As January comes to an end, so do many New Year’s resolutions. Research from the University of Scranton suggests that just 25 percent of people keep their resolutions through the first week of January.
Sure, resolutions are met with enthusiasm in the beginning of the month, but what changes? Why is there such a high rate of failure? For most, it’s not willpower—it’s the resolution itself.
Take a look at the following resolutions: “I will lose weight.” “I want to eat healthier.” “I’ll start running regularly,” or “I want to build muscle.” While these have excellent intentions, they are lacking structure. They are not SMART.
SMART is an acronym used widely in health and wellness counseling to help patients and clients achieve success by creating a comprehensive plan toward reaching a goal.
Let’s break-down the SMART acronym:
Specific. Specific asks the four ‘W’s of your goal. What do you want to accomplish? Why do you want to accomplish this? Who’s involved? Where will you work on your goal?
Measurable. With each goal you set, it’s important to quantify the time you will spend or the frequency at which you will work toward that goal. “I will eat healthy” is too vague, and provides no foundation to measure progress. Instead try, “I will add three servings of vegetables each day for three months, until reassessing my goal.” A goal that is measurable gives you a daily “to-do list” that will help you stay motivated as you work toward your end goal.
Action-oriented. Creating a resolution is great, but only if it’s implemented! Be sure your goal focuses on actions you can take, not those that rely on others.
Realistic. Sure—you may envision a world where you can spend endless hours working toward your new goal. However, if you are a student or a professor, this is not practical. Before setting a goal, be sure you actually have the capacity to achieve it. I’m not saying set easy goals, but be sure your goals are actually attainable. For example, you would love to run six days a week, but your schedule only permits you run three. So just start with three! Do not set yourself up for failure by being overambitious. Do what you can, when you can. Running one day a week is still better than zero!
Time-based. Give yourself deadlines. For example, if you are working on increasing your running speed, sign up for a race. Having a time-frame for your goal will encourage you to execute your plan daily.
Let’s take a look back at one of our example resolutions: “I want to build muscle.” Someone with this resolution may go to the gym the first week of January, visit a health food store and purchase new exercise clothing. However, after some time spent without a clear plan, their motivation begins to fizzle, and the goal is never accomplished.
Now, let’s rewrite the resolution as a SMART goal: I will strength train four days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Fridayand Saturday) for 45 minutes. I will focus on upper body two days a week and lower body the other two. I will be sure to consume a meal with carbohydrates and protein following each session. Additionally, I will track my progress week to week with the goal of adding 25 pounds to my squat-maximum by May.
As you can see, the goal above is much more thorough. By implementing the SMART method, the revised goal sets a clear plan and series of tasks that are to be accomplished.
It may be almost February, but there is no need to wait an entire 11 months to work on your SMART goal. If you’ve already given up on your 2017 resolution, sit down, take a look at the SMART tool and rewrite your plan. By implementing these guidelines around your health and wellness goals, you can be sure to have a happier and healthier year in 2017.