In 2018, Americans are aiming to “become a better person” and to “lose weight,” equally, according to a recent Marist poll.

But according to research on successful goal-setting and goal-achieving, only one of these resolutions is achievable.

The difference? One can more easily be a SMART goal. And the other? Well, not so much.

What makes a resolution a SMART goal? To answer that, let’s look at an excerpt from the Healthy Habits System™ Workbook.

Making a SMART Goal

Setting goals and creating healthy habits go together. Having a goal, a purpose to work toward, is great incentive to build habits and rituals. These things make you more likely to achieve what you’ve set out to do. Before you set out on a journey, you need to know where you are going. How will you know how far you’ve traveled if you don’t mark the start and end?

A SMART goal is one that is

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Relevant, and
  • Time-bound.

Here are two examples of goals, one SMART, and the other not:

Not SMART: Be a better swimmer. (This is a nice thing to want, but the goal isn’t SMART.)

SMART: Improve 100m backstroke time by 5 seconds by the end of 4 weeks through attention to stroke consistency, breathing and body position.

Can you see how the second goal is better? It would be impossible to fail the first goal because there isn’t an objective measure. According to the SMART model, a goal you can’t fail is a goal you can’t succeed at either.

Which of 2018’s top New Year’s Resolutions is SMART and achievable?

The above example answers our original question: which of 2018’s top New Year’s Resolutions is SMART and achievable?

“Become a Better Person” is definitely a noble desire and lofty aspiration. But it is NOT

  • Specific – it is subjective, and means something different to everyone.
  • Measurable — how will you know when you have achieved it?
  • Attainable – as the case with many moral pursuits, it is a guiding compass, a life-long journey, not a milestone that can be achieved.
  • Relevant – One could argue that if it can’t be specifically defined, it cannot fully resonate with you.
  • Time-bound – If it can’t be measured, or ever be fully attained, it certainly can’t be achieved by a deadline.

In other words, if you set “Become a Better Person” as your 2018 New Year’s Resolution, you set yourself up for #resolutionfail.

The purpose of this article is not to dissuade you from becoming a better person, but to help you make goals that you can actually achieve. Harnessing the power of SMART goals and habits can help you live an efficient and effective life, so that you have time and resources left to turn your focus outward and offer the helping hand of altruism more readily. And it’ll make your resolutions your reality.

SMART Goals require Action Plans

When setting SMART goals and your New Year’s resolutions (because you know now that your resolutions should be SMART), take time to consider the daily actions required to make them happen. Not doing so sets you up for failure, just as sure as setting undefined goals does. Achieving SMART goals requires key actions (from yourself and others in your life), a defined time commitment, appropriate environmental cues, and financial commitments. Let’s look at an example from the Healthy Habits System™ Workbook to see what that looks like:

SMART Goal: Lose 10 lbs. by the end of 28 days

by focusing on consistent exercise, and eating on-plan each day, using an intended 400 calorie/day deficit for the four weeks.

Key actions/habits: To accomplish this, I will need to be in the gym every morning except Sundays, every week, and will need to consistently grocery shop, precook and package planned meals so that I can eat only what I have determined to eat for 28 days.

Time commitment: I will work out one hour per day (six hours/week). This will need to be at 5:30 am, as I must be ready and on the road by 7:00 to make it to work on time. Bedtime will need to be earlier than normal. I will need to set aside 3 to 4 hours on the weekends for meal planning, shopping and pre-cooking. (I cook anyway, so this should help alleviate some time elsewhere in the week.)

Self: I will need to start winding down earlier at night, and will have to give up my 9 pm glass of wine and 10 pm TV show for the 28 days.

People: I will need to enlist the help of my family, particularly my spouse who is used to watching TV and drinking a glass of wine with me in the evenings. This will need to be a team effort. I don’t expect my boss to be okay with me being late, so I will need to go to bed at 9:30 each night so I can get up at 5:00 every morning.

Surroundings: I have some space on my cube wall I can hang up my meal plan, and will probably get some motivational quotes or photos to keep there to help me stay the course on tough days when I want to raid the snack machine.

Financial Cost: I’m expecting my grocery bill to go up a little, especially the first week. However, we’ve agreed to not buy wine for the four weeks, and decided to cancel one of our streaming TV subscriptions for the month to offset the cost. (We won’t be watching the shows anyway.)

Milestones: Every day, I will put a star on my meal plan at work if I end the day having eaten on-plan. I will set workout goals each week to keep me motivated to Move. I will weigh and measure at the beginning of the program, and at the end of each week to see if I’m making progress. If I’m going to do this, I need to lose 2.5lbs per week, so I’ll need to see how I’m doing along the way. I won’t make big changes unless I get to the end of two weeks and haven’t lost any weight.

You can create a virtuous cycle in your life by setting SMART goals this year. Happy, fulfilled people are more able to be altruistic and, by nature, better people. Nothing makes us more happy and fulfilled than achieving goals we set for ourselves. Using SMART goals for your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions will multiply your odds for success, and in the process, make you a better person. Win-win!

The Healthy Habits System Workbook + Four-Week Planner puts together the latest psychology of goal-setting and achieving and cutting-edge science in wellness to help you successfully reach all of your goals. Order yours for 2018 today!

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