART works because the mind will accept that a SMART goal can happen. Writing your SMART goals down with pen and paper reinforces their acceptability to the mind, and, as a net result, no subconscious barrier is thrown up by the mind against achieving them …
Give yourself time
The beauty of a New Year’s Resolution is that you give yourself all year to achieve it! But there’s a great temptation with resolutions to try and get them achieved immediately. And this is a problem, because the first few weeks of following through on a resolution (round about now in January) are critical – and it’s worth making it as easy as possible on yourself at this stage or risk giving up. Don’t worry about what you SHOULD be able to do in a certain time period if you can – worry about what you can EASILY do in that time period, and remember you’ve got all year.
When it comes to the difficulty of your SMART goals and sub-goals, you need to strike a balance:
Don’t make your resolutions too easy. Aim high. Research by two marketing professors — Marissa Sharif and Suzanne Shu – found that groups were motivated to achieve more tasks when the target was perfection but with room for slip-ups; they scored worse when the target was easier, with room for improvement.
Don’t make your resolutions too hard either! SMART goals need to be achievable. So, if that means they need to be quite easy – especially at the early stages of follow-through- go ahead and make them easy. Whatever momentum you can muster early on must be guarded so that you don’t run out of steam too early.