How To Make, And Keep, New Years Resolutions

Research has shown that while over half of Americans make New Years resolutions at the start of a new year, only 8% of Americans keep or fulfill their goal. Problems identified in why they can’t keep their goals include goals that are too vague, too hard to attain, or take too long to see results.  Humans are results driven, and we quickly lose our motivation during tasks that we identify as difficult if we don’t see a payoff.

This is where the SMART strategy of making goals can come in handy.  While in truth, making a New Years resolution is an arbitrary start date, there is something nice that comes with starting the new year with new habits, and attainable goals.  SMART goals were originally used in management, with the acronym meaning:

S – Specific: Having an identified target or goal in mind.  A specific goal is important, as this is how you will know when you have reached the goal.  A vague goal would be “I want to run more.”  A more specific goal would be “I want to run 10 races by the end of the year.”

M – Measurable: This is how you know that you are making progress on your goal.  A measurable goal can be about time, such as “I will run 4 times a week.”  Or it can be about improvement, such as “I will beat my racing time each race I run in.”

A – Attainable:This is about how possible the goal is.  Setting a goal of running 10 races may be unattainable to a couch potato who has never run.  Instead, making the goal more attainable, such as “I will walk three evenings a night,” and allowing yourself to modify and tweak the goal once the attainable has been attained.  For the running example, a system like the Couch to 5k Running Program may help make this more attainable.

R – Resources: This is the part of the goal where you look around and see what support and help you might need.  Therapy can be a very helpful place to make and set goals.  Perhaps having something like a heart rate monitor, or a running club.  Research has suggested that accountability is a factor in reaching set goals.  Share your resolution, and your progress, with friends and loved ones.  When they check in with you on your goal, that is helping to keep you accountable.

T – Time Bound: Setting a goal means having an end date in mind.  While most New Years resolution are set with a year deadline by default, it actually will help to keep you on track and seeing the pay off of results with sooner, more immediate deadlines.  The goal set above, of running 10 races in a year, has a year as the deadline.  It may help for a goal like this, though, to set smaller deadlines, such as “I want to register for my first race by Valentines Day,” and “I will beat my time in my first race by my second race.”

The most important thing in making and keeping a resolution is that it works for you.  Figuring out a system, making a goal, and keeping track of your progress will help you stay focused, and having support in reaching your goals will help you stay accountable.