At the beginning of every year, we commit ourselves to become better than the previous one, and we hear people say it all the time. Remember those “New Year’s Resolutions”?
- “I’m going to start going to the gym.”
- “I’m going to start saving money.”
- “I’m going to go on a diet.” (Probably the worst of all)
Good heavens. I roll my eyes so much that I can see the frontal lobe of my brain.
Listen. This does not work. Let me tell you why. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, even though 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, wherein resolutions are made in terms of small and measurable goals (e.g., “lose a pound a week” rather than “lose weight”).
Let me play a scenario for a second, if you tell me that your “New Year’s Resolution” is to start reading, here’s how the conversation should go:
Me: Oh awesome! What do you plan to read?
You: Physical books from the library.
Me: Oh cool! Okay, but what genre/type of books? There are millions out there.
You: I’d like to start with horror fictional books!
Me: That’s awesome! When do you plan to start reading?
You: I want to start in January.
Me: How many books do you want to read this year?
You: About twelve (12). One (01) each month.
Me: Wait, but can you get the books from the library given the pandemic and restrictions?
You: Sure, they have restrictions, and they now offer pickup orders. I should be good!
Me: Curious though. Why do you want to start reading horror fiction books?
You: Reading on a physical book versus a digital screen frees me from distraction. I am also an avid horror story enthusiast. It’s the perfect escape for me, and it’ll improve my reading comprehension!
Now that you heard how the conversation went, let’s see how both versions compare with each other.
- New Years Resolution (NYR) version: I’m gonna start reading.
- SMART goal version: I’m going to read one (01) horror fiction book every month borrowed from the library so that I can entertain myself with creepy stories without distraction while spending nothing on the physical books!
Ain’t that sounding better? A SMART goal consists of 5 elements. It must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, & time-bound.
“New Year’s Resolution” is unrealistic and non-strategic. You need to set SMART goals. It’ll hold you accountable and helps you increase the chances of achieving the life you want.
There are tons of resources out there that dive into every deep detail of this concept, so for this article, we’ll walk through how this works.
Here are 5 simple questions (I asked myself).
My 2020 NYR:
“I’m going to start being healthier this year.”
- Can you be very specific with your goal?
Imagine that you’re in line at Starbucks, do you say “I want a cup of sweet coffee” or do you say “I’d like a venti mocha caramel frappuccino drizzled with caramel and a few sprinkles of chocolate”? You go on this chant at the barista so you get exactly what you want.
In my case, I wanted to be healthier, but being healthy can mean so much that it can be defined differently from one person to the other. I wanted to decrease my body fat % and muscle mass. I can do this by going to the gym regularly 6x a week for 2 hours a session, and eating better by cooking meals at home every week and consistently respecting my macro breakdown.
Your goal should be very specific so that you can target all your efforts in that area. It should at least answer the absolute ‘what’ of your goal.
2. How are you going to measure your progress?
When you’re baking, say cookies, the goal is that you’d probably want them in that sweet spot where it’s golden brown, soft, and chewy. How many times have you opened the oven, checked your cookies, and made sure it’s on track to be the best cookie ever?
In my case, I had to use a smart scale every morning to track my progress for body fat % and muscle mass. If my workout and diet plans target to decrease my body fat%, and after a month, it stayed or increased, then I know that something needs to be tweaked. On the other hand, if it’s decreasing at the rate that I want, then I know that I am working towards my goal.
Your goal should be treated the same. You can continue working on something, but unless you regularly check-in, you won’t be certain that you’re working towards achieving it.
3. Is this goal realistic for you to achieve?
Storytime! There was once a man who wanted to grow a mango tree in his backyard. He tried so hard for months, but he failed. Why? He lives in Alaska.
In my case, it wasn’t as tough to say “yes” to this question. I have a gym right down the road, and I had the time and resources to gather my needs for nutrition and exercise.
When setting a goal, you need to consider your current circumstance and ensure that it is not a blocker. Make sure you can reach it.
4. Is this goal relevant to what you want for yourself?
Motivation is one of the most powerful influencers of action. If you do not have the motive to do something, it ain’t happening. Your goal should give you that burst of inner power as you visualize a life accomplishing it.
In my case, I’m in my early 20’s and I want to be in the best shape I possibly can to live a strong and healthy body to pursue my wild dreams of going on crazy adventures when I travel to other countries in the future.
Does a goal seem worthwhile for you? If so, commit yourself!
5. At which point in time should you have achieved this goal?
Let’s say I want to read a book from start to finish. That’s easier said than done, but without a deadline, I can choose to start now and finish in a year. Even if that book was just 150 pages long.
In my case, I started my fitness journey in March of 2020 and wanted to decrease my body fat % from 12% to 10%, so I set a deadline to achieve it by June of 2020. I achieved it in May! Had I not set a deadline, I would have pushed myself to say “I’ll do it tomorrow”.
Goals should be bounded by time. Have you not pulled in an all-nighter because your project is due at 11:59 pm that night? It worked, right?
With all of the 5 questions answered, here’s the SMART goal version of my NYR:
“I am going to workout 6x a week and commit to a diet plan to decrease my body fat % and gain muscle mass by the end of June, so that I can be in the best shape possible to live a healthier life overall.”
Listen. I need you to remember one thing.
Your goals are yours. Take ownership of them and adjust as needed. At the end of the day, your life’s journey is up to you.
Cheers to living the best life! 🥂