Think back to the beginning of January. Were you keen and eager to make changes to your life for the New Year? Did you enthusiastically make New Year’s Resolutions to alter some general areas of your life? Perhaps you resolved to lose weight this year. Perhaps you resolved to exercise more. Perhaps you resolved to stop smoking.
Now it is time to be honest. We are a few months on from New Year now. How are you performing at achieving these resolutions? Are you on track? Are you making steady progress?
If you are like most people, your resolutions will have been forgotten by now. Indeed, if you made it into February still trying to meet your resolutions you did well and can give yourself a pat on the back. Few people continue to follow New Year’s resolutions after about the third week in January.
The reality is that resolutions are rubbish. The best that you can say about them is that they give you a bit of a feel-good factor at the start of the year. Of course, that euphoria ebbs away the moment you start to break the resolutions, which for many people is as early as January 2nd.
One issue we face is that we often make resolutions for the benefit of other people. Perhaps we have a partner who has nagged us about our weight. So on January 1st, we resolve to lose weight – not because we want to, but simply because we know it would make our partner happy.
One problem with making life changes is that you have no chance of doing it if you do not truly want the change to happen. You must have genuine desire for change if there is to be any chance that you will have the fortitude to go through the hard times, and create the self-discipline to carry through with the change. You can never succeed in making a life change just because others want you to do it.
Another problem with resolutions is that they often are nebulous and unclear by nature. So you resolve to lose weight. How much? 1kg? 20kg? In what time frame? How are you going to do it? It is vague and lacking any semblance of solidity.
Quite a few online commentators also dislike goal setting and have written posts on the internet dissing goal setting along with resolution making. However, I disagree. Goal setting can be very powerful. The key to success is ensuring that your goals are SMART goals. This means that each of your goals should be:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time-targeted
So for instance, instead of having a bland resolution to “lose more weight this year” you could have a SMART goal like this: To lose 20kg over the next six months, with an improved diet and a daily exercise programme. I will weigh myself each Friday morning and keep a record of my progress.
This is a nice clear, specific goal. Each week you can measure and record your progress towards achieving it. Hopefully it is both achievable and relevant for you (obviously you would have a different level of intended weight loss if it wasn’t). By giving yourself a six-month deadline you are making it time-targeted.
Of course, you may choose to have large-scale goals. In that case you would break them down into smaller actions steps – this is an important part of making your goals achievable.
Even smart goals need motivation. Obviously, the R-word (relevant) comes into this. You have no real motivation to achieve something that is not relevant to you. By truly wishing to do something you, at least, have some motivation to begin with, which will also help you get through the sticky stages along the way.
One way to help you through those painful times is to build up a support network. Find people who are willing to help you and motivate you as you grind towards meeting that goal. A side effect of this is that you do feel some level of accountability towards these people because they know what you are aiming to achieve. It is not like a resolution, which you can often just give up without anyone ever knowing.
So how are your resolutions going? Oh, they’ve died have they? Well, don’t worry. If you truly want to do what you resolved to do, turn it into a SMART goal, find yourself a support network and accountability partners, and start again. It does not matter that it is not New Year. That is just a day on a calendar. Otherwise, continue your life as normal. Obviously, that resolution was not particularly important to you anyhow.