Your New Year Resolution

Okay, it’s that time of the year again when we talk about New Year Resolutions. I have no doubt that you know exactly what I’m talking about. I know that most people will make the resolution just before the new year, i.e. last week, but others will need a few days to consider whether they want it or not – which I why I chose to publish this today. If you have been thinking about it and want to commit, now is the time.

Do I believe in New Year Resolutions and do I make them? Yes, and no. It really depends on the year. A few years ago my resolution was “not to die”. I succeeded. Three years ago it was “to take the stairs as much as possible, since I lived on the seventh storey”. And I succeeded. The only times that year when it wasn’t adhered to was when I was in a rush and when I was injured and on crutches. And yes I can sense you sneering at my decision to set the bar low on these ones.

To be honest, resolutions are not for everyone. Some people are motivated enough and work well under pressure while others are much more casual and relaxed about it. I’m not the kind who will have a resolution because I practice another form of goal setting coupled with affirmations and certain mental techniques. And it works for me. But if you are the type who is into resolutions, this post is for you.

The honest truth of the matter is that most people will break their resolution sooner rather than later. Why? Because they set the bar too high, are too unrealistic, or simply do not want it badly enough. I’m talking, of course, about weight loss and fitness goals more than anything else. So today we go back to basics with a method known S.M.A.R.T, which is a model for goal setting rather than short-term resolutions specifically.

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Depending on your background, you might have come across it before. The basic background to this 1981 model is that goals which follow the format are more likely to be met. And if you look at the model, I know for a fact that you will agree. S.M.A.R.T is a mnemonic acronym, which means that each of the letters actually mean something. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I’m just going to take it from Wikipedia, and alter it a little for weight loss. So here we go:

Specific:

The criterion stresses the need for a specific goal rather than a more general one. This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific, they must tell a team exactly what’s expected, why it’s important, who’s involved, where it’s going to happen and which attributes are important. A specific goal will usually answer the five ‘W’ questions:

What: What do I want to accomplish? In this case, it would be weight loss.
Why: Why do you want to lose weight?
Who: Who is involved? You are the star, but are there supporting roles?
Where: Identify a location. Technically, since it involves your body, it will be everywhere.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable:

The second criterion stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal is not measurable it is not possible to know whether a team is making progress toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to help a team stay on track, reach its target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal. A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as: How much weight do you want to lose? How many kilos? How do I measure it? i.e. on the scale or waistline?

Achievable:

The third criterion stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and also attainable. Whilst an attainable goal may stretch a team in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme. That is, the goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, since these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals.

Relevant: 

The fourth criterion stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, a champion voice, someone to knock down obstacles. Goals that are relevant to your boss, your team, your organization will receive that needed support.

Relevant goals (when met) drive the team, department and organization forward. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:

Does this seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? Does this match our other efforts/needs? Are you the right person? Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?

Timely:

The fifth criterion stresses the importance of grounding goals within a time-frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps a team focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the S.M.A.R.T goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in an organization. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question

When will I reach my goal weight? What can I do six months from now? What can I do six weeks from now? What can I do today?

By the way, just to be clear, this model can be applied to almost any goal in life. I just happened to tailor this one to weight loss, you know, because that is what I want for you, or at least those of you who want it. I also discuss it in more detail in the Winning Psychology Manual, which is also about weight loss specifically. So yes, couple it with your resolution and strive towards success!

Mark

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